The month before Thanksgiving in the United States is usually the beginning of harvest season. Large tracts of former prairie land now filled with corn, soybeans, oats, or wheat also make ideal feeding grounds for deer. Deer hunting season and large, heavy harvesting equipment rumbling through tall corn leaving no cover, combine to pressure deer to move somewhere safer. Most of the crop harvesting along Interstate 90 in southern Minnesota is complete. It is not the most scientific surveying method, but the number of deer carcasses along the roadway shows the deer population is rebounding nicely. The live deer are harder to see because they are much farther from the freeway now, but they are out there, though I think many hunters may disagree.
Despite the size of their eyeballs, deer have terrible eyesight and their eyes are better suited for low light environments. Bright lights such as headlights temporarily blind a deer causing it to momentarily freeze while it tries to figure out how to see again. A vehicle moving at 70 mph covers 103 feet per second, and the average passenger car weighs ten times as much as an average deer meaning a collision results in major damage to the vehicle and serious or fatal injuries to the deer. Like deer, people freeze up when facing very bright lights, but we can use our arms or hands to shield our eyes. “Deer in the headlights” is a phrase used to describe someone freezing up in a critical situation.
We all have “deer in the headlights” moments: public speaking gaffes, first dates, forgetting one’s lines when acting in a play, the first day on a new job, a traumatic experience. Our moments usually end with maybe some embarrassment, or some ego bruising and loss of dignity, or laughs, or life lessons, but we are usually able to walk away intact, unlike the deer along the freeway. We have loved ones and friends to help us get through those moments, help with damage control, and help with getting us back on track. If not for those people, “deer in the headlight” moments are permanently damaging. Having those people in our lives gives us one more thing to be thankful for this holiday season.
Give your loved ones a meaningful hug and think of the times they helped during a “deer in the headlights” moment. Stay warm, and don’t stare directly into bright lights.