December 23, 2011 § 5 Comments
On Monday I spotted a road-killed deer along Interstate 91. I knew I should pass it by; it was 8:00 AM, and I was headed to Massachusetts to do some interviews for a magazine story I’m working on. I knew the deer would be in the car for at least a dozen hours, and I knew that Penny’s parents were arriving early the next afternoon for a three day visit, and I knew that the house was a disaster of epic proportions and I knew that I would arrive home that night road-weary and grumpy. I knew it would be stupid to pick up that deer.
Naturally, I hit the brakes.
It was a nice deer, a doe carrying a winter’s worth of back fat on her slender legs, all four of which had been shattered by the impact. I pried and wedged her into the back of the Subaru; a few miles down the road, I stopped for a couple bags of ice and then continued on my way. Every so often, I’d glance in the rear view mirror and see her feet protruding over the backseat headrests. For some reason, this sight confirmed to me that I’d made the right decision.
The next morning, we let the boys go at the deer. They’d been wanting to butcher a large animal, having paid their dues on squirrels and chickens aplenty, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. I hung the deer from the bucket of the tractor, sharpened the butchering knives, and left them to the task. They built a small fire over which to warm themselves and roast bits of meat and stayed at it for nearly three hours straight. By the time they drove off with Penny to retrieve their grandparents at the bus station, the deer had been reduced to primal cuts, and I was left with only the final processing and cleanup.
In the big picture, I suspect it doesn’t matter a bit whether or not I made use of that deer. It could just as easily have been left to rot at the side of the road, another victim of our culture’s self-serving choice in transportation. It would have fed a few birds, rather than us, and one could argue that this would have been a more appropriate use of its gifts. After all, we don’t particularly need the meat, though we’ll find ways to share it with those that do. To the deer, struck dead by two tons of metal and rubber, there is no preference. Everything that mattered – abundant browse, surviving winter, a fawn by its side come spring – ceased upon impact.
So I’m left with the inescapable conclusion that my satisfaction in having pulled that deer from the frozen shoulder of the interstate, in watching my boys apply themselves so completely, enthusiastically, and skillfully to the task of dressing it, in slipping the packages of venison in the freezer, in the smell of the simmering bone broth that wafted through the house for the next two days, is both self-serving and naively righteous.
But then again: When is it ever different?