I don’t remember what short story it was from, but I do remember that I was in Ms. Mulligan’s English class when I first heard the phrase “everybody has a deer story.” The story was about one family’s interaction with a deer gone wrong, but I was more fascinated with the resulting conversation amongst my fellow students… everyone really did have a deer story.
At that time, my freshmen year in high school, I didn’t have a good deer story yet. My classmates, many of whom had traveled to attend our boarding school, came from areas where deer were more prevalent. Car crashes. Hunting stories. Experiences interacting with nature I didn’t have. It wouldn’t be until years later when I would acquire my first real deer story, followed shortly by a handful more a few years later.
Currently, my favorite deer story comes from my senior year in college when I was visiting a dear friend in Arkansas. (Yes, I went to to Arkansas INTENTIONALLY and under my own free will.) We were driving on a country road around 9 PM when we came around a turn to find two cars at a dead stop. We slowly pulled up behind them and wondered what the matter was.
I hopped out of the car and walked toward the front of the hold up. I have to admit, I was kinda nervous. It could have been anything, I was in ARKANSAS, remember?! It turns out it was a deer, writhing in pain, with blood pouring from it’s mouth and nose. It was now obvious that it had been hit by the first car, but their intent was to do nothing. I tried to look into the car to get some guidance from the driver, but it was difficult to see over their headlights and tinted windows.
Finally, the driver’s window rolled down less than two inches. It was a woman dressed in medical scrubs. “I’m late for work, I have to go. Someone should be along soon to get it.” And just like that, she pulled away. The second car followed without stopping.
So there I was, standing in the middle of the road with a dying deer, in the middle of the Arkansas, in the middle of the night. For the next five or so minutes, a parade of cars slowed as they passed me, offering tidbits of advice through their open passenger side windows.
“You got a knife?”
“Well, good luck!”
Finally, a man in a Jeep pulled up. After asking a similar weapon-based question, he pulled around in front and parked. He got out of the car and starting walking toward me while simultaneously drawing a pistol from a holster on his hip. Using the gun to point, he asked me grab hold of the deer’s horns and keep the animal’s head still. So I did. Within seconds, the deer didn’t have to struggle anymore.
“Would you mind helping me put her in the back?” The man asked.
He opened the back of the Jeep, told his “good ole dog” to make some space and the two of us muscled the animal’s body into the truck. He closed and latched the door, shook my hand and drove away.
This particular story demonstrates the differing perspectives on, and importance of, deer. Growing up in Santa Barbara and Ojai, California, deer were these majestic creatures harmlessly grazing in the corners of our property. They were living pieces of art, delicately and skittishly maneuvering through the neighborhood not really bothering anybody. They were a nuisance, at most. To the Arkansas man in the Jeep, deer most likely played a much different, more important role in his life. It was the opportunity to feed his family.
I viewed the deer’s tragic death as a loss, but he viewed it as a blessing.
Deer stories remind us there may be no explanation for the unforeseen incidents in life, but the important thing is we must do our best to make the most and learn from them.
P.S. Yes, these pictures came from a more recent deer story of mine. Maybe we’ll save that story for another post. In the meantime, what’s your deer story?