7 July

When Plans Change. Life, Death, Life.

by Jon Katz
When Plans Change
When Plans Change

It happened, in a flash, as it always does, without warning, we are dependent on our instincts and reflexes only. Life, death, life. Maria was driving, I had just switched places with her after we stopped to get some coffee and breakfast. We had gotten up just after 5 a.m. to head for Blue Star Equiculture to see our friend Pamela Moshimer Rickenbach and were an hour or so from the farm. We did not make it.

The deer raced across the road, directly in the path of our car as we were driving down a state highway at 55 miles an hour. We were so lucky. The deer bounced off the car  grill, it didn’t come through our windshield, the air bags did not deploy, the giant truck behind us stopped in time, we didn’t veer or swerve across the highway but rolled to the side of the road in a cloud of car parts and dying deer.

It could have been so much worse.

Maria, an exquisitely sensitive soul, got out of the car and raced to the deer, she was crying and saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and before anyone could help her, she pulled the deer off of the highway, knelt by it’s side and tried to comfort the doe as she died. She was gone in a minute or two, it was hard to see her struggle and die.

After the deer died, I had to smile. Maria looked up at me and asked “are you okay?” I have my story, I said, you made sure the deer was okay before you made sure I was okay. We laughed at that, “oh,” she said, “you have your story.” Yes, I said, I do, and it good one, and even true. I had a good time telling the troopers and two truck operator about it, we all had a good time with it.

Men find community in the oddest ways.

In seconds, a battered old pick-up came by and and asked if they could take the deer, clean and skin it, put the meat in their freezer for the winter. This is another ritual in rural life, where deer are often hunted for food, not for sport. The man said he could get 60 pounds of meat out of it. The troopers helped him haul the deer onto his truck.

Maria and I were both glad the deer would live in another way. I felt badly for Maria, she loves all kinds of life, and hates to be the object of any suffering or death, even a moth or bug or worm. She ran over a grass snake with the mower earlier this week and was very sad. She does not take any life for granted and inspires me to be compassionate and empathy, not to write off these inevitable happens as just another thing to move past.

Men are men, I got to work on the paperwork, writing down the phone numbers I would need, talking to the auto rental company in nearby Vermont. The AAA truck operator gave us a ride back to the auto body shop, Deb Foster, our friend and house-sitter came to pick us up. We were greeted by brays, neights, and a border collie on speed. I sat down and she came rushing over to greet me, leaped up on Red’s back, vaulted onto my chair, misjudged and sailed right over my shoulder, crashing right into a bookcase and scattering books all over the place.

Then she got up, shook herself off and did it again. This time she landed on a different shelf. Calm down, I said,  you will have a heart attack.

Deer collisions are an inevitable part of life  up here. This is my third in nearly two decades, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t hit a deer on the road. Some are road smart, some are not.

We knew what do do, we all played our part.  The troopers said are doing this all day lately. There is a process in this country, and we were in it. I got my camera out, I called the police, the insurance company, AAA. Within an hour, the State Troopers had come, the tow truck loaded up the car, I had an insurance incident report, a police report printed from a cruiser computer, a car reserved for me in Bennington, a pre-approved auto body shop to take the car to in Cambridge, and our personal things removed from the car.

The front end was a shambles. A few minutes after the accident, a man in a tow truck pulled up, screamed at us to get away from the car, he saw that the engine was catching fire. He jumped out with a fire extinguisher and sprayed foam under the hood. The front of the car – radiator, bumpers, grill, battery – was all smashed and mangled. The AAA guy said there was a good chance the car can be fixed.

I rushed to car, opened the rear window, pulled my camera and camera bag out. I was prepared to go down with the ship.

We don’t know if they will be able to fix it or not, or  whether the insurance company will declare it a total wreck. We were very fortunate,  all told, we were back at the farm by 10 a.m.. We are fine, but we needed to be with each other, we sat together and held each other for a bit and gave thanks. Life, death, life, the cycle and the wheel.

It was an upsetting thing, not a tragedy but a part of life where we and other people live. We live in nature, but not always in harmony with it, and many forms of wildlife have never adapted to our systems of roads. Death is a part of life, death, life, death. It seems to be a surprise to us, but if you think about it, it is the most inevitable and natural thing in the world. We called Pamela and she told her we would not make it, she said deer are powerful spirits, they have great medicine. She is sending us some links.

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