In Defense of the Deer Lady


Count me among those who consider fall to be their favorite season.

I love most everything about it: the cooler temperatures that make a steaming cup of coffee more comforting, the trees that shed their summer green to show off their true colors and the kids who will soon be trick or treating in hopes of mooching Halloween candy.

To me, fall is the reward for being made to suffer through steamy West Virginia summers. And, it serves as my annual reminder of why I choose to remain here. However, I could do without one thing: deer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating they be eradicated from our landscape. That would run counter to West Virginia’s hunting tradition.

The fact is, if I didn’t fear shooting off a toe or two, I’d gladly join the hunt when deer season starts next month, especially if it keeps just one buck from playing chicken with my car.

Deer and cars don’t play well together. And, I’ve had a few reminders of that, lately.

For one thing, dead deer litter the interstate along the route I take to my job in Washington, D.C. I haven’t hit one this year, but I have been forced to run-over a carcass or two when they can’t be avoided.

Deer collisions have also been a topic of discussion among Journal Junction callers this week. And just a few days ago, State Farm Insurance came out with its annual list of states where drivers are most likely to meet a deer up close and personal.

Where did West Virginia rank?

Right at the top for the sixth year in a row.

And then there’s Donna the Deer Lady. Her conversation with a couple of radio announcers in Fargo, North Dakota has gone viral on the Internet because of what she said about deer crossing signs. She apparently thought they were a signal – to deer – that they could cross the road instead of a warning to drivers to be vigilant. As (logic defying) proof, she said she’s had a few accidents involving deer near such signs. Her solution was to have them moved to less congested areas, where it would be safer for deer to cross.

To be fair, in a follow-up interview Donna says she knows better now and is letting her notoriety roll off her shoulders.

When I first heard the initial interview, I couldn’t decide if she was serious. Now that she appears to be owning up to it, I’m inclined to believe it to be a simple case of just not getting it – that her intuitive thinking skills somehow failed.

It happens to all of us. Who hasn’t thought they knew the lyrics to a favorite song only to be embarrassed when caught singing the wrong words?

Okay, maybe it’s not like that at all – the magnitude of it, anyway. Such moments aren’t generally recorded and spread all over the internet.

In any case, I would hazard to guess that if you’ve never had a deer leap into your windshield, you at least know someone who has. And if you don’t, know that you’re reading a column written by someone who’s made it through such a collision in one piece. It’s part of the shared experience of being a West Virginian.

That’s why I’m willing to try just about anything to get deer to stay out of traffic – even to the point of putting up signs and fooling myself into thinking they can understand them.

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