Despite a commitment to self, I have failed to write intended blog posts over the past many months, distracted by finishing a thesis for an MFA, and then finishing a draft of the book the thesis has become. That manuscript now with several readers (THANK YOU!!!), I have spare writing time. But that is not why tonight I feel I must write.
Nor does it have anything to do with that monster in the White House or the possible doom of his no-health-care plan, or him repelling “immigrants” who are not, or even storm and earthquake refugees. Peer writers are covering all that, and brilliantly. My focus is narrower.
It is this: After checking our cattle in a leased pasture, counting and recounting cows and calves, fending off the biggest cow, Money, who hates my dogs, looking for my favorite heifer Rabbit and her younger sister Little Bit, and Bobby and Lightning and the steers who don’t get named, I’m driving back to the ranch on the stretch of Highway 184 between highways 491 and 145. You could call this Deer Alley, or Bone Alley—you get my drift. And because dusk is impending and that is the time of the most crossings, I do not drift, in mind or truck, but watch carefully the sides of the road, and they are there—gray mule deer fuzzing up for the winter grazing the roadsides, chasing the grass that’s greener on the other side. But they wait for me, and I drive below speed limit on, topping a rise, and there are more.
A small herd. Five. Clustered on the road. Two does and a yearling dancing a slow spin on asphalt, unsure what to do, where to go. A fawn, no longer spotted, standing still in the middle, head down, muzzle to its fallen brother. At the appearance of my truck the older deer circle again in place, heads up, fear evident, and then bound off, and the young deer steps away then returns to its twin to sniff and wait and finally it has to go, too, disappearing into big sagebrush and the temporary safety beyond.
I do not stop immediately because I would be too close to the hill behind me, a target for the unsuspecting. There is no shoulder. When it’s safe enough I stop my truck, hazard lights flashing, and run back to the hit fawn, to pull the body from the road. I have to wait for a pickup, and then a car, which has to swerve around the deer in its path. No one stops. I grab the front legs and drag. It’s still warm, but not heavy. Two more vehicles pass as I’m hauling the body off the road. I’m sixty-fucking-two years old dragging an animal from the middle of the highway so that no one else will hit it or get in trouble swerving to miss it and assholes in pickups passing me do not stop.
Away from pavement I let the deer down to the ground. It’s then I realize he’s still alive, his heart beating crazily beneath my hand. A young buck, nubbins for antlers, tiny testicles, yellow dribbling down the inside of a hind leg, which is broken at the ankle, mangled above. I don’t have a gun, am afraid my knife isn’t sharp enough to slit his throat. Running to the Toyota for my phone and back to the deer, I call 9-1-1, asking for help, giving inaccurate directions as I fight tears, as more vehicles pass, as the fawn at my feet slips away.