Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Black Shadow Beside the Road

Thanksgiving Weekend 2001

This was NOT a fun weekend for me. I had gotten into a gigantic fight with my then-boyfriend over something I didn't understand, where things were said and done that I had a very hard time forgiving (part of me never completely did). After a LONG talk, I decided to go away for the weekend for a family dinner with his family, some of whom I got along with very well and others who seemed to take pleasure in making me uncomfortable.

It was a strange weekend, and as I drove back to the camp around 7:30 that Monday evening, I had a lot on my mind.

The road to Ella Lake is difficult for people not familiar with its twists, turns, and sudden hills. Especially at night. I learned to drive on that road and could navigate it without any thought at all, usually tearing up the road much faster than the speed limit. I knew when to slow down and when it was safe to fly past the trees (usually with the window open and the music blasting).

The sky was getting pretty dark, but I was still able to make out the shadows of the trees and rocks as I drove past. Around a corner, then another, down a hill, then...

"Whoa"

A very large black shadow appeared in the middle of one of the swamps that the road passes. A shadow that is not usually there.

At first I thought it was a bear...

Then it lifted its head, showing a very impressive rack of antlers that revealed its identity as an adult bull moose.

Anybody living in Northern Ontario knows that moose are BIG, and DUMB. Why God made an animal that large without proper brains, I'll never know, but there they are. Specifically there he was, watching the lights of my approaching car as I begged him to stay put as I passed by.

For those who don't know, moose have a problem with car headlights. They don't like them much, and often charge oncoming vehicles (including buses and trains) because the lights piss them off. Instead of being sensible like squirrels and deer, a moose will instead decide since it's BIG that it can win a fight against a car.

Usually nobody wins these fights.

With this in mind, I drove very slowly, watching the moose watch me inch by as non-threateningly as possible. Just as I was getting past him, he turned his massive body (we later found out he weighed about 1400lbs) towards the car and started to move.

I hit the gas, knowing that my car could most certainly outrun him.

Unfortunately, Mr. Moose was on a date. Unfortunately for his date, my car got in the way of the romantic interlude as she darted out from a brush where she had been completely out of sight a moment before my car slammed into her.

What I remember about this moment will probably always be with me. The car clipped her legs out from underneath her also-massive body (she weighed about 900lbs), causing her to go up into the air and land on the hood of my car, where the momentum of my car rolled her up into my windshield, shattering it (but leaving the broken pieces still hanging together), then up and over the roof of the car, finally landing beside my door on the road.

The interior of the car was illuminated during this time, I can close my eyes and see light glinting off of the breaking glass, shining onto fur, then darkness again.

Silence.

I don't remember starting to drive again.

--- I should mention that I was driving an 1988 Chevrolet Beretta, which was built low to the ground and had a very solid metal frame that suffered no damage at all from its enounter with the moose, and an engine that kept running without any problems either. The only things that required fixing were my windshield, passenger side window, hood, and roof (which needed repainting). The car definitely had a part in saving my life. ---

I remember making my way through the dirt road surrounding the other camps near our own, saying "just make it home" to myself over and over again. I drove with my head out the window, not being able to see through the windshield.

When I pulled into the driveway, I jumped out of the car and tore into the camp as though the moose was still chasing me.

Nobody was home.

Stifling a cry, I saw lights on next door at our very close friends' place and threw the patio door open. My next memory is lying on the floor with my mother's arms around me, smoothing my hair and trying to explain what happened to the completely freaked-out group of people looking at me as though I was a ghost.

After a sip of brandy, I was able to calm down enough to start explaining. My father had been on his way home from town, and came in as I was finishing my story. He had seen the moose sitting on the side of the road (I hadn't killed her) and his first thought was "Oh no, not Melinda".

To this day, I still shudder to think that if I had been seriously hurt or killed that my father would have been the first person to come onto the scene. He was only 5 minutes behind me on the road...

Knowing that I inherited his lead foot, my dad accused his traumatized daughter of driving too fast, prompting our close friend Jackie (now deceased) to tell him to "fuck off". It was the first and only time any of us had ever heard her say that. He quickly calmed down too, and spent the rest of the evening by my side as the police came to check things out and file a report for insurance purposes.

I got to ride in the back of the police car with my dad as we made our way down to where I had hit the moose. The police officers, who were incredibly kind, wanted to see the skid marks and make sure that the moose had safely gone back into the woods. Turns out, she hadn't made it far, since her legs were broken, so they had to shoot her.

Wide-eyed, I peered out the window of the car at an officer pointing a rifle towards the bush where she lay (I couldn't see her). My dad stopped him, pointed at me, drawing an embarassed look from the police officer, who apologized for being so insensitive.

After deciding to let the young officer keep the moose meat (which would very much impress his new father-in-law), we bid them goodbye. My parents poured me a drink and kept me distracted (I'm sure so I wouldn't hear the crack of a rifle from a kilometer away).

For the rest of the summer, I was terrified of driving down the road at night, slowing down to a crawl every time I passed the spot where the accident happened.

The policemen told me how lucky I was. If I hadn't seen the bull moose, I would have been driving down the road at around 70km an hour. Hitting a moose at this speed pretty much guarantees that they're going to wind up hurting or killing you.

I walked away from that incident without a scratch - not even a bruise. Just a little soreness the next day (and the mental trauma that followed me for a long time afterwards).

I still wonder about the light from inside the car. The interior light was not on.

Why could I see the broken class and the fur of the unlucky moose as she slammed into my windshield? Why didn't I get cut from the shards of glass that did fall into the car? How was it possible that I was driving just slowly enough to stop her from coming right into the car, where her body would have pinned me against the car seat?

As far as I remember, I didn't have any glass on me at all...

7 Comments:

  • At 1:22 PM, Blogger Suldog said…

    Melinda:

    That's a harrowing story. Thanks for sharing.

    I've never hit an animal, in all my years of driving. I brake for everything - squirrels, pigeons, large bugs. I can't even imagine how I'd feel if I had hit a MOOSE.

    By the way, it's possible that when you hit her, the impact triggered something in the electrical system that turned on the cabin lights. That's my hypothesis regarding the light.

     
  • At 2:26 PM, Blogger Melinda said…

    That's an interesting suggestion - one I definitely never thought of before!

    My mother and I are kinda partial to the theory that my guardian angel was there, since this is actually the second incident in my life where glass shattered around me but didn't affect me at all...

     
  • At 2:38 PM, Blogger Stu said…

    Brilliant post. I'm still shaking a little from it, and all I did was read about it.

    My word verification is aubaken

     
  • At 12:01 AM, Blogger Beechball * said…

    I could pretend like I don't know what you're referencing in your post, but I do. I really do feel for you having had such a horrible weekend. I can only imagine how you must have felt for more than just one reason. If anything, I am sure you're stronger a person today that you would have been had you not gone through such a rough time, so to be positive - I'm glad you came through everything just fine! Stay tough Mel, and don't let people make you feel bad about who you are!

     
  • At 6:16 AM, Blogger Melinda said…

    It's got to be said Lyndsay - you are absolutely the kindest person I've ever met (? not met?, doesn't matter). I worried alot about including that particular part of this post, then decided since it played a big part in my non-attention to the road that I'd leave it in. I really didn't want to include anything that would make you feel uncomfortable. Fact is, different people bring out different things in others, and mine just wasn't always good. I'm SO glad you have found (and brought) happiness in your relationships with them.

    When I look on that time now (and other times in my life), I use Ray Romano's advice (from the episode when Robert got married) about remembering everything, but "editing to keep the good parts".

    cheers & thanks for being such a sweetie :)

     
  • At 4:39 PM, Blogger Beechball * said…

    Hey Mel, remember this k? This is YOUR blog, you are welcome to write whatever you want. If you want to talk about things that bother(ed) you or just let off some steamin in order to feel better, then by all means do so. Please don't 'not' write something because I'll read it; it's all about you! Write away! :) I love hearing your stories, and I think you're a great writer. If anything, I can surely relate to many things you have to say and who knows, maybe I can help you out on some levels but just know that this is YOUR blog and it's all about you! :)

     
  • At 5:32 PM, Blogger Melinda said…

    heehee - it's kinda nice to have something all about me ;) I never really think of my blog that way - thanks for the reminder...

     

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