My husband and I grew up in the same small Northeast Nebraska town. We lived there for almost forty years before we decided to move to western Tennessee. The first two years in Tennessee, we decided to drive the 13 hours back to Nebraska to see our families. The first year, we were so excited to make the trip back that we left Tennessee at 10pm when Tim got home from work. The plan was that I would drive while Tim and the kids slept, and when I got tired, Tim would drive. That year we got to my #5 sister’s house in time to take a short nap and meet everyone at my #3 sister’s house (I have five of them – sister’s with houses) for Thanksgiving dinner. That trip went without a hitch. We arrived, we napped, we gave thanks, we ate, we shopped and we returned home. Pretty simple.
The plan worked well enough the first year that we tried it again the second year. Bad decision. We should have known better.
After Tim got home from work late Wednesday night, we packed the van, piled pajama-clad kids into the van and set off for Nebraska. I offered to drive, but Tim said he’d drive the first stretch. I climbed into the passenger seat with my book and tiny travel reading light and off we went.
About two hours into the drive, as Tim passed a semi-truck at about 75 mph, I looked up from my book just in time to see a buck jetting out of the left ditch, smash into our van, and mysteriously disappear. Tim pulls over to the shoulder of the road. The driver’s door doesn’t open, so I have to get out into the cold wind while Tim crawls through the van to get out the passenger side. Sir Buck smashed into the driver’s door, crushed the hood, and ripped out the entire headlight assembly with such force the driver’s door was shoved back into the side sliding door making it non-operational. After inspecting the van, he crawls back over the passenger’s seat to the driver’s side and we drive to the gas station at the next exit. I again exited the van and watched Tim crawl over the arm rests to exit the van from the passenger side. He checked for leaks and cut away part of the fender that rubbed against the driver’s side tire with his pocket knife (Davy Crockett would be proud). Judging everything fit for travel, we do the front seat shuffle and take off down the road.
“Shouldn’t we call the State Patrol?” I asked.
“Why? What can they do,” was his response.
“Um… isn’t it standard procedure to call the authorities when you have an accident? Won’t the insurance want documentation?”
“I’ve never called the police when I’ve hit a deer,” was the stoic answer.
Thinking that it might be true for back woods country folk from the hills but not so much for responsible civilized folk that live in the rest of the state, I offered logical reasoning. “It’s a safety hazard to leave that animal strewn across the interstate. Shouldn’t we contact the State Patrol to alert them to a driving hazard?”
“No.” After a few minutes, “Call the insurance company. The number is on the back of the card in the glove box.”
While I am waiting for someone to answer, Tim motions to me and says in a kind-of whisper, “If they ask, tell them we couldn’t get a hold of anyone.”
My head and upper body snap to a position to get a better look at his face, and my eyebrows furrow deeply in a mixture of shock, bewilderment, and amazement at the asinine remark to pass though my husband’s lips. “What?” Is what I started with, and “Who in their right mind is going to believe that we were unable to get a hold of anyone at the State Patrol?! They are emergency responders. It’s their job!” is how I concluded right before the answering service for the insurance company picked up, and I had to say, “We just hit a deer,” followed by, “No, we did not contact the State Patrol,” flashing an eye roll in the dark at Tim.
Thursday when we got to the dinner, Tim told everyone the story of how Sir Buck leapt out of the ditch to smash in our family van (with the State Patrol conversation conveniently left out). One of the brothers-in-law asked, “So did you call the State Patrol?” Then on Saturday night when Tim told his family how Sir Buck leapt out of the ditch to smash in our family van, his older sister asked, “So what did the police do?” While at church on Sunday, we again told the story of Sir Buck multiple different times and the question “Did you call the State Patrol” was asked multiple times. We left Nebraska for Tennessee bright and early Monday morning. The insurance adjuster called, and I detected a shudder, or maybe even a wince, from Tim. He knew exactly what the question was when I stated into the phone, “No, we did not.”
I wonder if Tim got the point?
When I took the van into the shop to get an estimate, the mechanic, surprised that the State Patrol allowed us to drive our van in that condition, replied to my explanation, “Well, I hope the insurance company pays.” The van was totalled and the insurance company did pay. All the same, I felt sufficiently affirmed.