I had one of those experiences that illustrates how like and unlike life in the south is compared to life in the north. I was driving down a country road at night and two deer passed in front. I slowed down to let the first pass and then waited for the second. There is always a second deer. Well apparently there is sometimes a third deer as well because as I started up again, the third one leaped out in front of me. I was going slowly enough that I was able to break and did not quite hit it. Instead I clipped it on my front grill and sent the poor thing spinning wildly into the ditch.
I immediately pulled over. I also automatically grabbed the can of bear spray I keep in the door and hung it on the belt loop of my jeans. There are bears here, smaller than up north but still big enough. I ran around the front of the truck surveying it for damage. No apparent damage on that cursory view. I ran back down the highway. The deer was alive but obviously mortally wounded. It struggled to rise on broken front legs, bleating in pain and alarm. As I stared, a battered, muddy pick up truck stopped and a young man got out. He was the quintessential southern redneck, dressed in jeans, flannel and camouflage, his outfit completed with a belt loaded with tools. He was in sore need of a shave, haircut and a trip to a laundromat. He was also southern polite.
“Are you all right, Ma’am?’ His eyes were very blue and looked like he honestly cared. I decided he was likely not a serial killer but I made sure there was distance between the two of us nonetheless and ever so casually rested my hand on the pepper spray. In spite of the warm eyes, there was something oddly predatory in his stance.
“I’m fine,” I said. “Thank you for stopping. I just clipped the deer, poor thing. I suppose I need to call someone to get it put it out of it’s misery.” I was suddenly acutely aware of my accent which in this place is exotic.
His eyes slid sideways to the injured animal. The blue went from caring to covetous.
“Do you want that deer, Ma’am?”
I suddenly recognized the look. In my past I lived on a farm and venison was prized meat and an important supplement to both our diet and our limited budget. This was a yearling and that was the very best meat available. There is also an abiding and utterly practical respect for life. It is a sin to waste good meat.
“No,” I quickly said. “I am visiting from Canada and I don’t have any equipment to dress a deer or process it. Feel free to take it.”
I was forgotten, and he was now all business, the primal male hunter, yanking out a large field dressing knife. I watched just long enough to see him expertly slit the throat of the animal and the bleating ended. I left him to it, just in case he was a serial killer and I was next on the menu. I retreated to my truck and continued to my destination.
I don’t know if it is legal to keep a road killed (or in this case a road mortally injured) deer and eat it. I certainly prefer that the accidental death of that poor animal will at least go to feed someone. I have had the same experience up north as well. A freshly killed deer on a roadside at night and a primal male hunter who can dress such an animal on the spot and turn it into food. The only real difference was the gentle southern drawl when he said “Ma’am” and that fact that we were both in T shirts on a January night. I swatted at mosquitoes that had followed me into the truck as I continued my drive. I have never encountered a mosquito in January in Manitoba either. The rest was the same, north or south.