I hate deer. To quote my mom, “Deer ruined my life.” You think they’re cute? Stop being my friend.
My family was driving down a two-lane Virginia highway at dusk (don’t do that, by the way) in our Beige.Chrysler.Minivan. when we witnessed a massive deer collision with the car in front of us. We saw the huge deer coming at a right angle to the tiny sedan and knew impact was imminent. The collision was gruesome. The deer hit the windshield and got at least twenty feet of air before landing with a massive thud to the side of us. (I thought I was exaggerating the “twenty feet”, but when I asked understated Mr. Okayest, he said, “At least twenty feet!”) We then drove through a cloud of deer dust and fur.
I am not proud that I screamed and scared my children. Mr. Okayest stayed manly-silent, until I whispered to him to explain to our nervous son about what happened. I was nervous I would scream again if I explained it.
The smashed car in front of us weaved and slowed down to a crawl, but strangely didn’t stop. It crawled along in such a slow and wobbly fashion that I wondered if I should have jumped out and run beside it to see if the driver was unconscious. Finally, after perhaps a quarter of a mile, it stopped in the middle of this dangerous two-lane road, where other cars were speeding by at 60 miles per hour. My husband parked us on the side of the road and jumped out to go to the driver’s door.
He stood there for so long, I also got out to help. He had been trying to convince the confused woman with no windshield that she needed to put the car in park, take off her seatbelt, and open the door. The sequence of those events was more than that stunned (and non-English-speaking) woman could comprehend. He finally got her out and took her to me. He then moved her wreck of a car to the side of the road. I made the woman sit down, and she collapsed into a tiny pile of tears and shaking. Mr. Okayest called 911 and I made her stay down by my van. I didn’t like my children alone in the van on the side of this busy road, but I couldn’t leave her alone either. I couldn’t tell if she was injured because, without her speaking any English, I couldn’t tell how confused she was.
Her family got there within 20 minutes. The police got there within 30. (Yes, 30!) We stayed with her until that point. Strangely, when her family (at least 5 people, including her daughter) arrived, no one hugged her, checked over her body, or said anything. I had already done all those things. She had glass in her hair and had most likely hit her head, as the airbag had never deployed. I don’t know if she would have hit her head on the steering wheel or on the deer, but there was no windshield left.
She made me think of my own mother. My own mother hit a deer a few years ago. She was okay, but very bruised and shaken. She couldn’t even drive on that same road to go to work for months, and took a very long route on a bigger highway instead. Someone had to have been first on the scene. Someone might have helped her out of the car. Someone might have brushed glass out of her hair. And you can bet that if I had arrived on the scene myself, I would have hugged her and sobbed with her and checked her poor body for injuries, as if she were my child.
This poor woman also made me think of my brother, who, as a teenager, hit a deer in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere and was as scared by the airbag as he was by the crash.
It’s so easy for even the most seasoned driver to hit a deer. Even though we rural drivers are well-trained to scan the sides of the road at all times, and to not drive on two-lane roads at dusk, and to choose roads that have a tree line far from the road, and to watch out in November (hunting season AND mating season), we still hit deer often. The results are ugly.
With no natural predators, deer are in abundance. More housing developments mean less room for the deer. And it’s not just car collisions that worry us. Deer are not as docile as people think. They can be “mama bears” when defending babies. My childhood dog was attacked by a deer who was defending her fawn, right in front of my eyes, in my own driveway. She got that 25 pound dog between her feet and kicked/rolled him down the steep driveway. My dog was okay, but bleeding.
We even have to consider the deer for mundane daily hobbies like gardening. My mother is an avid flower gardener, but she can only plant things that are deer-resistant. They detest stinky stuff like marigolds. They stay away from daylilies and daffodil bulbs but will dig tulip bulbs right out of the ground. Deer-resistant, however, means that they will only resist the particular plant until they are starving enough to eat it. During a particularly deep snow this year, they even ate my parents’ mugo bushes, which generations of deer had left alone for 25 years of snows. “They must have been desperate,” my mom said. The bushes were the only thing sticking out of the snow that the deer could reach.
And vegetable gardens? Ha! You have to have Top Secret Clearance levels of fencing to manage that.
Yes, I do realize that I am like the White Man settling on the Native Americans’ land and declaring them a menace while I ruin the earth around them.
Therefore, I would keep my mouth shut, except for one thing. Lyme. Can we talk about Lyme Disease for a moment? Lyme Disease is a plaque of the modern day. I cannot stress how debilitating and how terrible this disease is. Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks, and the deer (along with other animals) deposit them wherever they go. As I’m sure you know, deer ticks are not the ticks of our childhood. I remember being taught, as a young girl, to run my fingers through my hair after playing outside to check for ticks. I would find them, and my mom or my cousins would pull them out. End of story.
Not so anymore. Deer ticks are the size of a tiny mole. A tiny freckle. The size of a poppyseed. How are you supposed to find that in your hair? And what if your child’s skin and hair are very dark? I spent a lot of time in the woods as a child. I grew up to be a regular hiker, camper, and caver. Now, I don’t even know if I can ever allow my children to play in the woods on our own lot.
We have packs of deer that wander through our wooded but non-rural lot. At the risk of sounding like the White Man, I wish they weren’t here in my yard, where my children play. They bring ticks, and that brings disease. I learned from my neighbor that the previous owner used to lure deer onto this property by purposely feeding them cat food. What?!
I scan my children’s fat bodies at every diaper change. I am constantly running my fingernails over new moles during their baths. I, Mrs. Okayest Mom, who is pretty relaxed about most everything kid-related, am terrified of deer ticks.
Many of my family members have had Lyme Disease. If you catch it early enough, like most of them did, it is treatable. Antibiotics – sometimes several rounds – can cure it. However, one close family member had Lyme Disease that was never caught or treated. Many people, like this person, never get the bulls-eye rash. Many people, like this person, probably just think they have the flu. It turns out that most of the autoimmune disorders that this beloved family member suffered from for decades were either misdiagnosed, or were perhaps the result of untreated Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease isn’t called “The Great Imitator” for nothing. Long term, Lyme disease can mimic or cause terrible things.
While watching this family member (not naming him/her because I’m not about to spill someone’s medical business on my public blog) go through this hell, I was flipping through a pet-supply company catalog, and spotted a Lyme vaccine for DOGS. My brain practically leaped off a cliff. Why in the world can we vaccinate dogs and not beloved family members against Lyme Disease? Well, that’s a really big question. A discussion for another day. For now, let me just say that IT SUCKS.
We don’t give our 100-pound dog that Lyme injection, but we do use the once-a-month tick and flea prevention on her. If I weren’t so worried about her bringing ticks into the house, I probably wouldn’t give it to her. The chemicals in those medications are ghastly. Every month, as I watch my husband put it on her back, I think, “Is this why we never got pregnant?” I am not a pessimist or a gloom-and-doom person, but, seriously, I am actively putting this hazardous pesticide in my home, on my pet. My babies kiss that dog! Which is worse, the toxin or the Lyme? Right now I am choosing the toxin, but only because I have seen what Lyme has done to my family and I’m not willing to risk it.
Deer give me so much fear. I don’t operate from a place of fear on very many issues – or any issues –except this one. I am scared to drive at dusk on two-lane roads. I can’t even plant a vegetable garden. Worst of all, I am not sure I can let my children play in the woods on our hard-earned property. For now, we stay on the deck, because it’s big and flat and my kids are small and wobbly. But what about next year? And the year after that? I am a nature girl who might end up accidentally raising some indoor-only kids. Kids who get vaccinated by a dog injection.
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