Honey, It's a Deer!

Apart from the 5 years that we lived in New Mexico, my wife and I have lived in Tennessee most of our lives. For her, New Mexico was the only time she has lived out of state. For me, well... my state of residence has been more fluid over the years, but I have lived in Tennessee for more than half my life.

Here in the Volunteer state, you are born and bred to watch for wildlife on the roads. Usually, the most dangerous are wild deer out foraging for food or, during rutting season, seeking out a mate. In Tennessee, when driving along with your spouse, you are likely to hear, "Honey, it's a deer!"

In the desert of New Mexico's Middle Rio Grande Valley, deer were not an issue. However, free range cattle, especially near our home on top of a desert mesa, were a big and constant concern. These are cattle -- bulls, cows, calves -- that are owned by a rancher, but are allowed to roam freely to forage for food. It takes a lot more land to sustain a herd when it's covered with desert scrub instead of prairie grass. Driving down the road, you might come up on a small herd of cattle blocking the road at any time. So, In New Mexico, I'd be more likely to hear, "Honey, it's a steer!".

"Honey, it's a deer!"

Well, now we're back in Tennessee and, last night, we had a "Hone, it's a deer!" moment. Let me explain.

Yesterday evening, my wife and I had nice, quiet dinner at a quaint little Mexican restaurant about 20 minutes away from our home in the countryside of west Tennessee.

The route to and from the restaurant includes about 10 miles of travel on a well-maintained, two-lane country highway that winds through the hills and trees. The speed limit is 55mph except a 2-mile stretch near the north end through an small farming community where it drops to 45mph. There is always a fair amount of traffic along the narrow-shouldered highway, including some 18-wheelers. At night, most of this stretch of road is lit only by the headlights of the vehicles traveling here. Too, the trees along the highway are seldom more than 20-30 feet from the shoulders of the pavement.

After dinner, we were driving along this dark stretch of highway on our return home when, somewhere in the middle-ish part of this stretch, two small deer appeared at the left side of the road. I think it was either two does or a doe and a fawn, but I can't be sure. It all happened so fast.

Out of concern for the deer and knowing that, even in a big pickup, hitting a deer at ~55mph could be a dangerous, I immediately applied the brakes. Just as I began to slow, the first deer ran across the highway in front of us perhaps 30-50 yards ahead of us. Continuing to brake, I figured instinctively that this first critter would be off the the highway to the right before we arrived.

But there was a second deer... the proverbial "deer in headlights". I could see the glow of it's eyes reflecting our headlights as it stood transfixed. I continued to slow down because, while you never know what these critters will do, it seems they're apt to dart out in front of an oncoming vehicle at the last second.

For a fleeting moment, I thought we might pass without incident.

Tragically, those hope were dashed when, just as we passed, this poor second deer darted out from the highways edge and straight into the driver's side of our truck. I had slowed down significantly (maybe 25-30 mph?) but the impact was pretty hard. There was a loud thump when the deer collided with the rear door on the driver's side and then... well, I think the little deer was run over by the left rear wheel.

Rattled, I immediately came to a stop on the side of the road. On this dark highway, I didn't dare step out of the truck to look for the deer. It was too dangerous. In fact, my wife noticed a driveway directly across the road and we pulled in to gather ourselves for a moment.

Our thoughts went immediately to the poor deer that we'd hit. We just hoped that it hadn't suffered long...

Thankfully, we were both uninjured though we were both upset by the whole incident. After a moment, I got out and used the flashlight light on my phone to assess the damage to the truck. There is definitely a decent-sized dent in the rear door on the driver's side, but nothing serious. This could have been a LOT worse for us and the truck, but we were sick about hitting a poor, helpless deer... but at this point, there was nothing to be done.

Historical Oddities?

Oddly, about 6½ years ago -- in late 2017 -- we'd had a similar "Honey, it's a deer!" moment on another, darker, narrower, less busy road in Middle Tennessee. That incident occurred 10 months before we moved to New Mexico. Last night's incident occurred 10 months after we left New Mexico.

Significant? I dunno, but I'd already been thinking about these kinds of things this week.

Over the past 8-9 days, west Tennessee has experienced some unusual, historic winter weather. We got 6" snow in 24 hours followed by bitter cold that kept the snow on the ground for 8+ days. The nighttime lows have been down in to the negative double digits (<-10℉) on a couple of nights and daytime highs have struggled to get into the 20's most days.

It seems like this is the biggest snow anyone around here can remember in recent history and it's happening during the first winter after we moved back to Tennessee.

The first winter we were in New Mexico, a winter storm dropped about a foot of snow right after Christmas and that snow stayed on the ground for a week or more. It was the worst winter storm anyone in New Mexico could remember.

Hmmm... Oh, and have a I mentioned that my wife and I hate cold weather?

As I grow older, it occurs to me from time to time that there have been more than a few of these oddly similar events over my lifetime. Each time I dwell on these events and their similarities, I'm left wondering whether there might be any significance in those similarities... or whether it's all just coincidence.

I reckon I'll probably never know...