A journalist observes life in the far north.
Lucky’s grandmum, a published author who lives in Oregon, hit an elk recently and she described the incident in a letter to her 96-year-old dad, a retired firefighter living in California. I have permission to re-print from the letter. Here it is:
Tuesday night the 28th, the day before I was scheduled to leave for California to see you, about 9:30 p.m., I was coasting down the hill above Oswald Park, about five or six miles north of Manzanita, at about 44 miles an hour when a good sized elk (estimates are that he was three or four years old) appeared right in front of the car. I put on the brakes, turned to the right, and slammed into him with the driver’s side of the front of the car, not hard enough to jostle Betty, an eighty-five year old friend of mine, and me or to set off the air bags, but hard enough that the elk was still down.
My first thought was, “there goes California”. My second thought was, “let’s wait and see.” I really did have hopes the car was still functional. I must have moved the car to the side of the road before we got out, because I don’t remember the elk ever being right in front of the car. We got out of the car and looked at the elk, which was still alive. He was lifting his head, but not able to try to get up. He was just about on the double yellow line. We wanted to pull him off the road, but I didn’t really think Betty could help. A young fellow stopped way down the hill, walked up to us, looked at the elk, said, “Just a minute, I’ll be right back”, and did not return.
Cars roared past us in the far lanes and around us in the lane we were parked at the edge of. I had put the hazard lights on right away so clearly something was not right, but no one stopped. I don’t know when it happened, but to my extreme distress, a car roaring up the hill ran right over the elk. Thunk and crunch of bones! It must have shaken up the driver quite a bit because the elk’s body was easily eighteen inches to a couple of feet tall lying down, but the car kept going. Then another car, then another, each time the crunch of bones. I began to cry.
Maybe before cars hit the elk, maybe afterward, a car finally scooted around us and stopped. A fellow got out of the car saying, “Are you all right?” “What do you need?” “How can I help?” We were so relieved to finally have someone stop. No surprise, he was a retired fire fighter and told us that right away. He offered to take us wherever we needed to go, but I wanted to stay with the car. (There was no cell phone service in the area. Everyone knows that, but we kept trying anyway.)
He and I moved the car even further over to the edge (a drop off). He and Betty did not want me to stay with the car. Finally I gave in, thinking someone might hit the car and I’d be in bigger trouble, or not thinking too clearly at all. At some point the young man returned. He and the firefighter pulled the carcass off the road so the crunching stopped.
The fire fighter took Betty and me to my house. I called Scovells (local tow company). Betty called her husband to come get her. I walked to the grocery store on Highway 101, a couple of blocks away and met the tow truck. As I climbed up into the truck, the driver said, “Did you leave the car in the middle of the road?” “No!” “Well, 911 called after you called and said there is a Prius in the middle of the road.” “So, do you think someone hit the car and knock it into the middle of the road?” “Probably not, 911 gets kind of hysterical sometimes.”