Joseph Dill

There’s an old story — it supposedly is true — about a farmer who calls his county highway department.

“Yes, this is Bill Jones, and I live out on Townline Road.”

“Yes, sir”

“Well there is a sign out in front of my farm that says, ‘Deer Crossing.’ “

“Yes, sir, that’s correct.”

“Well, can you come and move it. The deer keep crossing there and the cars keep hitting them.”

I was reminded of that joke/story/urban legend as I was unloading another pile of wrinkled clothes from the back seat of my car last Sunday. I had made a last-minute decision to make the six-hour drive back to Ohio that Friday night after work. Carolina, who is six months pregnant with twins, was missing her husband/belly massager/sparring partner. She will be moving here — finally — next week. But she was feeling lonely so I made the trip, arriving in the early morning hours Saturday.

We had a nice weekend, visiting with friends from my old newspaper who could stop over on short notice. I managed to get my laundry done, for the first time in a couple of months, in our nice washer and dryer. I have been running around Kentucky all rumpled and crumpled from trying to deal with coin-operated laundries.

I headed back to Kentucky Sunday morning after carefully positioning my hanging clothes in the back seat so there would be absolutely no migration or matriculation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t counting on my next encounter with a mammal, about 25 miles north of Columbus on Interstate 71.

I was cruising along, making good time (about 5 mph over the speed limit). It was a cloudy, slightly foggy morning and the sun was up but not really a factor, yet. I passed a deer crossing sign and, as usual, confidently proceeded on. After all, I am from Wisconsin. I have had dozens of encounters will Bambi and her ilk — and have survived them all unscathed. The farmer in the aforementioned story very well could have been from just outside Sheboygan.

A few miles later — I think Bruce Springsteen was singing about the “Gypsy Biker” — I was zoning out and driving in the middle of three lanes. Suddenly, right there only a few dozen feet in front of me, was the biggest, clumsiest, stupidest buck I have ever seen. He darted in front of me and, of course, stopped. I slammed on the brakes and initially tried to steer around him on the left. He splayed out on the highway, and I had just begun to think I had escaped once again. Then, the stupid thing leapt back on its feet and sprinted forward again, right into the new path I was on.

With the brakes still locked, I swung the steering wheel back the other way and closed my eyes, bracing for the impact that now seemed inevitable. I think I nicked his tail on the way past, but we somehow managed to avoid each other. I take most of the credit for that, of course.

My grandfather once told me that the biggest fish in the lake were the most difficult to catch, because they were old and wise. That’s what made them such valuable trophies — because outsmarting them was the ultimate accomplishment for an angler.

This has given me solace over the years when I have been around water. As old as I am now, I figured that even if I fell in, I probably would be older — and, by my grandfather’s theory, smarter — than any old fish in the lake.

Apparently, the opposite is true with deer. This buck was huge — I didn’t get a chance to count the points, but it had a huge, thick rack that was at least in double figures. He also, clearly, was dumb as a stump.

Suddenly, I started to think I might have to rethink my grandfather’s whole theory, and, in doing so, I might become more and more frightened of the water. Now, I’m worried that if I ever fall in a lake and drown, some carp will mount me on a piece of oak and proudly display me over his fireplace.

“Look at this big, dumb human I snagged the other day over by the dam,” he might tell his grandson.

Having gotten past this stupid stag, I gradually accelerated back up to speed and noticed with a quick glance in my rear-view mirror that the cars a quarter mile or so back had slowed down and probably saw what I had gone through. I couldn’t help but think they had been impressed with my Vin Diesel-style driving. Or, maybe they didn’t see the deer at all and they were keeping their distance from the nut-job driving sideways down the interstate.

By the time I reached London some five hours later, the encounter with the deer had pretty much faded from my consciousness — until I went to get my pristine wardrobe from the back seat. Apparently, going from 75 to 35 in 25 yards while swerving back and forth is detrimental to keeping clothes situated in a vehicle. Who knew?

The clothes were strewn around the back of my Grand Prix — pretty much like that deer had been sprawled a little earlier on the slippery concrete.

So if you see me walking around in wrinkled clothes for the next few weeks, understand that I’m glad my Dockers, not my Pontiac, got crinkled.

But I did place a call Monday to the Ohio Department of Transportation. I’ll bet they chuckled when I asked them if they could move that darn sign.

Contact Joseph Dill at

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