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The Scenic Route

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The Scenic Route

The deer on Cabinet Hill


Alternating between rage and anguish, I watch stupid, damned, poor, ignorant cretin devil Bambette (Bambi’s sister) in the mirror. She’s standing in the road, looking not much worse for wear. I hope she’s thinking, “Daaaamn that hurt,” all the while knowing she’s not thinking at all. Her walnut-sized, kidney-bean-shaped brain is only recording shock and pain and she doesn’t have a clue that it’s a miracle she is still standing. 

I haven’t had a close encounter of the deer kind for a while, not counting the non-contact variety that invariably come from driving Highway 200 on a regular basis. Some nights, all I can do is drive 45 and try not to swear out loud, at which I never succeed. I’ve called deer the vilest names I’ve ever called anything. 

Stupid, blinking animals, anyway. Holy... ummm... crud.

Whitetail deer have been living with automobiles for over a century, yet I do not detect any genetic improvement in the breed. There seem to be more killed on the road now than when I was a kid. Of course, there are more and faster cars, but I can’t help wonder why whitetails haven’t figured out genetically that long, narrow strips of asphalt are bad for their health. 

The deer I can see in my rear-view mirror—not the driver’s side rear-view mirror—has just proven itself (and the breed in general) idiotic—again. Given every chance to avoid colliding with a moving thing that weighs about 25 times what it does, and moves faster than it can in full panic mode, it does the unthinkable. It turns and runs directly into the beast that has it panicked. If it was a mountain lion, the deer would be lunch. If I, pilot of the behemoth, was as idiotic and panic stricken as that f... ummm, stupid deer, the stupid deer would be DEAD. Which, as I look at it in the passenger side rear-view mirror—because the idiot just destroyed my driver side mirror—I am wishing it was. 

All this righteous indignation and well-aimed rage is well and good, but something else is going on, too. Some part of me is saying “That must have really hurt, poor thing. I hope she’s okay.” While I am still feeling Bambette-icidal, I also feel horrible about what she must be suffering. 

It’s an interesting contrast, alternating between a shattered temper and a broken heart, and for the next 10 minutes, I wax and wane between the two. 

The last time I saw the culprit, she was standing at the top of Cabinet Hill on the south edge of the road staring after me, looking for all the world like a normal whitetail doe—wide-eyed and sort of stupid. But, she left hair on the mirror as she smashed it and she broke the little frame around the door handle with her left shoulder. The sound of her hitting the door was not a sigh, but a resounding thump. It is apparent to me that it hurt to break my mirror with her head and get slammed in the side by a thing that weighs 25 times as much as she does. It must have really hurt. 

Have you ever been hit in the head really hard, hard enough that you can remember the sound of whatever it was colliding with your melon; the instant alteration of the spin of the planet; that warm, fuzzy confusion of impending unconsciousness; the immediate rush of blood out of your nose; and that sort of sparkly feeling in your septum and above your eyes that made you wonder if your brains were going to fall out? 

That’s a version of what the deer must have felt, too. Poor damned thing, anyway. 

One of the problems with experiencing pain is that once felt and acknowledged, we can’t pretend the other guy, gal, deer, dog, ant, cockroach doesn’t experience it, too. We might substitute our own rage or fear—for a while—but sooner or later, to remain human and humane, we have to acknowledge the pain of the other, and that it’s very much like our own. 

An odd thought: I can’t expect another critter—or human—to reciprocate or fully appreciate a compassionate response to their pain. It may or may not be within their makeup to do so. But, that’s not my problem. My problem is dealing with how I feel.

The mirror still works, though it now presents a Bizarro World version of whatever is beside or behind on the left—cracked. When I find some black duct tape, it will be hardly noticeable. Except from the driver’s seat. Where I will be. 

Do us both a favor, Bambette. Stay the hell out of my way. 


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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

Tagged as:

deer, wildlife, driving

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