Thursday, February 25, 2021

Kvelve's Comments: Deer need highway etiquette course

| November 18, 2020 12:00 AM

I guess it had to happen.

I’ve heard it said you know you’re a Montanan when it does occur.

For more than six years since I moved back to the state after years of living in big cities, I had somehow avoided the experience that has now, according to weird tradition, stamped me as an official resident of Big Sky Country.

I, Charles K., hit a deer.

Not with my fists or with a pillow, but with my trusty Dodge pickup truck. It was in my mind completely unavoidable, but it left me shaken nonetheless.

My job writing for these newspapers takes me repeatedly throughout this area. And as I’ve observed before, there is a pandemic of the four-legged Bambis in these parts.

Now I’ve had thoughts of hitting a deer before, like when I’ve found them standing in my vegetable garden eating everything in sight and pooping on the leftovers.

An extended height fencing project cured that urge and it would have been hitting them with a soft tomato to the kisser, not a 3,000-pound truck.

Had that same thought about the explosion of cats in the neighborhood earlier this year when I caught one of them chomping on my cherry tomatoes, a sight that stunned me in that I didn’t think cats like cherry tomatoes.

But I digress.

The deer vs. Dodge incident happened a few weeks ago as I was heading home from another after-dark finish to a county sporting event. It was raining pretty good and the road I was on was one of those that is filled with tight corners and limited vision of what’s ahead.

I will add here that I’ve pretty much always been paranoid about hitting a deer. I’ve avoided such an incident by driving real slow on blind corners, further angering the morons who have been tailgating me the whole way.

On this night, no one was clinging to the posterior of my truck, hence no high-beam headlights further limiting my vision. But it was a dark and stormy night, very dark in this case.

Rounding a curve at 40 miles per, I was needless-to-say stunned by the sight of two deer standing, not running, right in the middle of the road.

On my right was a steep hillside that hugged the highway and on the left were some trees and a sharp drop-off to whatever lay below.

I didn’t even having time to finish my “oh shi…..” cry when I felt a sickening thump to the left front of Big Red (yup, I named my Dodge Big Red cuz it’s big and it’s red). I will never forget the look on the face of one of the deer who also seemed to be stuck in however deer might express “oh shi….”!

I skidded to a stop and glanced in the rearview mirror…nothing was back there in the middle of the road. Apparently I had either knocked it off the road or grazed it enough that it could still scamper away.

Hands and knees shaking my first instinct was to find a safe place to pull over. The next collision, I feared would be one of those tailgaters whipping around the blind corner at about 65 mph and smacking me and Big Red off the road.

My last vision, no doubt, would have been Bambi behind the wheel, a sly smirk and a deer tooth grin my last memories of Mother Earth.

Fortunately, no one was coming. I looked again and could not see any deer in the road. Then I checked on Big Red. At first glance nothing really seemed to have happened. Those trucks are, after all, Ram Tough!

It was then the deer spirits exacted their vengeance. As I stepped from my rig, my right foot and ankle rolled on an unseen rock. Limping to the front of the Dodge, I saw damage to the driver side headlight, which was not broken and in fact still working, but had been popped from its socket.

I snapped that back into place, then noticed something that shook me even further.

That chrome grill, or so I thought, was missing a section which I later noticed had been snapped and pushed in toward the radiator. What really shook me to the core was that it was PLASTIC, not metal…not even the shiny chrome part.

There was no blood anywhere and another look back down the road did not reveal any limping deer, accompanied by an attorney, making their way toward me.

I did a quick check to make sure all my lights were working and headed home. Upon closer inspection under my garage lights, I noticed no other body damage. Then something caught my eye.

Sticking out from between the wheel rim and the tire itself was a tuft of hair, obviously a quick shave deal involving a deer that now has a bald spot, at least.

A new grill is going to set me back $85 and I plucked the hair from the rim.

I hope the deer survived, but it’s not like they can go to the emergency department with a broken shoulder and a bald spot.

I’ve had close calls before. Last year when I was coming home from a game in St. Regis, the snow was falling hard and the road was dark.

On that night, creeping along at about 20 mph, I rounded a corner and had a face to face with an elk. No collision from that one, just an unbelievable adrenaline rush.

So now, folks, I finally earned my deer badge. I’m actually amazed it took this long.

I have long held the theory that deer are crazy, kamikaze, hell bent on senseless destruction. Their cuteness is overwhelmed by their stupidity.

What’s the solution here?

Driving slower would not have avoided this collision. It’s not practical to line remote highways with street lights and Lord knows the deer would find a way to hang out under the street lights and learn to smoke.

Deer education courses.

For the deer, not the drivers.