Friday, October 10, 2008

One that got away.... and one that didn’t

I forgot my camera when we went to Springfield the other day and missed the opportunity for a really beautiful photograph. The Ozark hills are low and rolling, the skin of the earth here is rumpled like a blanket on a messy bed. We came over a hill and could see the road ahead dipping down into a shallow valley that was filled with early morning fog and emerging as it went up the hill on the other side. It was breathtaking.

Another missed opportunity occurred while I was sitting on the Group W bench (that's the bench at the front of the Walmart store, and yes, we were back in Walmart... again) waiting for Richard. Some Amish came in, among them was an older woman, most likely the grandma, with a young boy in the shopping cart. He was maybe 3 or 4 years old, wearing traditional Amish clothes – a blue shirt, dark pants, suspenders, and the straw hat
a miniature version of the men in the group, except he didn't have a beard of course.

He was beautiful. I doubt I would have gotten a picture of him, though. A paparazzi I am not, and so I would have asked permission, and grandma most likely would have refused.

But on the whole, it was probably a good thing I did not have the camera. Whenever we go anywhere, Richard drives and I read to him. During the first 40 miles or so of the trip, I was occupied with reading the last bit of the book we have been working on for some time. Then I watched the scenery, and it seemed that just about every couple of miles we passed the mushed body of some small animal, mostly armadillo, possum, raccoon, and skunk; and an occasional dog or cat.

Seeing all of those dead animals fit right in with the Carl Hiaasen book, Double Whammy, I had just finished reading to Richard as we drove along. I might have been tempted to start taking pictures. No, Double Whammy is not specifically about roadkill; rather, it a wickedly funny book that takes on professional bass fisherman and crooked TV preachers. But one of the central characters of Double Whammy is Skink, who prowls the highways looking for roadkill.

Skink appears in nearly all of Hiaasen's books, sometimes it's a cameo appearance and sometimes he is right in the thick of things. He is introduced in an earlier book as the Governor of Florida. He tries valiantly to stop the rape of the state by land speculators, developers, and corporate agriculture, and others of their ilk, but is thwarted at every turn by corrupt politicians who enjoy the bribes they receive. Eventually, Skink has a nervous breakdown, runs away from the Governor's office, and vanishes into what is left of the Everglades to live as a hermit. He doesn't like seeing things go to waste, and he eats a lot of roadkill.

Skink has lots of adventures in which things happen to other people. In Double Whammy, Skink takes a nap under a freeway overpass, and is severely beaten by some young thugs. His eye is damaged, and it has to be removed.

But he doesn't replace it

with a regular prosthetic eye, such as one of these;

instead, he uses an eyeball from a stuffed owl. This causes quite a stir when he is recruited to be healed on the crooked preacher's TV show and takes his sunglasses off while on camera. But I digress.

Roadkill. Of course, roads don’t kill animals, cars kill animals. Whoops, let’s make that people driving cars kill animals. Most people don't deliberately run down animals that are trying to cross the road. Most people. I have in fact killed some animals in my car. But not on purpose. On the way to town last Spring I ran over a squirrel. It had passed safely, but just before it got to the other side, it turned around and ran right back in front of me. Thump-thump, bump. That was it. I cried, even though I don’t like squirrels. On our driveway I have run over a chipmunk, a shrew, frogs, and a turtle. It looked too much like a rock in the road. That just about killed me. It was a female and I could see eggs in the mess of what was left of her. So not only did I wipe her out, I wiped out a future generation of turtles as well. I cried about that one, too.

Some cruel people deliberately target animals they see on the road–especially turtles and snakes. Some people are seriously injured or even die when they loose control of their cars in an attempt to avoid hitting an animal.

A lot of deer are killed crossing the highway. Nobody deliberately targets a deer. Deer can do serious damage to a car, but I doubt that this deer did much damage to the car that hit it; it’s fairly small. This is not the first small deer to get hit crossing the road by our house. Like the fictional Skink, we ate some roadkill once ourselves. Some years ago, before the highway was expanded and we had direct access to road, I pulled out and saw a fawn that had just been hit by a car. I stopped, put it in the back of the car, and brought it back to the house. And we ate it, and it was good.

This deer was killed earlier in the summer. Richard started smelling it decomposing shortly after I was confined to the couch. I suspect only a few vultures and crows and possibly some smaller scavengers ate this deer. This sad pile of bones is all that is left.

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