LIKE MILLIONS of Americans, I have always thought of myself as a "deer person," someone who found "Bambi" to be a major influence during childhood and who has empathized with deer ever since.
Which is not to say I don't have my problems with the deer community.
At the risk of generalizing, it seems there is a serious leadership crisis among young male and female deer right now.
I say this because each year, hundreds (maybe even thousands) of deer are lost in traffic accidents that are largely preventable, if only the lines of communication among the deer population were improved.
The scenario has become all too familiar: Dusk. The family sedan is cruising along the highway. Mom is talking about the new hot water heater that just cost $300. Dad is white-knuckling the steering wheel and paying only minimal attention to the road. The kids are brawling over the Etch-a-Sketch in the back seat.
Suddenly -- BOOM! -- the car hits a deer. Next thing you know, this deer comes crashing through the windshield and ends up kicking and thrashing next to Grandma, who starts screaming and calling for her blood pressure pills.
As I said, this kind of thing happens all the time in the deer community.
Faced with such staggering losses, a more close-knit group might think about organizing candlelight vigils, prayer meetings, auto awareness seminars, etc.
And yet the deer community itself remains strangely silent on this whole issue of self-preservation. Again, I attribute much of this to a lack of leadership, a shirking of responsibility by those in positions of leadership.
Earlier in this essay, the classic Disney tale "Bambi" was mentioned. A careful re-reading confirms it was Bambi's mother and father, as well as friendly forest creatures such as Thumper, who taught him how to survive hunters, blizzards, forest fires and so on.
Tell me, where is that kind of support system for the young deer of today? Who's telling them about the dangers of a 3,000-pound motor vehicle with five gears and radial tires that can track you like a SAM missile while you're innocently looking for clover?
Listen, if I were a leader in the deer community, here is how I'd tackle the problem: E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N. The first thing I'd do is find a nice, quiet space in the forest and sit everyone down for a chat.
This chat, by the way, would be strictly informal. No flow charts, no bar graphs, no computerized printouts filled with grim accident statistics. We're not out to scare anyone. Refreshments (spring water, holly berries) would be available.
Once everyone settled down, I'd get right down to business (albeit in a folksy, I'm-OK-you're-OK tone of voice):
"First, I want to thank you all for coming. I know you're all busy, so we're gonna make this short and sweet. The message is simple, people: STAY AWAY FROM CARS. I don't know how lTC many times we've gone over this, but apparently it's not getting through to some of you.
"What else? OK, DON'T amble across quiet country roads at twilight. DON'T hang out near the interstate. And no matter how tempting the grass shoots look in the median strip, don't ever, EVER, sprint across three lanes to get to them.
"It's just not worth the aggravation of suddenly finding yourself crashing through someone's windshield and hearing some old lady with blue hair screaming: 'SWEET JUMPING JEREMIAH! IT'S A DEER!'
"Another thing: If you do go near cars, for God's sake, DON'T STARE AT THE HEADLIGHTS. Let's face it, there's something about headlights that makes us wacky. Puts us in la-la land. Next thing you know, we're getting creamed by a Buick driven by some jittery 17-year-old who's racing along at 75 mph because he's supposed to have the car home by 10 p.m.
"Well, that's about it. Stay alert out there. Now if there are any questions . . ."
Depending upon how receptive my audience was, I might schedule a seminar on hunters for the following week.
This might be a little more structured; maybe we'd hand out some dittos or bring in a chalkboard to diagram a few deer blinds or whatever. Again, the message would be simple: STAY AWAY FROM THE GUYS WITH THE BRIGHT ORANGE VESTS AND THE SHOTGUNS.
You'd think after all these years, the deer would know that. Then again, you'd think they'd know about cars, too.