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A sophomoric situation

The Whitetail Deer is an extremely beautiful and majestic animal. I currently hate them all.

Last Monday, on my way home from work on a bitterly cold January night, I hit a deer. Or more accurately, it hit me. I was just cruising along, minding my own business, listening to a Chicago sports radio station pointing out to me for the millionth time why the owners of the Chicago Bears are dumb, when it happened. My Jeep and I crossed paths with Bambi's dad. Most licensed drivers who reside in northern Illinois can relate to the situation I am about to describe.

Out of the corner of my bespectacled left eye, I could see movement in the crisp darkness. I knew what it was even before I rotated my head. In what little moonlight there was, I could see the antlers running parallel with the road I was driving on. Or, I guess I should say, almost parallel.

Like a finely-tuned instrument, my sophomore year in high school driver's ed training kicked into gear. I immediately swore.

After my initial verbal response, the rest of my motor reflexes quickly kicked in. Since the road was icy, I couldn't just stomp on my brakes like Fred Flintstone stopping for a brontosaurus burger. My grip on the steering wheel tightened as I took my foot off the gas and tapped the brakes to slow down gradually to keep from sliding in the ditch. That's about the best I could do in the given situation.

The magnificent beast was prancing through the snow-covered ditch very elegantly. If I would have splashed some green and yellow paint on him, he would have looked like a certain farm implement logo loping beside me. Mr. Deer and I probably went side-by-side for a good 30 yards or so as I decelerated.

As I peered out the window, my sophomore year geometry class was playing out in my mind. My Jeep was going in a straight line while Bambi Sr. was traveling in a path that was slightly askew to my own, both traveling at about the same speed. As I calculated the trajectory of the angles, keeping in mind all of the sines, cosines and tangents of the given arcs, I determined that our paths were going to converge, and barring an immediate change of direction from my white-tailed nemesis. I was mathematically screwed.

As we approached our area of convergence, I swore some more.

If you've ever seen a deer run through a snow-covered field, you know they don't always go in a straight line. Many times they will travel in what is technically known as a zig-zaggy pattern. A hop to the left, a hop to the right, repeat. A hop to the left, a hop to the right, repeat. As we closed in on each other, I hoped against hope that the deer would take two or three consecutive zags. If he would just do that, disaster just might be averted.

As I think back, this was definitely one of the most graceful of God's creatures my eyes have ever beheld ... right up to the point when his shoulder smashed into the front, drivers side quarter-panel of the Jeep. Upon impact, the vehicle came to a sudden stop. As I opened by squinted-shut eyes, I was expecting to see a horrible mess laying on the road. Much to my surprise, the deer was still alive. Not only that, but although he was a little shook-up, he didn't appear to be all that injured.

We both sat there on that cold snowy road that night gathering our wits for a couple of seconds. The deer shaking his head trying to figure out what had just happened and me trying to pry my fingers out of the molded plastic of my steering wheel.

And then, just like that, he was gone. Bounding off into the crisp, calm darkness like nothing had happened. When I got out of the Jeep to inspect the damage, I profess that I could hear him giggling as he vaulted over the hill and into the distance. He was going to have a good story to share with his deer buddies.

So there I was, all by myself, on a cold, dark Illinois backroad, on a bitterly cold January night looking at the bent metal and torn fiberglass of my once proud Jeep, or as I sometimes like to refer to as my mid-life crisis on wheels. I could see my breath as I knelt down to touch the carnage that used to be my foglight as it hung lifelessly, swinging on my bumper.

Suddenly a feeling of peace and calm swept over me on that still, quiet night. As I stood there shivering, I realized that I still had my health. The deer apparently still had his health. And I am extremely grateful for both of those things. The only thing really damaged out of the incident was the Jeep, and vehicles can be repaired and/or replaced. All in all, I couldn't complain.

I'd like to report that a smile crossed my face as I stood there in the silent stillness, but I did what I imagine most guys would do at a moment like that. I started swearing. Swearing like there was no tomorrow. Swearing loudly and rapidly. I was in the zone. I was making up stuff as I went. I used words they wouldn't let me utter in my sophomore speech class. I let out a profanity-laced tirade of naughty words at anything and everything. Cuss words rained out of my mouth at the foglight, the bent metal, the torn fiberglass, that crazy deer and even the stupid owners of the Chicago Bears. I ranted like a man possessed. It just seemed like the thing to do.

Once I got it out of my system, I felt better. I hopped back in the Jeep with the now vertical left turn signal and slowly drove home, shredded fiberglass rubbing against the tire with every right turn I made. It was kind of sad.

In the hours and days that followed, I got the opportunity communicate with law enforcement officials, insurance people and my auto-body repair guy. I'm happy to say that after a $100 deductible is paid, the once proud Jeep will be brought back to it's original glory. The mid-life crisis can proceed as planned.

There is one thing that I have learned from this situation. I never realized until now, how important my sophomore year of high school was.

You can contact Wallace at gwallace@bcrnews.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.

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