Got “my” deer.

Well, sort of. More like he got me.

When you’re going 70 miles an hour, in the dark, in the willy-wacks up north, and a deer just drops out of the sky 2 feet in front of you, you are going to hit it.

A couple weeks ago, my brother and I took a trip up home to Tucker Ridge. It’s an annual pilgrimage to our childhood farm. We enjoy visiting with the folk, Doug and Cindy, that own the land now. Our farmhouse, barn and all outbuildings that our great grandfather, Samuel Tucker built, are long gone but it’s heartwarming to see how wonderful the land itself still looks.

Our great grandfather had carved the farm out of the virgin forest in 1848. It had to’ve been back-breaking work. The following generations also worked hard to keep the forest from reclaiming the fields and pastures. I doesn’t take long for nature to reclaim its own, as it has done in many of the old farms up there. But the farm we grew up on with Grampa Roy and Grammie Mable still has a goodly amount of the original 50 acres of open land, thanks to the constant hard work of Doug and Cindy.

After our visit with them, we headed on back through Springfield, stopping to see cousins there. We planned a short visit as I always want to get the drive back home on I-95 done in daylight — especially the stretch below Lincoln known as “Moose Alley”.

However, the cousins had a packet of old family photos from our childhood days that another cousin had left there for us and we were having a jolly good time reminiscing about the people in the photos, all gone now. One of the photos was a great shot of Grampa Roy that I had never seen. It was taken, I judge, in the later 1920’s. He was sitting on the steps of the house, early L.L. Bean boots on his feet (he was a Maine guide) with his huge hands holding a scruffy looking black mutt. (He was famous for his string of mutts that were, nevertheless, great dogs. I remember when he took us to get our “Joe Dog.” We went to a farm in Springfield and we kids picked out the puppy we wanted. He had some hound in him but who knows what else. On the way home, with the puppy in my lap, I asked Grampa: “What kind of dog is he, Grampa?”

“That,” said Grampa “is a genuine mongrel.”

Wasn’t I some proud. I had me a genuine mongrel. Wonderful dog he was, too.

Anyway, by the time we left visiting with the cousins, dark was falling and I hit that infamous stretch of I-95 below Lincoln in the blackness that closes in from the long stretch of road pushing it’s way through the thick Maine forest, far away from the lights of civilization.

I was cruising along at only seventy – with the speed limit at 75, everyone else is going 80-85, so 70 is the slowest you dare go to keep from getting run over. And in the back of your mind are all those logging trucks that travel that stretch.

However, I was relaxed and chatting with my brother about the day when suddenly my view was totally covered by, as my brother remarked afterwards, “the biggest deer I ever saw.” He seemed to’ve dropped out of the sky just 2 feet in front of me. His whole body mass was above the hood of my Subaru Outback wagon. There was no question that I was going to hit him.

It’s one of those instances where your mind goes into slow motion and super fast decision at the same time. There was no avoiding hitting him. Fact. To take evasive action to the left might mean I’d steer into the path of another vehicle — and the millisecond image of a logging truck flits across your mind. You remember there’s a 5 or 6 foot gully on the right side of the road which would likely result in a rollover. And you’d still hit the deer. Taking evasive action in the scenario in front of me is what often causes more injury or death.

And then there was the sound of crunching metal and it was over with. I pulled to a stop in the parking lane, wondering where the deer had gone. He had to be dead, but I didn’t run over him and he didn’t come through the windshield, miracle of miracles.

The front end and right front fender were totally destroyed. We walked back on the road but couldn’t find the deer. Getting back in the car to call the troopers and a wrecker, we marveled that, even with such an impact, we really hadn’t felt much inside the car. Neither of us was hurt. Indeed, even the airbags hadn’t gone off. My Subaru had lived up to its reputation for collision safety. My brother noticed that the windshield wipers had been flipped straight up, which indicated the deer actually had flown straight over the car. It then had probably managed, as they somehow do, to get off into the woods where it had to have died.

Then came the fun ride home in the tow truck. My brother has 100 mile towing on his insurance, so he had the towing put on his card. I think we rode about 99 and a half miles in a poor old ’94 tow truck that struggled, transmission groaning up every incline, to get us back home.

Then bsgan the hunt for another car. I had only had my Subaru Outback a couple years and, even though it was second hand, it was in great condition and I had planned on having it “forever”. It was the first Subaru I had ever had but it had made me a fervent convert.

The first week I had it, I had been invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner about 20 miles from home. Luck would have it, a blizzard descended upon us. It was after dark to boot. I headed out with great trepidation. The car was new to me. There were cars and trucks skidded into ditches along the roads. I was thinking ‘turn around and go home, you fool” when I began to realize that the car was handling like the roads were as dry as a July day, thanks to it’s AWD (All Wheel Drive) system.

So now, looking for another car, I really wanted another Subaru. I went looking at the place I had gotten the Outback from. (They specialize in used Subaru’s and have a top notch reputation for making sure the cars are in top condition when you drive it off the lot.) I was limited in how much I could spend and even tho’ my insurance company gave me top dollar for my 2000 Outback, I was definitely looking for another older car.

They had a ’99 Subaru Forester that had a lot of the bells and whistles that my Outback Limited had had: leather seats, heated seats, defrosting side mirrors and defrost for both driver and passenger side windows, etc. The only perk it didn’t have was the moon and sun roof.

But it was just a bit more than I had to spend.

Then one of my son’s, a Master Mechanic and a long-hauler, got home for a few days. Off we went a shopping. We found that the impact of the infamous ‘cash for clunkers’ was in full swing. Those hundreds of thousands of cars that were ordered destroyed — the bulk of them far from being ‘clunkers’ — that would have been the good used cars for sale now, aren’t available. It’ll be a few more years before the used car market will build up again. We also found, at the different dealers, that either there were none in my price range that you’d dare to buy, that some dealers were less than honest, or all were out of my price range.

By this time, we were tired of traipsing around looking. So I took my son to ‘my’ Subaru dealer — which is conveniently on the back road between me here in Morrill and Belfast — to see the Forester I had first looked at. Unlike me, who concentrated on the leather seats, etc., he looked it over and said: “New tires, new brakes, new calipers, (whatever they are,) new battery…” The body is in excellent condition, the interior also. And it had, honest, been a one-owner, little old lady car. It also had over 40,000 miles less than my other one. That would afford me an extra 4-5 years of driving these days. It’s also better on gas than the heavier Outback.

So I’m a happy Subaru owner again. Maine is the unofficial Subaru State, You see them everywhere. That AWD makes them perfect for winter driving.

But I won’t be driving it on that stretch of I-95 after dark. And I thank God that it was a deer I hit and not a moose. A moose would have taken the top of the car off, along with our heads. That thought kept me from lamenting the loss of the Outback overly much.

As they say: “It could have been worse.”

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.