Being the ‘back roads traveler’ that I am, I have made it clear that I delight in the beauty of my surroundings, especially the #wildlife. There is however, another side to these roads…a darker side…the wild death.
I often ponder the image of a Far Side #Comic, not one that has ever existed but rather one of my own creation. In the cartoon there is a convertible speeding down a road. The driver of the car is a deer in sun glasses, riding shot-gun is a raccoon flicking a cigarette out, in the back there is a squirrel and a possum with big grins and hair wild with wind. On the sides of the road are dead humans of all ages in different stages of decomposition, flattened, with tire tracks through them.
Being on foot or #bike on these back country roads one stumbles (quite literally unfortunately) upon all forms of dead little creatures. They range from the extremely sick and twisted headless dear to the average everyday leather pouch looking leftovers of last month’s possum. And of course, everything in between.
Last October found me and my family visiting a #Revolutionary #War reenactment at Fort Boonsboro. The family and I stood fascinated as an actor showed us how to skin and tan our very own deer hide. So as a #homeschool mom I was not at all surprised to hear my daughter say, ‘mom, if you find a dead dear on your run today will you bring it home so we can skin it?’
Much to my delight, a large snake met is fate near the end of one of my #runs and I cheerfully brought it to my children for approval. They were let down; this wasn’t the buck they had imagined. But after some convincing, I managed to get an audience. I carefully skinned the #snake with my husband’s fillet knife which was last year’s Christmas gift from my sister. Finally we found a use for it! The kids were sporting exited expressions as I pointed out the little guys stomach and ribs. The expressions faded to horror as the days went on and scent of rotting flesh hung in the air on my porch. The nice actor never warned me about that. Ultimately the snake skin was moved farther and farther from the porch as the decaying process resolved itself…so far that we never saw it again.
During deer #hunting season it seemed every dog I saw was guarding his own piece of the kill. Most of the dogs just warned me with their eyes as I passed and they gnawed on their bone. One particularly playful dog however simply could not let me pass without joining me for a romp. So he snatched up his deer leg and brought it along. As we ran down the road side by side I was being kicked in the butt by a deer leg. It was rather strange.
Recently on an out-and-back run down my favorite road I spotted a perfect deer skull in the ditch. The recent rains had evidently washed it down the embankment for me to discover. A few yards farther down the road I noticed a really nice deer leg. I made it to my turnaround and ran back with extra spring in my step. As I approached the leg I barely stopped, just reached down and scooped it up mid stride. The skull took a little longer. With a leg in one hand and the skull in the other I loped the last mile and a half home with a strange imbalance. As cars passed I smiled as if to say, ‘I know! Aren’t they AWESOME!’
When I arrived home I gently placed the deer leg and #skull next to the cat skull, bird skull and cow skull on my porch. I pushed my door open and found my kids eating breakfast with my husband at the table. As usual they asked how my run was. I gave them a big grin and said, ‘hurry up and eat kids, it’s time for science class!’
Wild Death (published in the Georgetown News Graphic Column, 2011)