When I first moved to northern Wisconsin, people would ask me, “Do you hunt?” “Do you ice fish?” “Do you garden?” And I would say, “No.” I am the vegetarian daughter of a naval officer who never learned to plant so much as a bean, so it made me wonder, did I really belong here?
Then one snowy night in February, I hit a deer doing fifty on a back county road. The animal rolled up my windshield with hooves clattering, it put out a headlight, and my daughter gasped from the backseat. We were okay. The car was drivable so I got her to basketball practice. One of her teammates saw our front bumper.
“All that fur is good,” she exclaimed. “You want to leave that on there so you can take pictures for your insurance.”
I knew hitting deer was common in our area, but I’d never hit anything larger than a moth. My hands were still shaking when the school’s janitor asked me how I was doing.
“I hit my first deer,” I told him. “I left it in the middle of the road.” I described the scene. He was particularly interested in the deer, and that’s when I remembered that the janitor was a hunter.
“How big was it?” he asked, a flash in his eye.
“Oh, he was a giant buck,” I said, seeing it all again before me. “I think there were antlers. His neck was this wide.” His eyes got brighter.
I also described where it was and said that he could have the meat. I was proud of myself for having figured out that in this part of the country, it was acceptable to eat your own roadkill.
The janitor made arrangements and went off to find our deer. Ten minutes later, he came back laughing.
“What?” I asked. “Didn’t you find the deer?”
“Yeah, I found him all right. Right where you said.”
“And? Was it a giant buck?”
“No,” he laughed. “Just a little thing. A yearling.” He showed me with his hands.
“No,” I protested. “Are you sure?” I made another motion with my hands, “He was this big!” My arms out wide, we were like a couple of fisherman, arguing about our catch. The janitor laughed again, and this time, I joined him.
About two weeks later at a school function, he handed over a neatly wrapped package of frozen venison steaks. My daughter ran over to thank him. We all joked about how she wasn’t afraid to eat the deer her mother had run over with the minivan, and I thought to myself, welcome to the roadkill club.