The Deer


Tendrils of fog cavorted in low lying hollows in the chill morning air. I traveled the curving country lanes with half my mind already in the classroom, preparing for the day ahead.  When I arrived I would unstack the tidy piles of chairs and nestle them up to the tables already set with bright red caddies and folders labeled “Morning Work.”  The weekly newsletter was printed and stacked on the table by the door. I couldn’t forget to send those home and mentally envisioned sticking one bright sheet of paper into each small cubby. 

A flash of movement ahead caught my eye, pulling my attention fully back into my car and the moment.  Flocks of turkey, raccoons, fox and deer were a common sight along these back roads at dawn.  Many flew, scampered or bounded across the road, but others were still, strewn across the road or heaped in a pile– lifeless obstacles to avoid. On the occasion when I misjudged my tires’ trajectory, I was literally sickened by the thud under my wheels and I’d learned to be extra cautious driving at dawn and at dusk.

Ahead of me the movement repeated, low, by the side of the road. What was it? I peered through the windshield, easing my foot off the accelerator, and drifted closer.

There it was… on the other side of the road…a deer. It lay on its side, parallel to the road, facing me. As I neared, it suddenly  moved, twisting with tremendous effort, yet unable to regain its feet. It’s tawny legs thrashed from side to side.  It lifted its long neck, struggling mightily, then dropped back down to the berm.  Then it lay there, sides heaving. My guts twisted, as I slowed the car to a crawl and looked, horrified, at the deer. How long had it been here?  What should I do? 

The words leapt unbidden into my mind. I wish I had a gun.

But even if I did have a gun, what would I do?  I might like to think I’d be able to calmly and resolutely end that deer’s misery, but I’d be lying to myself.  That takes a kind of strength I don’t have. I’d never held a gun in my life and, anyway, I had no gun. My brain raced in circles while the deer continued its futile struggle at the edge of the road. 

Watching, my stomach churned and my fists clamped, white-knuckled, on the steering wheel.  My car continued to edge slowly closer to the deer’s resting place. I still had no idea what to do and felt trapped in the moment, paralyzed. My eyes darted frantically up and down the road, looking for someone, anyone, who might know what to do and have the physical and mental means to do it.  “Oh my God, Oh my God,” I repeated to myself again and again, as  I watched the deer struggle. 

In the distance ahead, yellowed headlights bobbed into view. I continued drifting, passing the deer, half off the road, still hesitating. I looked desperately toward the approaching vehicle, praying it was a pick up truck with a gun rack.  It pulled into view–not a pick up truck.  But then, without hesitation, this driver pulled over beside the flailing, distressed deer, stopped his car and opened the door. He was clearly prepared to handle the situation. A better man than I.

Tears in my eyes, I continued to roll away from the parked car and the deer. Then passing the baton, I pushed on the accelerator and moved forward into my day, toward my gleaming classroom, leaving a ribboning trail of shame and guilt behind me like a dark splotch on a country road.

14 thoughts on “The Deer

  1. Lisa says:

    I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I’d call the police, I suppose. But I used to work with a woman who carried a giant hunting knife in her trunk for just such an occasion. She knew how to use it too. Her dog had tangled with a porcupine, so she kept an eye out for a dead one on the side of the road. When she found one, she skinned it (on her way to work) so they could use it to teach the dog to stay away from prickly critters. That is not me! I’m glad someone came along to help the deer.


  2. bakrawiec says:

    My stomach is churning in the reading…Thank you (I think:)) for making the incident so alive for me. When I spend time at the shore, (unexpectedly) there are deer everywhere, and I fear hitting one/being hit in return. Guess the Serenity Prayer is all we can hold on to. Like you, even if I had an implement to put the creature out of its misery, I don’t think I could have used it. My only weapon, like yours–to pray someone who can handle the situation comes along–quickly!–and/or the creature dies on its own ASAP. I will be interested in the practical advice others might give in comments–using a cell phone to call for help is one really good idea. Funny how it’s hard to think on the spot in those frightening situations. Thanks for the post that lets us rehearse–to be prepared on some level–for the eventuality. This Sunday is the feast of St. Francis; hope the Lord gives you peace over last year’s incident. Your compassion, I’m sure, will be rewarded!


    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks! It was amazing how long this incident seemed to last–In reality I imagine it was at most 5 minutes. It is difficult to watch any living thing suffer.


      • bakrawiec says:

        I hear you!!…Had a head-on crash years ago; seemed as if the truck & I had “endless” time to avoid each other…Read there’s a phenomenon in cases of impending fright or trauma: the brain slows everything down; seems as if everything you see is in slow-mo…I totally commiserate with you…I’m upset by how many deer are constantly running across lawns, streets, and highways where I live. Frightening! God bless all of us who are in danger from the deer!


  3. You shouldn’t beat yourself up over not being able to help the deer. Your compassion is palpable in your writing of this post and sometimes the only thing we can offer another creature is compassion and to end it love and in the dear’s case a good and swift ending.


  4. danrothermel says:

    Your writing took me on the ride with you that morning. I connected with this line for it is me, too. “That takes a kind of strength I don’t have. I’d never held a gun in my life and, anyway, I had no gun.” Such incidents are unsettling. I think it took courage for that driver to do what he did.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Linda Baie says:

    Hearing your feelings in this writing gave some honor to the deer’s life, what you can do. I know I would call the sheriff or highway patrol, hoping they would help. It’s a beautifully written piece, but I’m sorry that you had it happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tara Smith says:

    Yes, if there ever was a moment to want to have a gun this would be it. Last weekend, the car ahead of us hit a deer. All of us stopped and got out of our cars to help, but it was hopeless. So, we drove away while the driver ahead of us put the beautiful creature out of it’s misery. Beautifully written post.


  7. elsie says:

    This is a sad fact of life when you live in the country. Your slice was so vivid with the descriptions of what you saw and the emotions you felt. Hopefully that deer became much needed food for a family.


  8. Peg D says:

    So powerfully and vividly written. I could totally relate. But I avoid crickets when I mow the lawn. 😉 I live in the country too and I am definitely careful when driving during twilight. Sorry you had to experience this.

    Liked by 1 person

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