Oh dear, oh deer – oh dear

Joy Ufford photo

I imagine, like me, most people who have hit a deer or antelope, elk or moose, tell themselves it will never happen again. Although my past collisions never completely devastated my cars, I swore I never again wanted to hit another animal just trying to cross the road.

Rule No. 1 – Always watch for wildlife. See an animal before you come close to hitting it. Absolutely try to avoid this.

Rule No. 2 – If you see the inevitable unfold before your eyes, steer into the direction the deer/ elk/ antelope/ moose came from.

Following my first rule, I was driving from Bondurant to Pinedale at the exactly perfect time to hit something, sternly looking here, there and everywhere. I saw the doe step out onto the pavement. I slammed on my brakes.

I did not follow my second rule. Still braking and sliding, I steered toward the right side of the road and by doing so, continued tracking my faithful Escape along with the unfortunate deer, creating an explosion of plastic, metal, glass and fur.

I saw the deer and tried like hell to avoid hitting her. But – there was a split microsecond where I hesitated and thought, “No. Oh, no.”

That was exactly right. Oh, no.

Inevitable calls to report the accident and get a towtruck to haul it away for “an estimate” that clearly put my car into the totaled category. It kept running even as acrid steam hissed and sprayed from my broken radiator. The hood reluctantly folded in on itself. Headlights still shining from the end of their tethered electrical wires.

I’d never before totally wrecked a car without someone else’s help.

I really, really, really liked my old very blue Ford Escape. With more than 217,000 miles on it and never much major going wrong, it was a lifesaver and fun ride for more than eight years. It took me almost everywhere I wanted to go and drove me back out, except for occasional deep ditches and snowbanks.

I have a hunch that my longtime Escape buddy was pretty familiar after so many years and so many miles around Sublette County. Others might have upgraded to new cars and trucks that I no longer recognized but not me – happy with everything except an occasional complaint about its chipped blue paint job.

Writing an ode to my poor wrecked Ford Escape does not reveal any deep, practical or useful message. This is strictly sentimental. I was just a couple days away from loading it with my car-camping gear and driving it down to New Mexico for a two-week break, with a long stay at my mother’s and visits to several friends.

Watching a few YouTube videos (“How to turn your Ford Escape SUV into a camper”) I’d figured out how to shuffle the back seats for ultimate sleeping space and got excited about camping out on the BLM (and Wal-Mart parking lots). I also fortuitously purchased AAA Prime in case I needed a 100-mile tow in the southwestern boonies. Well, I’ve used that benefit once already without leaving the county!

One thing I want to say is thank you to the many kind people who stopped and checked on me as I sat in my poor Escape, hazards flashing, as the sun went down. The kids who turned around and came back, offering me water, food, a ride. The woman who turned around and offered me her phone or anything I needed. The girl with the big-ass truck who offered me a warm spot to sit and wait… thank you to everyone who checked on me.

It’s a perfect reminder to treat other people the way we’d like to be treated. “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

It seemed more comfortable for me to just sadly sit in my cooling Escape and think.

My plan is back on track, albeit a totally different one than before. I’ll still be in (too) warm New Mexico and enjoying the chores my mother lined up for me and my sister, and we’ll be there for Mothers Day.

And if by any chance you noticed a 1976 Dodge Fireball tottering around the county and side streets – it’s my backup plan, even if it’s 20 feet long and 45 years old. I salvaged my Escape’s battery and it will be put to work – a little lifeblood keeping us on the move.