What the Duck?

Assuming you reside in Alberta and travel at all even within a city river valley you will see signs warning of wildlife along the roadside.  I'm here to tell you that those signs do not accurately represent the hazards of wildlife to drivers.  They are a government conspiracy to lead citizens astray by falsely characterizing deer as running in full flight.  The signage in our part of the province depicts four legged animals with antlers.  This is extremely dangerous for we the citizens who travel the roads of our province regularly and I can't believe it has taken me over thirty years of driving to realize how I have been boondoggled by my government.

My moment of realization crashed into my bumper on Tuesday morning at about six-thirty on a country road.  As I crested a small hill, there in front of me were two animals neither of which was running nor did they have antlers.  Fortunately, Greg has educated me on the subtleties of the deer population during the course of our marriage.  I am well equipped to differentiate fawn, doe, and buck within the deer family.  However I confess to not having sufficient time to determine whether the fawn was male or female.  Both stood stock-still, mesmerized as the vehicle lights approached.  I imagine they were stunned into a similar fear that hit me, and my eyes were probably as big as theirs on the other side of the windshield.  By the time we had all collectively run out of time and road, the doe had moved to the ditch and the vehicle was nearly stopped.  That's when I heard that yucky thud, just a little thud because the fawn was very small yet.  In fact, that worked in the fawn's favor and it just got knocked over rudely very low speed.

Knowing I had knocked something over was really unsettling, wondering if I had killed or hurt it was the worst part.  Then the follow up was the fear of getting out to look in case there were deer parts hanging in the grill.  I drove away because I could, down the road a little ways to pull over until my poor heart returned to a more regular rhythm and my body stopped shaking.  It was a really inopportune day to have the government conspiracy begin to unravel in my head, I had a colleague to pick up in twenty minutes, a drive ahead of us to a retreat location, and two days of herding cats.  There was no time to contemplate the implications of our government lying to the masses through road signage.

Given the day's agenda and the pressing time, I did what most wives would probably do; I called Greg to tell him about my mishap.  I made the call from the safety and light of my colleague's driveway where I screwed up the courage to actually look at the front of the vehicle.  Greg had been scheduled to leave home minutes behind me so he provided reassurance that yes the little fawn had just been knocked over and had promptly gotten up and gotten the heck off the road having learnt a critical life lesson.  Armed with that reassurance we carried on through the next two days looking after the business at hand, chalking it up to another first.  I had never hit a deer before and I was really glad it wasn't a moose.  Got to look for the bright side.

On day two we left the retreat in a light drizzle exhausted but anxious to tackle the QE2 homeward.  It was on the way home, that the government conspiracy truly became unraveled for me.  There in the middle of my lane was a duck.  Cars behind me, clicking along about 120 kmh.  Cars beside me.  To use my colleague's well-turned phrase, "What the duck?"  Well, the duck lifted off straight up in front of us in slow motion.  When it was about windshield height it seemed to become confused, uncertain whether it was willing or able to rise higher and miss the vehicle or whether to fly left or right out of the path.  It wavered back and forth, while inside the vehicle my brain was spinning through the options available to avoid a second animal collision within forty-eight hours without flipping the vehicle upside down in the ditch and/or killing the occupants.  My colleague squeaked out, "Joy, the duck."  That must have been just in case I was oblivious to a duck drunkenly swerving back and forth in front of my line of vision.  All of this seemed to take minutes but you and I both know that it was seconds, the kind of second that stretches out interminably.  There were no options for avoidance other than a mini-swerve to the shoulder with hopes that the duck would maintain a straight line of flight long enough for us to work with it.

We didn't hear any thuds, and the duck held a course that allowed it to glance off the driver's front corner.  Throughout the excitement we avoided drawing any other vehicles into a multi-car pileup and flipping ours on its top due to sudden reactive swerving at high speed.  All in all, we did really well.  Stellar driving skills and execution.  The duck however, settled into the lane behind us again stunned by its close encounter barely coherent and having used up several of its lives.

That's when I got to wondering why the wildlife signs were so misleading and it struck me that, "what the duck, there must be a conspiracy!"  But I haven't yet solved the why.  Why does the government only depict male animals?  Why are the deer always running?  What about the ducks?  Why are we not warned about the ducks?  What the duck is going on?