By Scott Sullivan
She died on the creek bank from which she’d risen, leapt the steel rail and appeared before I could stop …
Data: Saturday, Oct. 28, 8:38 or so a.m. Ferry Street dip over Wicks Creek culvert, northbound south of Campbell. 2016 Toyota Camry LX Hybrid shows front-end damage. Car drive-able, send DPW to pick up deer down near where they drink and, per protocol, dispose of.
I’ve followed lakeshore herds for months now; a few deer let me draw near to take their pictures. I drove in a silver machine, stopped, shot with a Canon that clicked but didn’t explode with fire.
I’d studied that inlet hoping to see deer drinking, knew I had no way to park safely near; I’d have to pull up onto more-level apron grass ahead, then scramble down wild bank, glass around my neck.
Stealth? They’d scatter, I’d have to stumble burdened back up the rise to my Camry, red and yellow still ticking, on green platform far off the shoulder as I could fit her. The next driver, distracted by the deer scene, might look back, jerk, swerve …
“Today on The Morning Grind, Comical Record Editor Scott Sullivan” Mike Johnson greets me on his Saturday 7-9 a.m. radio talk show, carried by six West Michigan Jethro Stations.
Coral Gables Annex front picture-window studio affords him, straight-man producer Ken Whitcomb and guests study downtown Water Street come to life. Today later, Halloween.
Our team times off each other after all these years. Andy Paul sits in often and grabs cues musically. :30 moved quick this day.
I was driving that way after to cool down and see what Lake Michigan fall morning light might offer. Most times I drive by the creek, it’s late afternoon.
In 44 years driving wild parts of Michigan — urban, rural, more and more they’re merging — I’d hit countless bugs, birds, bunnies, skunks, a line of ducklings trailing mama, deer …
So I knew the drill: punch 911 on cell, tell, not glib like on radio. We’ll have an officer right out there. Check glove box or passenger floor for growing-tattered registration, insurance papers, platic license is in billfold.
Exit vehicle, recheck bumper and fender scars, bit of fur there, walk back to check on deer, scoop up broken-off front message plate holder, black plastic never used.
I juggled it in hand stalking back, trying to vent adrenaline; down, then uphill to wait in car — yes, flashers still on — till 30-year Douglas cop Tino Reyes pulled up behind in morning-shift black cruiser.
I paced back, he rolled down his window, took my origami with print still visible, plastic ID and account/lament.
“We get more and more of these …” said Tino, who’s retiring in seven days.
While he radioed in to check out my numbers, I wandered back for a second look my victim/conquest. Blank eyes, no longer struggling, breathing.
“I think you can save that bullet,” I told Tino back at the window.
“My job’s to be sure,” he said. “Can’t leave her here to suffer.”
“I know. OK if I don’t stick around to see it?”
If that meant he must go back, I did too four hours later in a different. First I drove home and back, 80 total miles, burning fuel maybe, risking hitting more living things, but had to do something to undo this.
Plus the 25th Annual Douglas Adult Halloween Parade was that night. Silver Bullet Anniversary …
“Can someone turn down that speaker?” ordered a Center Street sound check man. I made a 5 p.m. strolling downtown scan with camera. Come back now when it gets dark, with more costumed people, I dec ided. More important, out there the pre-dusk clan would be feeding.
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) wrote about Coopersville, N.Y., which his family founded at the Otsego Lake to and Susquehanna River mouth.
His 1823 “Leatherstocking” historical-romance series introduced frontiersman/guide Natty Bumppo, a white man raised by Delaware Indians and lifelong friend of Mohican Chief Chingachgook. Locals called him “Pathfinder,” “Deerslayer,” “Hawkeye.”
Cooper too won repute and moved to Beach Street, part of New York City’s downtown Tribeca area, where he wrote “Last of the Mohicans” in 1826. “Hawkeye” is now middle-aged, wifeless, childless, still fearlessly loyal to what some call a dying way of life.
Cooper’s work was prized by Franz Schubert, Honoré de Balzac, Henry David Thoreau and writer D.H. Lawrence, who called “Deerslayer”“one of the most beautiful and perfect books in the world … flawless as a jewel and of gemlike concentration.” In it, Bumppo is asked, “Where, then, is your sweetheart, Deerslayer?”
“She’s in the forest, Judith,” he answers, “hanging from the boughs of the trees, in a soft rain — in the dew on the open grass — the clouds that float about in the blue heavens — the birds that sing in the woods — the sweet springs where I slake my thirst — and in all the other glorious gifts that come from God’s Providence!”
Call it a mercy shot.