Last Sunday, on my way to writers’ group, I hit a deer. After dozens of near misses over the years, it finally happened. Long time ago I learned that when a deer bounds across the road in front of you, slow way down because there’s usually another one close behind. That’s saved me more than once.
The deer’s head appeared directly in front of me, as perfectly framed as a portrait, its big brown eye in the middle, surrounded by tawny-brown fur. I had just enough time to register Wha—? I’m going almost 40 on Old County Road and there’s a deer right in front of me? before I felt a bump. Then the deer vanished. My car was still rolling forward. I didn’t want to be late to writers’ group. There was nothing I could do about the deer in the dark. I kept going.
Did the deer’s eye see me through the windshield?
It wasn’t till the sun came up the next morning that I saw the dent, down low on Malvina Forester’s front fender, just to the right of the driver’s-side fog light.
After I got home Sunday night, I mentioned the incident on Facebook. Several friends offered their sympathy, and their own deer-collision stories. The next day a neighbor commented that in the previous few days he’d seen two dead does along that stretch of road — Old County near Misty Meadows, with open field on one side and woods on the other — one of them around 8:30 that very morning.
That almost had to be the one I hit. Travvy and I had walked that way around 10 a.m., looking for traces. From far across the field I’d spotted a white SUV parked on the grassy shoulder not far from the little parking area. Could it have something to do with the deer? If someone were collecting a deer carcass, a pickup would have been a more likely vehicle. By the time Trav and I got that far, the car was gone. Trav sniffed vigorously at the scrubby undergrowth, but this is not unusual. I saw no traces, but I’m no tracker either.
Last January a deer carcass appeared on a trail Trav and I walk most days, a stone’s throw from Old County, not far at all from where I hit the deer last weekend. Trav noticed it first and of course wanted to investigate. I caught on soon enough to reel in his Flexi. Deer hunting season had been over long enough that I guessed it had been hit by a car. Cold preserved it intact till spring thaw brought it to the attention of the neighborhood carnivores. Over the next few weeks the carcass was reduced to a scattering of bones. By then even Trav had lost interest, though even now he sometimes glances in that direction, as if longing for the feast that might have been.
When in my early years as a year-rounder I lived on the West Tisbury side of the Chilmark line, quite a few down-island friends refused to come visit after dark because they were afraid they might hit a deer. By then I knew that deer-car collisions could cause serious damage and human injury, but since I regularly drove back and forth between home and work in Vineyard Haven, often at night, without incident, I had a hard time taking this excuse at face value.
Malvina Forester sustained minimal damage in my deer-car collision, and I none at all, but Tuesday morning I called my insurance company anyway. The incident, I learned, was covered by the “comprehensive” part of my policy, the deductible was $500, and since I wasn’t at fault, it wouldn’t affect my good-driver rating or my premium. The appraiser came out Thursday to take a photo of Malvina’s bumper. If the estimate is more than $500 I’ll get a check, but I’m guessing it’ll be less so probably I won’t.
The deer wasn’t at fault either, but the deer is, most likely, dead. I still see that eye meeting mine through the windshield.