For Yves. Many thanks to Lucy.
One summer evening as I was on my way to my haunted house in the country. I was negotiating a long curve on the highway around a steep hill in my 1983 Renault Alliance. To my left, the sun was setting. As I was pulling down the sun visor I saw a shadow in the corner of my right eye.
BANG! I hit the jumping deer at 60 miles per hour. The windshield exploded and instantly the inside of the car was filled with flying hair and the musky smell of the wild animal. I slowed down to a stop on the shoulder of the highway.
I got out of the car as other motorists whizzed by and the unfortunate doe was quivering on the median strip of the highway, gasping out her last breath. Massaging the back of my neck, I slowly walked around to see the damage.
The windshield had completely shattered and tufts of hair were caught in the cracks of the glass. The right fender was torn and one of the headlights was dangling. There were deep dents in the hood and on the top of the car as well as nasty scratches on the trunk hatch.
“This is what happens when Mother Nature takes on Motor Trends’ Car of the Year,” I thought.
The Renault Alliance was actually a Renault 9 re-packaged for North American markets following a partnership agreement between Renault and American Motors. Sold from 1983-1987, the hastily-designated "Car of the year" proved to be a nightmare for many owners because of chronic head gasket, clutch, transmission, suspension and exhaust problems. Very few are still on the road nowadays.
One car stopped and the driver asked if I needed assistance. I said I was fine, but I asked him to call the police so I could make a report for the insurance company.
I waited for over an hour before the police cruiser arrived. The sun had set, the sky was clouding over and it was obvious that it would rain soon. I answered the officer’s questions while he filled in his report. Then we walked to the median to look at the beast that had wrecked my car.
The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was lying on its side, flies buzzing around its open eyes and foamy mouth. I thought it would be a shame to let 100 lbs. of good venison go to waste so I asked the young police officer to give me a hand carrying the carcass to my car.
The white-tailed deer is found in abundant quantities in America from Canada to Peru. It is a least-concern species in terms of conservation status since its principal predator is probably the automobile.
– Erm, I’m not sure about that sir. Hunting season is not yet open and you should report this killing to the Wildlife Service.
– But I was not hunting, it was an accident...
– Yeah, well, in any case, I think the Wildlife Service has to offer roadkill to public institutions first, you know, prisons, hospitals, orphanages...
Not wanting to be responsible for Oliver Twist starving to death and knowing better than to argue with the Law, I did not insist and asked the officer for a ride to a garage where I could get a tow truck.
– No need for a tow truck if you can start the engine, he said.
– But there’s no windshield on the car and only one headlight...
– You’ll be all right, good evening sir.
He left me on the side of the road while the rain started falling. I got into the car, turned on the ignition and drove 15 miles under the rain with no windscreen. I smelled like a wet dog when I arrived home.
The next day, after calling the insurance company to report the accident, I asked a friend to pick me up so I could rent a car to keep me mobile while waiting for the insurers’ damage assessment. My friend was glad I was unharmed and invited me to come for dinner later that night.
I arrived at his home around 6:00 PM with a bottle of wine but something was not right. His 5 year old daughter Mary-Ann who considered me as her uncle did not greet me as usual; in fact she avoided me, sulking.
As my friend’s wife was opening the bottle of wine and I was telling her that it might take weeks before I knew exactly what the actual damage to the car was, Mary-Ann came to me in tears, holding her teddy bear and asked:
– Is it true that you killed Bambi?
I was shocked as I looked at my friend who was suppressing a laugh. What a terrible thing to say to his own daughter! I then explained to Mary-Ann that it was not actually Bambi I killed but a distant, very old and very sick cousin and that I did not do it on purpose, that it was an accident and that I made sure the deer received a proper and dignified burial. Giving my friend a dirty look I then assured the little girl that I was really, really sorry and that I would have much preferred that the whole thing had not happened and would she please forgive me?
I guess she sensed my alleged contrition because she gave me a hug and we were able to move on to the dinner table.
A week later the insurance company informed me the car was a total loss and that they would cover for the rental car until I found a replacement.
I bought a used 1986 Pontiac Acadian, a sub-compact built like a tank.
The Pontiac Acadian is the Canadian equivalent of the Chevrolet Chevette. A sturdy car with lots of steel and very little plastic, it was built until 1986. It was characterized by a very roomy engine compartment. In fact the person I sold it to replaced the original 1.6 litre 4-cylinder engine with a more powerful V6 engine without further modifications.
A few days after I got that car, I was coming back from driving a friend to the other side of town at around 10:00 PM. There was a group of young people playfully wrestling at a bus stop on my right and a car waiting for me to pass at a cross street ahead.
BANG! I hit a german shepherd that came running out of a dark alley to my left. I had never had a car accident in my life and now in the space of two weeks I had hit two animals in a row! I parked my car by the curb and went to inspect the damage. The left headlight was broken and that was all. Then I walked over to the dead dog.
The youths had hopped onto a bus that was now driving by and there was nobody around. No cops, no Wildlife Officers and Oliver Twist was nowhere in sight.
For a moment I toyed with the idea of taking the carcass home, having it for supper and asking a taxidermist to stuff the head for mounting on the wall.
The Adventures of Oliver Twist, published in 1838, was Charles Dickens' second novel. It related the story of a young orphan in the shady 19th century London.