Deer in Headlights

You know the expression: “She just looked like a deer in headlights when the food started burning.” Now, I know where the expression came from – Route 70 in South Jersey. Every Tuesday since September last year, I’ve been making a weekly run out to Ocean County for a meeting with a client. It’s a straight shot from Cherry Hill out Route 70 – 50 minutes to one meeting site; about 47 miles to the other site, depending on where they call the meeting that week. After Medford, Route 70 becomes the main road through the New Jersey Pinelands. There are homes and some businesses, but it’s mostly rural South Jersey along the road. In the nearly two dozen Tuesdays I’ve made the drive to and from Ocean County, I have ALWAYS seen a dead deer on the side of the road; sometimes two dead deer. Today, it seemed like a dead animal zoo – first a skunk, then the deer and I believe a raccoon- all within about a half mile. I try not to look. I remember playing Bambi’s mom in the second grade and singing my first solo wearing my paper bag ears and tail my mom made for me. When the deer runs out into the road, likely in the dead of night, at dusk or pre-dawn, the deer freezes in the roadway; the deer doesn’t know which way to go to get out-of-the-way. In that split second- it’s over.

I can’t help but feel sad when I see that carcass wondering how long it’s been there; did the animal suffer if it wasn’t killed instantly. Today, there was blood. Bambi’s mom – worrying about the young. Then I bounce back remembering just a few weeks ago as we drove up Roosevelt Boulevard out of Northeast Philadelphia and into Bucks County, when I saw a herd of deer prancing about 25-40 yards off the roadway into the woods near the Pennypack Nature Center. It was the Saturday of the snowstorm weekend, so the deer were really looking majestic in the snowfall. It was amazing that so close to a multi-lane highway and not far from buildings and homes, these six or seven deer, knew their boundaries. I’m sure there’s the occasional Bambi or Bambi’s mom or dad prancing out into traffic and losing the race across the boulevard, but I will always remember those deer prancing through the snowfall and NOT being deer in headlights.

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