After the extravaganza of opening presents chez Pipers on Christmas morning, we hit the road in the afternoon to go to my sister-in-law’s place, a few hours away, where family was getting together.
It was dusk. Mrs P was driving, I was dozing in the passenger seat, the Cub was watching a video in his car seat, when suddenly a blurry view of something right in front of the car, followed by BLAM!
Mrs P and I both grew up in rural Saskatchewan. “Deer?” I said. “Deer,” she replied.
Mrs P pulled over at the next turn-off and we went out to inspect the front. Bumper was smashed to bits; grille was gone, and there was a deer-shaped imprint on the caved-in radiator. Looking back to where the collision occurred I could see that from what was left, it was definitely a dead deer. It had joined the Choir Eternal.
We drove slowly to town. We were just 30 km from SIL’s place and it was 27 below. Tire pressure warning light came on part-way there, and the temperature gauge was climbing; not surprising, given the state of the radiator. Thought it was touch-and go whether we would make it before the car gave out, but we did, safe if not sound.
Some soothing needed en route for the Cub. He asked if it had been a parent deer or a baby deer. We said we thought it was an adult deer, then asked him why he wanted to know. “Well,” he said, “if it’s a baby deer, his parents are going to be really mad at Mom and they’re going to come hunting for her”. I must say, he did conjure up a disturbing image of vigilante deer, probably wearing hunting caps and carrying rifles, with a “Wanted” poster, asking people if they’d seen this woman.
At one point the Cub suddenly realised the windshield had spatters on it. “What’s that on the window, Dad?” he asked. I went through that little parental decision loop in my head: “Shield him a bit or introduce him to the realities of the harsh world? Heck, we just hit a deer. Harsh realities it is.”
“Blood,” I said.
“What? BLOOD? You mean the deer’s on top of the car and his blood’s running down the window?!?”
Did my best to explain that the deer was back on the road and the blood was from the accident.
We’ll pass over the discussion whether Mom was a murderer.
Mrs P was a bit shaken up, of course. When we’d finished our brief inspection of the car I asked her if she wanted me to drive the rest of the way. “No”, she said. “I have to do it right now.” Sensible statement, just like falling off a horse : get back on right away. So she drove us in.
As she drove we talked about how quickly it had happened. Deer run across the road, in our area especially at dusk. She said she just had a glimpse of it, had a split-second to consider whether to try to swerve or go straight and hit it. She remembered that her dad, a farmer and countryman all his life, always said: “Just drive straight and hit the deer. If you try to swerve at highway speed, good chance you’ll have a roll-over, especially in winter.” So that’s what she did - drove straight, knowing there would be a god-awful smash but it was the safest thing to do.
Nerves of steel, Mrs Piper has!