Linda and I were headed to Lakeside (2005) to load up our furniture and transport back to Phoenix. It was about 6pm, we were listening to satellite radio's Fibber Magee and Molly, when an explosion stunned me into seeing everything move in slow motion. I saw the brown blur just at impact, but I also saw chards of glass-like dust moving in slow motion. While cruising at 62 mph, the truck had hit a trophy bull elk head on and the truck never left the road. It didn't fishtail, or roll, or even go sideways. It just coasted to the side of the road and stopped, as if it was on automatic pilot.
Upon impact, the bull elk staggered a few feet and then fell dead on the side of the road. People traveling behind us gasped in horror as the scene unfolded. They expected to find us dead and buried after that impact, but inside the cab, it was the most peaceful feeling ... as if we were in a protective cucoon. Both Linda and I had the same peaceful feeling, as we compared our thoughts later. Neither of us felt any fear, or pain ... nary a broken bone. Except for some blood oozing out my arms and neck from the flying chards of glass, we were not harmed at all. We can only give thanks to our Heavenly Father for tender mercies shown on our behalf. It was indeed a miracle and one that we shall be eternally grateful for.
Once the realization that we had hit something broke through the clouds, all I could do was sit there. Linda said I was mumbling "I love my truck," but I think she heard wrong. Well... maybe not. I did love that truck. But only after I checked to see if my wife was ok :>) People stopped immediately and came to offer help. A nurse just coming home from her shift was there in a moment. She checked Linda and then me ... and said "I can't believe you aren't hurt."
A forest ranger was next on the scene to tell me what I had hit and that it was mine if I wanted it. Linda got out of the truck and started taking photos for insurance purposes. I stayed right behind the wheel. I just couldn't move. I guess I was processing what had just happened. Then, the highway patrolman arrived. He came over and noticed my air bag had not deployed and gently remarked that if that bag goes off while I am behind the wheel, I could be injured. That got my wheels moving and I quickly rolled to the passenger side of the truck and made my exit. That is when I got the full impact of just how miraculous this was. There, laying on his side, was the largest bull elk I had ever seen.
The forest ranger started on me again, wanting to know if I wanted the elk and if so, I needed to arrange to have it transported somewhere. Now remember, I had just taken the life of this majestic animal in an unfair fight ... and this dude is pressing me for an answer. Of course I didn't want it. Who would want to be reminded every time he entered a room that his truck had taken a life? Not me. So I said give the meat to the poor and I don't care what you do with the rest of it. Then someone came up to me and started razzing me for giving it away. "Don't you know what this thing is worth." he said. "It's a trophy elk and those antlers are worth some money, let alone the meat." I told him to bug off, but I did go over to the ranger, as he was loading (or trying to load) the carcass into the bed of his truck, and asked, if I wanted to keep the elk how would I get it processed ... and he just about handcuffed me right there for even "thinking" about it once I told him I didn't want it. Gee whiz, I was only asking.
Anyway, there we were by the side of the road ... alone and no one to call but our Realtor in Lakeside. He didn't even think twice when I called him and he drove out to get us, which by then, was quite late at night. Thanks Neal Thompson. He loaded us into his SUV, with glass and blood ... and transported us to Lakeside. We refused to go in the ambulance and probably should have stopped off at the emergency room in Show Low, but we just wanted to get back to our little home and get some rest. Our kids came up the next day and helped us load everything into a U-haul and by 6pm Saturday night, we were headed back to the Valley. And yes, I was driving and yes, I was quite nervous driving in the forest after that, and even now.