Deer in the Headlights

The way to avoid hitting a deer on a dark and desolate highway is to turn your lights off and hit the horn. Of course, this is counterintuitive, if not impossible to do. Unless you were raised in rural America where this tactic is apparently learned during driver’s education.

Those who train and prepare for dangerous and deadly situations will react intuitively, while others will be the proverbial deer in the headlights.

Prepare Your Loved Ones

I raised my daughters to be alert while in public. Pay attention to your surroundings, not your phone. Have your keys ready when you get to the car, and waste no time getting in and locking up. Make a plan to deal with potential threats and dangers. 

One night I was relaxing in my comfy house pants and slippers when my daughter called. I instantly knew something was wrong; otherwise, she would have texted.

“I’m being followed.”

Have a Plan


“Ever since I left dance practice, they’ve been behind me. I saw them on the other side of the parking lot when I came out of the gym. They followed me to my teammate’s house and waited down the road while I dropped her off. Every turn I make, they’re right behind me.”

Counter-surveillance tactics. Something all fathers should teach their daughters. She acted on it instinctively.

I hurried to my room to change while keeping her on the phone. Comfy pants offered no options for packing a piece. “Where are you?”

“I’m coming up the highway, almost to our neighborhood.”

“Describe the vehicle.”

“It’s a white pickup, I’ve never seen it before.”

“Who’s inside?”

“Two men.”

My wife watched as I rushed out the door. We had been married for a long time, and she knew what to do–and what not to do–during dangerous situations. Don’t grab my arm. If I push you away, there’s a reason. If I yell move, don’t tell me not to yell at you, just MOVE!

I disappeared down our road in her Suburban (the most accessible vehicle at the time), leaving a cloud of dust behind me.

Ready to Take Action

Still on the line: “Where are you now?”

I had violated every known traffic law by now and was at the highway in an instant.

She said, “Just getting ready to turn into our neighborhood.”


I didn’t want her bringing them near our home. Two men were following my daughter, and this was not going to end well. I tried to think of a desolate area she could lead them to, somewhere I could do whatever needed to be done without collateral damage, or for that matter, witnesses.

It was too late, she was in the turn lane.

“Okay, I see you. Don’t turn until I tell you to go. Got it?”

“Yes,” was all she said. Calmly. Instinctively. Trained in how to deal with dangerous situations. Versed on how to deal with a crazy father who reacts differently than her friends’ fathers would.

“That’s them behind you?”


“You’re positive?”


I sure hoped so. This wasn’t going to be pretty.

I looked in the mirror. There were no other vehicles on the road. Only my daughter and the pickup with two bad men on the highway directly in front of me. I said, “When I say go, floor it, drive past me, and keep going. Don’t stop and don’t look back.”



When she sped by, I whipped the Suburban across the street between my daughter and the bad men who followed her. I shifted into park, jumped out, ran around the back of my vehicle, and came at the bad guys with my pistol concealed behind my leg. But ready.

There Were two Men

She had seen them, and so had I. Odds were against me in a fair fight. There wouldn’t be one. This was my daughter. These were predators. They’d either follow my every order or meet their maker; the choice would be theirs. I wasn’t there to play games.

I moved tactically toward the occupants and ordered them to show me their hands, ready for whatever came next. Though I had been retired from law enforcement for five years, my training and experience guided me. Instinctively. Intuitively.

Suddenly one of the occupants identified himself and called me by name. It took a minute to process it.

Was it Someone I Knew?

It was a moonless winter night on a dark street. I couldn’t see them. I didn’t have a flashlight. I was lucky to have shoes and a gun. The words played through my head again and again until I realized these were friends of my daughter.


I looked around to see if I had created a spectacle. Thankfully, I had not. Which meant I didn’t need to call the local sheriff to explain my actions. I told the boys, “Follow me to the house . . . now!”

The ride to the house must have been dreadful for them. For me, I was trying to power down. It was an adrenaline dump. I needed to calm myself and handle the next part of this without emotion; they had no doubt already learned a lesson.

When we arrived and my daughter saw it was her friends, she was furious. She began yelling at them through the tears that now flowed down her face. She too was experiencing that adrenaline dump.

My daughter had her say in the driveway and then we went inside and sat at the kitchen table where I had mine. It wasn’t an ass-chewing, because it didn’t need to be. Their intentions were innocent enough, and they were respectful and apologetic.

There are advantages to teenage boys having a healthy fear of the fathers of beautiful girls. So, I closed by saying, “Make sure you tell every boy at school what happened here tonight.”

A Woman’s Perspective

My wife added, “You’ve seen the movie Taken, right?” They each said that they had. She indicated me and said, “That’s him.”

Hell of a compliment, though I’m no hero (neither is the actor, Liam Neeson).

You don’t have to be Liam Neeson in Taken to take decisive action or avert danger, whichever course is offered. You only need to be alert, aware of your surroundings, and to have a plan. Had I not been available that night, my daughter would have instinctively known to drive to a police station, or to some other safe place where she could find help.

Don’t be a deer in the headlights, and prepare your loved ones to deal with danger and disaster.

* * *

Epilogue: The two boys are still close friends with our family. One is a farmer, the other became a Marine and is now a helicopter pilot. Both have started families of their own, and I pity any man who mistreats their future daughters

* * *

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will share it with your family and friends.



18 thoughts on “Deer in the Headlights

  1. Congrats on your Daughters wedding, Had one last year and have one this year.
    Three boys left to go.

    Love your blog, and will read one of your books very soon

  2. Hi Danny, all I can say is wow! you need to be very proud of your daughter, she paid attention to you. And you know that teaching will go on and on, her kids will learn it, she will make sure of it.

    1. Thank you, Sherry. I am very proud of both of my daughters. They are smart, beautiful, confident young ladies who have made great choices, picked great guys, and are very driven. I couldn’t be prouder. (:

  3. I read this for the 1st. time, at one moment beliieve that was part of a book (still doesn’t know)

    But, it’s the same training all of us, boys or girls in the family was teach. When we went to the University, they ask: “where was you accepted”, in “I reserve the name”, ok. This is your present, a knife which can cut your belt, broke glass, or rip anybody up & down.

    Oh..and we had to learn to use it and basic defensive training.

  4. You had me at deer in the headlights, since I grew up in upstate New York, and did five years of policing midnight shift in rural Livingston County, I know all about car-deer accidents. Driving 100 plus down rural roads at two am, my biggest fear was hitting a deer at that speed. Back to your story, couldn’t stop reading until the end. Great experience to somehow use in one of your Novels. Keep writing; I’m reading my brother.

      1. In Northern British Columbia, moose are the danger. A lot bigger than a deer. I was taught to go to parking lights and hit the horn. Had to use it a few times, worst is when they run out in front of you.

  5. I’ve read this story many times & every time my heart does some hard thumping. I’m so thankful it was boys she knew, realizing how different the outcome could have been if it were strangers. I’m thankful my son has taught the girls well & that he is wise and so very protective. AND that they know how to take of themselves! ??

  6. I worked a lot of gang stuff back in the day and a few years before I retired I had 2 confirmed “green lights” from 2 different gangs. But before I left those gangs were all but dismantled and who ever was left I made sure were so busy with the courts system that I was the last thing on their minds. I taught my kids the same thing. I was divorced so my first 3 kids lived away from me and I doubt many even connected us so I was never too worried about them. But my youngest daughter lived with me so that was always an issue. By the time she was in high school she knew how assess a room when she walked in. She always knew al the entrances and exits, what made good concealment or cover, and what could be used as a weapon in the room if necessary, and she knew never to sit with her back to the door. She didn’t socialize much, but when she did she sent me pics of the people she was with and the cars she was in. And it was even her idea to download a tracking app in her phone. She turns 20 today and has not forgotten a thing I taught her so I am very comfortable with her safety. She has on more than one occasion simply walked out of situations she wasn’t comfortable with. She particularly doesn’t like to be in places where people are drinking. Though, I am pretty sure now that she will never leave the house and we are stuck with her forever. lol Great post.

  7. Very well done. I can imagine how you felt driving there, and yet still having the presence of mind to think strategically and tactically. Hopefully the young men will have profited by the lesson 🙂

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