This might be a little morbid for some people, so if animals meeting their maker bothers you, you might want to skip this one. . . .
This evening I was driving into Missoula. It’s about a 15-20 minute trip from home to Reserve on Mullan Road. It was well after dark, about 6:30 PM, and the roads were messy from the temperature getting warm enough to turn quite a bit of the snow to slush. My lights were dim on account of all the grime covering them. They need to be cleaned daily.
This time of year, with hunting season behind us, the fields along the way fill up with deer at all hours (not to mention geese, herons, and several times lately a big bald eagle), which makes me paranoid about hitting one after dark. Years of my dad telling me, “Watch out for deer! Those goddamn things’ll jump right out in front of you!” have made me fairly hyper-vigilant about it, but for the most part it comes down to being lucky or not. My old pickup still has a dent in the passenger door from where I hit and killed a deer on 93 just shy of Arlee in the wee hours of the morning after a rock show more than 11 0r 12 years ago.
Tonight, near Kona Bridge, I could see a car pulled off to the side of the road on my side, as well as one facing me. I slowed way down. As I approached, I could see limned in the headlights of the car on my side a man kneeling beside the road. He was holding a deer down with one knee, and with one arm kind of cradling its neck, the other hand was gripping a knife at her throat. There was significant blood on the road. The deer’s legs were kicking feebly. I could see her eyes wide and black as I passed.
It’s clear what had happened. The deer had been struck by a car, but not badly enough to kill it. The man was finishing the job. It disturbed me.
What does this have to do with gratitude, you might ask? I don’t know who the guy was, but I’m grateful for him doing the humane thing. Most people wouldn’t. Around here, you’re probably going to hit something, sooner or later. Most people I knew when I lived in Ronan kept a pistol in the car, or a knife, or even a stout club for completing the job, if necessary. One co-worker’s wife struck a black bear. Another co-worker hit a horse, totaling his brand new pickup. Another colleague struck a horse as well, and was killed when it came through his windshield.
I’m sure there are those who might think what the man tonight did was wrong. That somehow he should have tried to save the deer, I don’t know. But the way the thing was streaming blood from places it shouldn’t, it was clear that wasn’t going to be possible. The thing is, most of us blast all over the place in these multi-thousand pound instruments of destruction, and we have a responsibility for the mayhem we create while doing so.
That’s what this guy was doing: taking responsibility for his, or someone else’s, mayhem. I’m grateful for that.