Accidents happen

white-tailed deer

Last summer, the kids and I drove to and from Minnesota twice, across the state of South Dakota many times over, and to the Pacific Ocean and back. This kind of travel has become part of our yearly rhythm. We are homebound three seasons a year, but make up for it during the hottest months. Summer is when I get to remember why I loved being a full-time touring musician, and also when I get to remember why I stopped.

The run to the West Coast and back was bookend by shows on the other side of the state, and while I’d adopted a marathoner pace, the kids had not. Turns out, older kids were harder to travel with than younger ones. I decided it best to leave them home with their dad while I played the last show in that particular leg of travel, which meant making a 10-hour round trip in less than 24 hours.

I hit a deer just before I reached my destination. Except for some bumps and bruises I was fine, but my beloved blue Subaru was not. The car was deemed a total loss, and the next two months were extremely frustrating as we battled the insurance company, attempted to find a new vehicle to replace the old one (a tall order when you live many hours from a major metropolitan area) and I tried to finish the summer run of shows without a car.

When autumn finally arrived, so did a new-to-us Subaru, which mostly sat in the driveway. Spring came, travel started up again, and so did my car woes. The first two major travel obligations in June began with car problems, the second of which left me stranded in Mandan, North Dakota, where I had to be rescued by my mother. July brought a third, unrelated problem that delayed a departure and caused a show to be postponed. Thankfully, August seemed to be going better until last Friday, when I set off in the first light of dawn to drive to Sioux Falls and ended up hitting another deer 20 minutes from the ranch.

Unlike the accident last summer, I saw this deer coming. I was inches away from it being a near miss, but those inches were enough to mean that instead of continuing to drive, I was left on the side of the highway watching the sun come up as I waited for a ride home. Whereas last year I felt lucky to have walked away from a totaled car relatively unscathed, this year I just felt deflated. When I called the promoter to tell him there was no way I was going to make it to Sioux Falls in time for the show, he was very gracious. “Maybe the universe is trying to send you a message,” he added nonchalantly.

“It sure seems that way, doesn’t it,” I replied.

I’ve been ending a lot of my columns lately without offering a satisfying conclusion, and maybe that’s because it feels like I’m in the messy middle of many different story arcs right now. The shows I played last week for the new album release were some of the most satisfying of my professional career, and I’m more proud of and excited about this album than anything I’ve previously released. But, yes, it certainly does seem like the universe is telling me if I continue traveling I am doing so at my own peril.

Meanwhile, our new colt arrived last week and the garden is overflowing with tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs that all need to be put by for winter, so there’s plenty to do around the ranch now that I once again don’t have a vehicle. Plus, yesterday it felt like autumn, and the grove of cottonwood trees in my little pasture has its first golden leaves already. In other words, the season of travel is almost over anyway, which probably has the deer county-wide sighing a breath of relief.


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Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.



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