The Four Deer of the Apocalypse

The Four Deer of the Apocalypse

Kevin McMullin

Everything in this world has a hidden meaning.”

–     Nikos Kazantzakis


Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

–     Sigmund Freud (apocryphal)



From 1983, when we first moved to Wisconsin, until 2015, I had only one collision with a deer. Mind you I was driving, on average, 30,000 miles a year, gigging throughout the mostly rural, heavily forested upper Midwest. Minnesota may not have much in the way of antelope, but there were plenty of deer frisking about “Da Range”. Nevertheless, except for a very few close calls and the previously mentioned collision, I had remarkably few encounters with them.

In the past two and a half years I have hit four deer. I was alone in the car each time. I was not tired or distracted. Only one of the deer showed any sign of injury. I was not hurt nor did the airbags deploy in any of the accidents.



…and then meaning comes along

Anyone can conjure it

We are all shamans

And with our minds’ touch

We signify



I remember the exact date of the first one because I’d had a kind of premonition that I should be very careful that day. So when I was driving home from a gig that night I was going slow, keeping my eyes open for whatever fate had to offer. It offered a deer streaking out of the darkness from the side brush on my left, right in front of my Hyundai Accent. Braking I was able to avoid a full frontal collision. But the passenger side of my car took over $5,000 worth of damage. There were no other cars around.

“Well,” I thought, “If that’s the worse that premonition has to offer, I’m good.”

A few months later I hit the second deer. US 53, usually a four lane, was under construction at the time, down to two lanes. That night as I was driving home, just north of Sarona, a deer wound its way through the construction barrels from my left and threw itself in front of my car. With nowhere to veer I braked hard, but not enough to avoid the deer. The right front corner of my Hyundai took another $5,000 plus hit.

“Ok,” I rationalized, “I had a pretty long streak of not hitting anything. I was driving slow and carefully both times. I better start being really careful.”

In October of 2015, my dizziness got markedly worse and tinnitus set in. I stopped driving in December and was diagnosed in January of 2016. After a few months of physical therapy I got the all clear to drive again.

In late summer or early fall of 2016 I hit my third deer. I was driving south out of Hayward late afternoon in moderate traffic. A deer leapt up from the right side out of a steep embankment and dashed in front of my poor, beleaguered Hyundai. Another 5 grand. This time on the driver’s side.

“This really sucks,” I thought, “Three deer. Geez, that’s like the Father, Son and Holy Ghost! The three Fates!! Destiny’s Child!!! I have three symptoms: dizziness, tinnitus and fatigue. What is going on here? Is the universe trying to tell me something?” Alice’s Restaurant started running through my mind.

Last week, I hit deer number four. FOUR! Four calling birds! Four strong winds!! John, Ringo, Paul, George!!! FOUR FUNDAMENTAL FORCES IN THE UNIVERSE!!!! Is the hair on the back of your neck going up? Can you feel the cosmic vibes? Yeah, me too.

I was driving a loaner up from Eau Claire where my Hyundai was getting a brake job. I had stopped in Rice Lake to do errands and intentionally chose to take 53 home, thinking I was less likely to run into deer on the 4 lane. It was dark, a car passed me on the left and pulled in front of me just as a deer sauntered in between the two of us. Passenger side again. But at least the Hyundai got a break.

While none of the deer were sporting rebel flags or yelling “Allahu Akbar,” I have nevertheless wondered about terrorism. For one thing, they were all wild eyed. Is that a coincidence? Friends have pointed out that terrorism is generally directed against the population at large, not just one person. But deer probably don’t know that.

I have considered the idea that I shouldn’t be driving. My staunch friends, bless their souls, insist that I’ve just had a run-in with an extraordinarily bad streak of luck. And really, the deer are just icing on the cake. . I mean, what are the odds that, in the space of two and a half years, I would hit four deer, have surgery for a one in a hundred thousand brain tumor, two bouts with Lyme, an inflamed gall bladder, a broken tooth with a crown repair and a colon cancer scare, while my father nearly died on the operating table from an anaphylactic reaction to anesthesia and was recently diagnosed with a lymphoma so rare that there are no prescribed treatments for it?

I’m sure my insurance company is making that calculation as I write.