Southern Belles are called upon to deal with a great many things in life and we are expected to handle all of those things with great care and deportment. Many of those aforementioned “things” can be quite unpleasant. Although I don’t doubt that the North has issues in this area, there is one distasteful matter that the South is known for: Road kill.
We’ve all seen it. Have you ever played Road Kill Tag on some interminable driving excursion? Possums are the lowest scores because they are a dime a dozen. Lord knows I’m not expert, but those nasty boogers are either as dumb as paving bricks or their little beady nocturnal eyes can’t handle the bright flash of oncoming head lights. Raccoons come in a close second. Deer are unpleasant, but also some of the more frequent carcasses, especially in their “romantic season.” Buzzards are particularly grizzly and chickens have more feathers than you could ever begin to imagine. Sometimes one sees foxes and even the very occasional coyote. I consider the wild turkey I saw once to be very rare because I am the wife and daughter of avid turkey hunters and I know how hard those varmints are to get. Of course, alligators are off the charts.
Let me get this out of the way: I do not eat road kill. I do not know anyone who eats road kill, no matter how dire their straits.
Let me get this out of the way, also: I’m not paranoid, but I think that Mother Nature is out to get me. Ever since the day I turned 16, animals have been lining up to die by whatever I happen to be driving at the time.
When I was 17, I was driving home from a church retreat in Salter’s Path, North Carolina. Back in the day, drivers were still allowed to take the shortcut through Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville. The cut-though road was heavily wooded and, despite the marine sharp-shooters’ efforts, wildlife was proliferate in the area. A deer ran out in front of my car. I slammed on brakes and the little stinker escaped with his life.
Less than 10 minutes later, two deer ran out in front of me. If for no other reason than the old wives’ tale that says everything happens in threes, I pulled off to the side of the road and collected myself. I felt safer spending the night at the entrance of the Red Team Firing Range than I did about getting back on the road, but I made myself plow on. In spite of the apparent odds, I made it home without further incident.
When I was 19, I was westbound on I-40 at dusk. As I approached Sampson County, I happened to look off to the right side of the road and there was a deer standing at the edge of the woods. I hadn’t quite gotten over the deer incident on the military base, so the second I saw that fluffy little white tail, my foot came off of the gas and I slowed to a veritable crawl for I-40 (55 mph). The deer was looking right at me and I really thought it was going to go into the trees.
The damned deer didn’t go into the trees. It took off like it was on fire and ran right across the road in front of me.
I can hear what you’re saying. You’re saying, “C’mon Ashley! That sort of thing is normal when you drive in the rural areas of North Carolina!”
Okay, fine. Allow me to disabuse that particular notion:
Picture it: The town of Chapel Hill. Right slap in the middle of the town of Chapel Hill. It was around midnight and I was driving on U.S. 54 toward the campus. As I came up on St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church, seven—yes, seven—deer ran out of the church yard and into the road in front of me.
I stomped on the brakes and skidded like I was some kind of extra in The Fast and the Furious. I hit the left flank on the last one and I knocked it down, but it recovered and ran off toward the other side of the street. I sat there, stopped in the middle of U.S. 54 and shaking like a leaf. The only thing that got me moving was the notion that they may have only been the first battalion in a soon to arrive legion prepared for war.
The irony is not lost on me that, when I see Bambi while riding on a golf cart at Bald Head Island or at the side of some snaky mountain road in Lake Lure, I’m the one staring at it like a deer in headlights. Who would have thought that literal doe eyes could look so menacing?
Is there a “WANTED” poster with my picture up in some sort of deer post office with the tag line “Dear or Alive?”
Anyway, you can relax the next time you see a deer on the road because it’s waiting for me.