Around the town where I grew up, there’s not a whole lot to do after about ten o’clock at night. The sidewalks sort of roll up and except for the sparse crowds drawn by the occasional pub or the phantasmagorical yellow glow of the Waffle House, most people roll up, too. Hence, a lot of young folks who can’t get into clubs down in Atlanta and a few not-so-young folks like myself who never much liked Atlanta to begin with, tend to do things like wander around the grocery stores that stay open late or are open all night.
Ever since then, I’ve been wont to do this, even on my own, because the bar and club scene in Albuquerque just wasn’t to my taste on most evenings. I think, in the four years I lived there, nothing of a truly spectacular nature ever occurred. During my outings, I might chance to have an interesting conversation with a stranger. I was propositioned at bus stops a couple of times–but that’s Albuquerque, a city filled with dirty old men, just like most other cities. At least they were up front about it.
But casting back to the years before I moved West, I would regularly have strange experiences while going out to the store in the middle of the night. My partner in crime for these ventures, Jennifer, would assert that it’s probably her fault. Strange things always happen to her on the road–like random horses wandering through the dark on the narrow shoulder along a back road. At any rate, a handful of years ago, grocery stores stopped being open all-night, likely due to the recession. Fewer and fewer could be found in our neck of the woods, so if we wanted to wander, we’d have to travel a bit.
One night, we’d gone across town to a Kroger off of Holcomb Bridge Rd. I was driving on this occasion, and it’s easiest and most relaxing for me to take the back roads. This avoids the uselessly bright, cop-riddled major thoroughfares. It’s not that the officers are bad people, but many of them on night duty get understandably bored, and then they become assholes. The back road in this instance followed the curve of the Chattahoochee and also traveled along one of her feeder creeks for a few hundred feet. Soap Creak is a lovely tributary that runs shallowly over rocks, with many picturesque little waterfalls breaking its surface. It’s closely bordered on either side with trees and what amounts to wilderness in the heart of the Concrete Stain (the suburbs).
Much wildlife congregates in these increasingly isolated pockets of forest and park land. In Roswell, farms encroached upon wilderness and the settlements of those people who lived here before (Cherokee and Upper Creek Peoples). Then suburbia moved in on the farmland, chewing up what had become a little wild once more. Now, in spots, newer (read: uglier) development is tearing up the land again, driving forest animals into increasingly close proximity with human populations.
Since the farm communities eradicated the natural predators of all this wildlife, white-tailed deer are a prolific species in the Southeast. While I am often the first to make cooing sounds or to stop doing whatever to watch them cross the road or the back yard, I can’t deny that more human deaths are caused by these animals encountering cars than there ought to be. Accidents will happen, but it’s getting a bit ridiculous. Always drive cautiously, because they’re likely to bound across the road in unexpected and expected places alike.
So, Jennifer and I were returning home from an uneventful but refreshing jaunt to the all-night Kroger off of Eves Rd and Holcomb Bridge. I was driving slowly along Riverside, because deer are wont to cross at the shallow Soap Creek, and they seem to materialize at the edge of the road without warning. Sure enough, I spotted two up ahead, and slowed down even more to let them cross at their own pace. When all of a sudden, I feel my car jolt as if I’d run over something. I couldn’t have been going more than 20 miles per hour at this point, but I looked back over my shoulder and directly into the manic eye of a yearling deer.
His ears were laid back and he was pacing the car, which he had rammed just moments before. Bambi obviously wanted to drag race my unassuming little Toyota and he was determined that I wasn’t getting away. Pink Slips or Go Home, human. I sped up slowly, in case he’d somehow caught himself on my car, and left him trotting down the dark, empty road behind us. There is, of course, a much more rational explanation for our brush with Bambi, but it’s just not as entertaining.