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Deer in the headlight

No, that headline is not a typo in which I should have put “headlights.” When that deer crashed into my car last Thursday, he only smashed into one headlight, singular. The experience did, however, leave me “caught in a state of paralyzing surprise, fear or bewilderment.” So I guess the conventional idiom is appropriate here, too.

Living as we do in rural Alabama, my guess is that many of you have had the terrifying experience of having a collision with a deer – or if not an actual collision, that breathless moment when you don’t know if Bambi’s relative is going to leave the roadway or not and you have to make a split-second decision whether to stop, swerve or continue on.

As for me, I’ve seen a deer in the road plenty of times, sure. But I’ve never hit one before – not until the morning of Jan. 10 in Waco.

I was out in the community of Waco to check out the location for a photo opp later that afternoon. For those of you who happen to have never been through Waco – well, it’s probably because you don’t live there or have friends or relatives who live there, because I guess there isn’t much reason to go out that way, otherwise. But it’s one of our quintessential little rural communities in Franklin County, complete with extensive front lawns and charming white picket fences. It was a relaxing little meander, but I was headed back to the office to get some work done until time to return for the photo assignment.

Well, a woodland friend had other plans for me.

If you talk to someone who has had a run-in with a deer, they will probably say, “It happened so fast.” I can now attest to that. One minute I’m bopping along in my Honda CRV, thinking about some special publications we have coming up, and the next minute something rock-solid has slammed into the front left corner of my car – and suddenly I’m face-to-face with this monstrously large animal that’s thrashing around on the hood.

I’m willing to admit that perhaps my terror is making me remember him as a little bigger than he was, but I can picture the antlers clearly, and he was no young buck. We’re talking about a big deer, folks.

I can’t have been going more than 30 at the time – in fact, I’m not even certain I had my foot on the accelerator. He was probably going faster than I was.

I screamed bloody murder – an interesting choice of words, actually, since the deer didn’t die. He finally – after a few seconds that felt like a lifetime – flailed his way off the hood and landed akimbo in the road. In the rearview, as I continued to scream involuntarily, I glimpsed him stumble off the road and, I assume, continue on his way. I’m sure he was a little shaken up – but not more than I was.

At the Texaco station on Highway 24, I pulled over to assess the damages. I had finally managed to stop screaming.

My door wouldn’t open more than a couple inches, so I scrambled out the passenger’s side. I discovered the fender trim dangling crazily and found the dent that was keeping the door from opening. I found all kinds of scratches and dents around the wheel well and on the hood.  The worst damage, though, was the driver’s side headlight, which was completely smashed – and bore the evidence of the encounter in the form of a small clump of deer hair trapped in the damage.

Deer in the headlight.

I’m aware it could have been a lot worse, and I’m thankful it wasn’t. Allstate decided my vehicle could be repaired, not totaled, which is another blessing. A week and a half later, my CRV is still in the shop, but I’m looking forward to having it back soon.