Written by Brian Regan
One chilly Sunday night in the late 1980's, after finishing a gig in upstate New York, I decided to make the long drive back to my tiny apartment in Queens, New York. I checked out of the hotel, packed up my little Datsun 510, and started my drive through the night.
Soon into my lonely drive, I noticed a "Deer Crossing" sign on the side of the road. A while later, I saw a second such sign. Then I passed a third. The signs didn't actually say the words, "Deer Crossing." Instead, they simply showed a silhouette of a black deer against a yellow background. Since I was new to New York, having moved there from Florida several years before, I was not familiar with "Deer Crossing" signs. I thought the cute picture of the deer meant you might see a cute, Bambi-like animal on the side of the road, and you might want to point it out to your cute little kids. I didn't know it meant, "DEER CROSSING! THINGS THAT LOOK LIKE THIS MIGHT JUMP IN FRONT OF YOUR CAR AND MAYBE KILL YOU!"
Since it was dark, and therefore, there would be little chance of seeing a cute, Bambi-like animal on the side of the road, I paid no more attention to the "Deer Crossing" signs, instead getting lost in my own thoughts. I remember noting how odd it was that so few other cars were on the highway. As my mind settled into the mesmerizing brain hum that takes over during such long drives, some THING, about the size of a wall unit, jumped from the darkness into the path of my Datsun. It was a DEER! And it was CROSSING! It landed, tail on the right solid line, nose on the left divided line. It was huge. As it landed in the bright light of my high beams, it froze. My car felt like a meteorite as I hurtled toward it. I saw it and hit it simultaneously. A hideous crunch crackled through the night as the deer's enormity met my car. As the animal bent over the hood, I saw its big black deer eye that looked more surprised than I was at what was happening to both of us. As my car lifted the deer, the animal's girth popped the latch of the hood. The hood crumpled upward smashing into and cracking my windshield. A horrible rumbling sound was heard as the deer rolled over the top of my car and off the back into the darkness. A quick glance at the rearview mirror revealed only the black of night. When I darted my eyes back forward, I saw only the hood. My car was hauling down the highway, at 60 miles an hour, with the hood up, and me in it.
I hit the brakes and prayed to God as my car gradually slowed down. In the agonizingly long time it took for the car to slow, I realized I had to make a terrible choice. Should I stop the car on the road and risk having it hit from behind before I could get out, or should I veer off to the side of the road, where I might hit something I can't see? Usually, I take my time mulling over difficult decisions. This one, I had to make in an instant.
I chose to veer off. With "Please God's" machine gunning out my mouth, I turned the wheels slightly and hoped I wouldn't drive off a cliff... or into a pole... or into one of those cute, "Deer Crossing" signs. When I felt the tires leave the road and hit the shoulder, I turned them back, parallel with the road. I jammed my foot into the brake as hard as I could. Finally, the car stopped. The hood remained up. As I sat, thanking God for allowing me to live another second, my radiator made horrible hissing noises. I knew my Datsun was destroyed.
I got out of the car to examine the damage. A distant highway streetlight faintly revealed it to be extensive. The front grill was crushed as radiator fluid gushed to the ground. It was midnight, my car was no more, and I didn't know what to do.
Then paranoia took over. "What happened to the deer? Is it dead? Is it on the highway? What if somebody else hits it and gets hurt? Or killed? Is it my responsibility to drag that thing off the road?" I surmised it might be my legal responsibility to find that deer and remove it from the road. It was, even more so, my moral responsibility.
Realizing that not a single car had passed since the collision with the deer, I grabbed a flashlight from my glove box and began walking back toward where I guessed I would find the deer. As I clicked on the flashlight I noticed, maybe because of the collision, the flashlight was flickering on and off. In fact, in the "on" position, the thing was "off" more than it was "on." As I walked, on the empty roadway, back toward the scene of the impact, I was treated to only occasional strobe light images of the empty highway. Not knowing how far my car had traveled after hitting the deer, I guessed I could have driven fifty yards or so until actually stopping. I kept walking back, sweeping the faulty flashlight back and forth, seeing only snippets of empty roadway, but never the deer.
Then I started hearing things. Rustling noises emanated from the nearby thicket of woods. "Was it the deer?" I wondered. "Maybe I didn't kill it," I thought. "Maybe it's badly injured, and it's watching me from the woods, and when I get close enough, it's going to hobble out and kick me in the head."
These horrible thoughts hurried me into deducing I had covered my legal and moral tracks by trying plenty hard enough to find the deer. I ran back to my car.
"Now what?" I mused. "I can't drive the car. Nobody is out on the highway." I decided I had to walk to the closest exit to find help. Since I couldn't remember passing an exit soon before hitting the deer, I figured it would be best to walk forward on the road, in the hopes an exit wouldn't be too far ahead. I attached a note to the driver's side window that read something to the effect of, "I hit a deer, I'm wearing a silver jacket, and I'm walking forward towards the next exit." What I hoped that note would accomplish, I couldn't tell you.
About five minutes into my walk, I heard a large truck behind me. As I turned to look, I saw two headlights as the truck was obviously slowing down. I waved my arms a bit as the truck, a huge eighteen-wheeler, stopped right next to me. I looked up into the cab to see the driver, a normal enough guy, saying, "You hit a deer?"
"Yeah, I did, how did you know that?" I answered.
"I could tell by the front of your car back there. Where are you headed?"
"I'm just walking up to the next exit to find a pay phone or something," I replied.
"Hop in, I'll take you to the next exit."
So I did.
As I pulled myself up into the cab I realized that, "Hop in, I'll take you to the next exit," could actually have meant, "Hop in, so I can kill you, and no one will ever know about it."
But what choice did I have? At some point I was going to need the assistance of a complete stranger in the middle of the night. Why not trust this guy? Fortunately this man was not the killing type. He was the kind man type. He drove me to the next exit, which would have been too far to walk, got off the exit, and dropped me off at a gas station that was closed, but that had a phone booth out front.
"Good luck!" he offered, as he pulled away.
I called AAA, which I had just signed up for several months before. This was my first call to them.
"Uh, hi, my name is Brian Regan, I have AAA, and I just hit a deer."
I heard laughter from the other end.
Being from Florida, I thought, "Maybe I'm the first person in the history of the earth that has driven into a deer."
"I know it sounds crazy, sir, but that's what happened."
"I'll send a tow truck out," the guy said, still chuckling.
After about twenty-minutes, a tow truck pulled up to the gas station. A nice enough, middle-aged guy asked me to hop in and we drove back to my car. As the guy began to hook up my crushed Datsun, another car slowly drove past us on the highway. It slowed to a roll, then it stopped... in the highway. It sat for a moment, and then started backing up. As it continued backing toward us, I thought, "Whoever this is wants to lend a helping hand. How nice."
The car pulled even with us but didn't slow. It continued backing up on the highway. Back, back, back, it went. I didn't know what in the hell was going on.
"What is that guy doing?" I asked the tow truck guy.
"He's probably looking for the deer," he answered.
"They know I hit a deer too?" I queried, perplexed.
The car in the road finally stopped, farther back then I had walked with my strobe-like flashlight, and parked on the inside shoulder. With its headlights still on, I heard two car doors open and close. Then I heard distant murmuring. Then the murmuring turned into yelling, and then yelping.
"Looks like they found it," concluded the tow truck guy.
Then I heard footsteps running from that car towards us. They grew louder and were accompanied with heavy panting. Within seconds, a guy wearing a red flannel shirt huffed up to me.
"You hit that deer?" he asked, in what seemed like a breach of social etiquette, since there were no, "Hey, how ya' doing's?" or "Are you okay's?" or "I sure feel badly about how your evening is going's." Just simply, "You hit that deer?"
"Yeah I did."
"You gonna keep it?"
This question seemed rather odd to me. "Am I gonna keep it?" I asked myself again in my own head, increasing the incredulity for my own amusement.
"Uh, no. I'm not going to keep it," I replied, improving his incorrect usage of the English language.
"Can we keep it?" he followed, continuing with what, to this day, might be the strangest handful of questions I've ever been asked.
"Sure, you can keep it," I said.
A very loud hooting sound came out of his body as he turned and dashed back toward the distant car.
"What was that all about?" I asked the tow truck guy.
"Well, the rule is, whoever hits a deer gets to keep it," I was told.
"Why would anyone want to keep a deer they hit?" I asked.
"For the meat," he said.
Just then I heard from the other car, "HE SAID WE COULD KEEP IT!" This was followed by more hoots and hollers.
As I looked back towards the hootin' and hollerin' another set of headlights began to slow down near the other car. The headlights then came to a stop behind the other car. Then red and blue spinning lights popped on over the new car.
"Looks like the cops are checking up on them," said the tow truck guy.
"It's not hunting season. They're not allowed to have a deer."
"Huh? Am I in trouble?"
"No, you're alright. You're allowed to HIT a deer. You're just not allowed to SHOOT one."
From the distant headlights I heard, "Yes, sir! He said we could keep it!"
After a moment of silence I heard, "HEY, COME HERE AND TELL 'EM YOU GAVE US THAT DEER!"
Not sure why I was obligated to be involved with all this, I ran back towards the scene, stopping at the driver's side window of the police car. The guy in the red flannel shirt joined me.
A very typical looking state trooper looked up at me and asked, "You hit that deer?"
"Yes, sir," I answered to this eerily familiar question.
"You gonna keep it?"
Noting the Deja vu irony of the questioning, I replied, "No sir. I gave it to these guys."
More hootin' and hollerin' filled the night.
"Let me see your license and registration," the trooper demanded.
My license plate had recently expired and I was pretty hot under the collar that my good deed bequeathment of this dead deer was now going to get me in trouble.
"Uh, do I need to do that?" I queried, as if this could possibly get the answer I wanted.
"Yes you do," he assured me.
Cursing in my mind these two hootin' and hollerin' deer hunters I ran back to my car that was about to be lifted by the tow truck.
"Hang on," I said to the tow truck guy, "I need to get my registration out of there."
I ran around to the passenger side, opened the door, and reached into the glove box. As I did, I noticed a can of brake fluid I kept in there had somehow lost its cap, maybe in the collision with the deer. Brake fluid was all over the glove box and all over my registration.
I ran the sopping wet registration back to the cop. As I apologized for it being soaked with brake fluid, I handed the registration to him. He looked at it, then at me, then at his partner, who I hadn't even noticed until then. The cop in the driver's seat handed the sopping wet registration to the other cop. They both laughed as the second cop gave it back to the first. The first cop held it up to me to reveal that the brake fluid had wiped out all the ink that had been typed onto the registration form. You could still read the original form, but all my information was running like mascara.
"Well I'm in trouble" I thought as the first cop picked up a clipboard and started writing. I just stood there shaking my head at what was continuing to unfold for me. "Unbelievable," I thought, "my car is demolished, I don't know what to do, and now I'm getting a ticket. What a messed up night!"
The cop finished writing and handed me a little yellow piece of paper. "So this is what a ticket looks like," I thought, having never before gotten one in over ten years of driving.
"Give that to those guys and tell them to twist it onto the antlers," ordered the trooper.
"Excuse me?" was the only thing I could think of to say.
"Tell them to twist tie this onto the antlers so if they get pulled over again, they can show it's a gift."
"A gift?" I thought.
So I walked the yellow tag over to the two guys as they were placing this dead deer into their trunk.
"You're supposed to twist tie this onto the antlers," I instructed them, realizing this was a sentence I had never before said in my life.
This, of course, was followed with more hootin' and hollerin'.
When I walked back to the troopers' car to get what was left of my registration, I still wasn't sure whether or not I was getting a ticket. Not wanting to ask, I just kind of stood there waiting to see if I was going to be dismissed.
As the first cop gave me my dripping registration he asked of no one in particular, "What in the hell are they doing?"
Noticing he was watching the two guys with the deer I thought, "Does this officer have the shortest memory in the universe?"
The cop then leaned his head out the window and yelled to the two guys, "Hey fellas, you can't put that deer in there like that. It will explode."
Horrible images entered my mind.
"What do you mean?" the guy in flannel asked.
"You gotta gut that thing!" shouted the cop.
More horrible images entered my mind.
Then the cop turned to me and said, "You're free to go."
Thrilled that the brake fluid had wiped away the evidence of my expired tag, I ran with my dripping registration back to my car, which by now was ready to be towed.
"All set?" asked the tow truck driver.
"Yeah, I think so," I foolishly answered. "The cops gave those guys something for the antlers and then they told them they should gut it, or something."
As the troopers slowly drove past us, I could hear more huffing and puffing as the man with the flannel shirt again ran back towards us.
"Now what?" I wondered.
"You all gotta knife?" he asked.
"Not me," I answered hoping my experience with these guys was over.
"I have one," offered the tow truck guy, whose kindness apparently extended beyond my needs. "If you're going to gut that deer though, you should probably get off the highway first. It's not safe out here."
"Good idea," said flannel man.
Handing the man the knife, the tow truck guy said, "Why don't you guys follow me to the next exit and you can use my headlights to gut the deer?"
"Gee thanks," said the guy with the knife as he ran back to his friend.
A few minutes later, I found myself sitting in the passenger side of a parked tow truck watching the most hideous thing I have ever seen.
One of the two guys lifted the deer from behind as if he was going to give it the Heimlich Manuever. The other guy jabbed the knife into its belly and tugged it upwards, opening the deer, belly to chest. Then the guy with the knife threw the knife on the ground and stuck his arms up into the deer. He began pulling stuff out of the deer like someone would pull towels out of a dryer. He kept pulling stuff out until there was apparently nothing left to pull. The deer innards just piled up on the ground between the dangling deer's hind hooves. When they were done with this, they put the deer into their trunk. Then the guy who had done the excavating, picked up the knife, wiped it uselessly on some grass and walked it back to the tow truck guy.
"Here you go, thanks," he said, as his crimson red arm handed the crimson red knife back to the tow truck driver. "And thanks again for the deer!" the guy shouted to me as he ran back to his buddy who was slamming the trunk of the car.
As the tow truck guy drove me and my crushed car away from this horrid scene, I could hear the two guys getting into their car.
They were hootin' and hollerin'.
6 years ago