The sun began to set on another warm autumn day in the western mountains of Maine as I drove down Route 2 contemplating a possible trip home through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I had been up at our new ski house assisting in the installation of a new hot tub and also the completion of some odd chores around the house, the most random of which was vacuuming up bugs from every window in the house. The work went quickly and painless and I even found some time to take a nice little scenic trip up to Grafton Notch State Park. After working at the house I stopped by Sunday River to pick up my season pass to avoid the long lines which would certainly occur when the season finally begins in a few weeks. I filled up my tank in anticipation of a long non-stop trip back towards Massachusetts, the only question was which way to go. The White Mountains while much more fun to drive would take longer and since the sun had nearly set I decided the beauty of the mountains would be lost in the darkness. So I took a left turn off Route 2 and saved the drive through New Hampshire for another day when perhaps daylight would make the longer route seem worth it.
I accelerated after I made the quick corner onto Route 5 because after driving down this road every weekend last winter I was very familiar with almost all of the twists, turns and hidden dips of this obscure back road. It wasn’t long before I left Bethel behind and hurtled deeper into the woods, the thrill of driving quickly increased as civilization began to fade away. I was now in the most rural part of the trip where I could really open up and let the turbo engine work its magic. My fun abruptly came to an end when I came to the end of the road and was forced to stop at an intersection. After stopping I made a change of music and put in a different Dave Matthews CD, something more mellow for the sudden change in lightness outside. Tearing out of the stop sign I left Route 5 behind and continued on Route 35 towards Waterford.
It wasn’t long before I once again came to an intersection and had to slow down again, immediately following that was a hill with a market on it, once again causing me to putter along at a snails pace. I always get concerned near the market especially on the way up to Maine because it is near the bottom of the hill and you never know where the police are hiding. After passing the market I began to accelerate up the hill, and as I approached the top something jumped out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, but it was too late and the collision began. The deer hit the front bumper with a loud thud and was thrown out of the way of the car, at the same instant the deer was flying off towards the should I could see the metal Volkswagen emblem flying off in the other direction. The car came to a screeching halt and in my rear view mirror I saw the deer slowly come to rest on the side of the road. He didn’t seem to be moving, but my attention quickly turned to my car and what sort of damage had been done. Initially I was angry, not at the deer, but at myself for not being more aware, however I quickly realized there was nothing I could have done to avoid the wild animal which had dashed out into the road in front of me. I turned off the car and through on my hazard lights before jumping out of the car to assess the damage. The hood was badly crumpled, the grill was missing and the radiator was hissing like a soda can with a small puncture. I glanced back towards the deer and he was motionless except for a slight spasm in one of his outstretched legs, he did not fair as well as I did in this incident.
My brain zipped back to reality and I realized I needed to take action about the situation, and I went back to the car to get my mobile phone to call for assistance. I selected the number for VW Roadside Assistance and pressed the send button, only to hear the deafening sound of the no service alert. I was now stuck in the middle of nowhere with a damaged car and no way of contacting the civilized world. After pondering my options for a minute I decided to attempt to start the car and see if it was still in working condition and to my surprise it started and none of the dashboard warning lights were aglow. I made a U-Turn and began driving down the hill towards the market about a half mile back, when a truck passed me in the opposite direction, slowed and then backed down the road. I pulled over and got out of the car to speak with the obviously concerned citizen and to my surprise the truck contained two hunters covered from head to toe in blaze orange. They had some very strong Maine accents and immediately pointed out the obvious.
“So it looks like you hit a deer,” said the driver.
“Yep, it jumped right out in front of me, do you guys know what I need to do now?” I replied.
The passenger, looking over at the deer says, “It looks like a young one, you can tell by its small antlers.”
“I was thinking about driving down to the market and calling the police, is that the standard of procedure for this sort of thing?”
“Yep, that sounds like a good idea to me,” answered the driver.
We went over to my car and they checked out the front of it making comments about what they thought would be wrong. The determined that I needed a new hood and it sounded like my air conditioning needed to be replace, but the radiator might be okay. I thanked them for their help and continued the drive down towards the market. The drive was short and I pulled into a parking space in front of the store, put the car in park and make my way inside to call for help. I stand in line behind some customers and eventually ask the woman behind the counter for help. I ask to use the phone to call the police and tell her how I just hit a deer. She dials the number and hands me the phone on my first 911 call of my entire life. As expected the operator answers with, “9-1-1 what’s your emergency?” I tell her what happened and she directs me to a different operator who also utters the same question. I recite the story again and she says an officer needs to come out and fill out a report. The store owner hands me a card so I can tell the operator where I am. I hang up the phone and remember my stepfather is a couple towns away and I should notify him of my situation. My stepfather knew the second he heard my voice something was wrong and said he would be there as soon as possible. I assured him I was alright and to take his time.
The time is now five o’clock, fifteen minutes has passed since my accident and I realize I am going to be here for a while, but since I am not hungry I pass on the Snickers bar and instead go with a drink. As soon as I step into line the two hunters from earlier walk in the door and just stand there looking at me. One of then approaches me and begins to inquire about the deer.
“So are the police on their way?” the first hunter asks.
“Yep, who knows how long it could take.”
“We were wondering, do you think you are going to want that deer.”
“I don’t really know, I guess it is mine though, huh.”
“Well if you don’t want it let us know.”
I left the vultures inside so I could wait for the police to come and fill out my report. It was now almost dark and people kept stopping in to have their deer tagged, because as I later found out it was the first day of hunting season. The proprietors were very excited to hear Melby’s Market had the highest number of deer compared to any other deer station under their warden’s jurisdiction. I returned to my car to survey the damage and realized I hadn’t taken one picture yet, so I grabbed the camera and took a bunch of pictures. Photographing my car was exciting, but after a few pictures I became bored and went back to the front of the store to continue waiting for the police. My two favorite hunters had come outside to wait with me; apparently they really wanted the deer. Finally after an hour the State Police showed up and took my information, he also asked me what I wanted to do about the deer. I told him about the scavenger hunters and he told me it was easier for him if I let them have it. I agreed and he told them they could have the deer. They tore off towards their truck and were out of sight within seconds in search of my deer. The officer then recommended I call to have my car towed since it would take a while for them to show up. It seemed rude to bother the store owners again for the use of their phone so I tried the pay phone outside. It had been years since I had used such a device and the experience helped back up my less than positive view of them. After waiting on hold for what seemed like an eternity of bad eighties music the operator took my call and said a tow truck would be there within the hour.
My stepfather showed up and surveyed the car and also made observations about what was wrong with the car. It seems to be a thing men do when damage has occurred to anything especially automobiles. My stomach began rumbling so I went back inside the market to find something to eat. I went to the counter and ordered a hot dog something I had been craving for some time. The waitress gave me a placemat and I hurriedly completed the word search just before my hot dog was ready. My meal was delicious, I hadn’t had a red hot dog in such a long time and it tasted delicious. Upon completion of dinner I went back outside and told my stepfather he should go back to the house and pack things up and then come back and get me since it would obviously be a long time before the tow truck showed up. Two hours had now passed since I hit the deer and I was becoming a little bit anxious about being stuck in North Waterford. In an effort to feel more secure I went back to my car and took out my iPod to listen to some calming music. I was now alone in the middle of nowhere with a broken car, a useless phone and only ten dollars to my name with no ATM in sight. Walking back into the store a man made a snide remark asking me how the hunting was today. I shrugged it off and continued walking toward the very 1950’s style counter.
The waitress who had helped me earlier asked me if I needed anything else, and I couldn’t resist more food and ordered up some berry pie. We ended up talking about the SAT’s and she told me about the two career interests she was considering. It was the first time since the accident I actually had a normal conversation with somebody and it was very relaxing. The pie came and we continued talking about life in Maine and about why in the world I was driving through town. When I began enjoying my pie she returned to the kitchen to work on cleaning up the place for the night. More people came in and enjoyed dinners, the owner was kind enough to point out the fact that I got my first deer today. The parties would congratulate me until she added the key piece of information about how my weapon was my car. They would then show sympathy towards me and remind me how lucky I was to not be injured.
Quiet was only interrupted when the phone would ring, and generally the calls were for me and the inability of AAA to find somebody who wanted to bring my car down to New Hampshire. Finally, they located a man in Fryeburg and he only had one condition, he wanted to pick it up tonight and then bring it to the garage in the morning. It didn’t make much of a difference to me since nobody would be doing work on it for several days. I agreed and he said he would be there within the hour, not the first person to make the same promise. Boredom began to set and I thought for a moment I would be stuck in this little town forever and be forced to go and ask for a job at the market to survive.
A few minutes after the clock struck eight the tow truck pulled into the parking lot. Finally, I had some sort of activity to do. The driver took my keys asked me for a couple details and then drove off with my Jetta hanging from his truck. It was a sad moment, but oddly enough not the first time my less than one year old car had to be towed. I returned to the market only to find it was nearly closing time and in fifteen minutes I would have to sit outside. The kind waitress gave me my check and I paid with a generous tip, partly because of the great service and hospitality, but I also didn’t want to give up the two dollar bill I had received for change. Closing time finally came and I asked my kind hosts if I could snap a picture of them to help remember my adventure at Melby’s Market. They were hesitant but did pose for a photograph. I thanked them for there hospitality and assured them I would be back to try the pizza. The owner said I also needed to come in for breakfast some morning and I promised I would.
The door closed behind me and I was now sitting on a bench in the cold in front of the market. The hunters had all gone home and the only cars left in the parking lot were of the employees who were putting the finishing touches on the closing duties. The night was very peaceful and it seemed strange how the amount of activity had changed so much in the last four hours. In a very short amount of time the market had gone from a bustling hub of activity to a quiet shadow of its former self. While it was now peaceful and quiet I missed the people and commotion I had witnessed upon my arrival. The market I had dreaded and been so bored with earlier was now something of a comfort and I couldn’t wait to return; hopefully under better circumstances.