Every year, the weekend before Thanksgiving, our neighbors go hunting and kill a deer. They hang the deer with a noose in a tree in the yard. For the several days until Thanksgiving, the deer dangles there, dripping blood.
In early years I talked with our neighbor about the killing and the obscene display, thinking it might change their custom. It did not. Some years I obsessed—staring at the corpse, taking pictures of it. Others I hung sheets over all the windows of the house.
This holiday season my girlfriend and I killed a deer. It was what the insurance company called "an act of god." It was a car accident on an eight lane highway during heavy traffic. The deer leapt over the car to our right, landing right in front of us. The impact was impossible to avoid.
I've worried about hitting animals for as long as I've been driving. In Arizona it was rabbits, sidewinders, roadrunners. In the northeast it's been possum, skunks, and mostly deer. On the Taconic Parkway especially, I drive so slowly that drivers of other cars cuss me out.
But after decades of worrying, we've hit a deer. She didn't die right away so I was glad when other cars hit her, putting her out of her agony. The next thirty minutes were spent waiting for the police, cringing in the smashed car expecting to be hit by one of the cars swerving to avoid her body, and watching her body be torn apart by those that didn't swerve enough.
I know there was nothing that could have been done to avoid hitting her, and nothing we could have done to save her. Still, I felt awful.
Both the sheriff and the insurance adjustor said accidents involving deer were up dramatically due to hunting season. It felt better to blame hunters.