04 June 2020

Roadkill


I had another blog all written out for this week, about the death of George Floyd, the ongoing protests, peaceful and those that morphed into riots, the government's reaction, etc. And it was pretty good. But other people have said it better.

In fact, I summed up pretty much all I had to say about protests and powerlessness in an earlier blog, which you can read here: https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2014/12/absolute-powerlessness.html

So instead, I want to talk about roadkill.

We've all seen it, every day. Some of it's so old it's easy to ignore - just a stain on the road. Deer carcasses last longer. It used to be that either the person who hit the deer would take it home and eat it, or the knacker man would come by and pick up dead carcasses, but now they lie there and rot for a long time. Deer and possums, skunks and raccoons, cats and dogs, squirrels, snakes and turtles.

Of course, some animals are very hard to avoid. Squirrels, as most of us know, are adrenaline junkies if not downright suicidal. They race back and forth across the road, and sometimes, just as you think you've managed to avoid the damn thing, it races back right under your wheels. I've killed a few squirrels in my day.

And we've all seen deer leaping across a road at night, in some frenzied attempt to get somewhere. When we moved up to South Dakota, back in 1990, we naively asked why we needed auto collision insurance, forgetting that young guns get drunk and drive fast everywhere. And old farmers: well, there you are, doing the legal limit of 55, and instead of waiting for you to zoom by, they pull out in front of you doing 20. I've stood on my brakes many a time. Anyway, we were told that up to 50% of all collisions in SD were with deer. Sort of like with moose up in Alaska, Maine, etc.



So far, I've been lucky and haven't hit a deer. But I do have a friend who hit a cow, at night, at a speed that caused the cow to ride up the car hood, through the windshield, and partly on him. He ended up with long lines of stitches on his face that would gain him street-cred in prison if he ever had to go there. Whenever anyone asked him about it, he'd always growl, "Yeah, but you should see the cow."

Meanwhile, I always wonder about the cats and dogs and other smaller mammals. Accidents or on purpose? You'd have to have been there, I guess.

But I know about turtles. That's on purpose. You can always miss a turtle. They do not - I repeat - do not move quickly. I've been behind too many trucks and seen them deliberately swerve in order to hit the turtle.

A 1996 study done in Ontario, Canada, noted that a lot of reptiles were killed where vehicles usually don't drive, i.e., the side of the road, the median strip - in other words, it was done on purpose. So in 2007, they set up a research study using reptile decoys of snakes and turtles. The found that 2.7% of drivers intentionally hit they decoys, "speeding up and positioning their vehicles to hit them". And (sadly) male drivers did this more often than female drivers. "On a more compassionate note, 3.4% of male drivers and 3% of female drivers stopped to rescue the reptile decoys." (Wikipedia)

BTW, I'm one of the drivers who stop to pick up turtles and move them out of the way. They have a tendency to express their gratitude all over my feet, but hey, that's the way it goes. If an alien ever picks me up and carries me across a road, I'll probably be expressing fluid gratitude myself.

In most Native American cultures, turtles represent "healing, wisdom, spirituality, health, safety, longevity, protection, and fertility. Some Native Americans believe that the turtle contributed to creation because the turtle dove into the primeval waters to retrieve mud to create Mother Earth. Additionally, the shell of the turtle represents protection and perseverance... Lakóta mothers make a leather amulet shaped like a kéya (Lakóta for turtle) for their newborn babies. Within, they place their child’s umbilical cord and sew them closed for protection. The amulet keeps the child grounded and connected to its mother and Uncí Maká [Mother Earth]." (Native Hope)


Why would someone deliberately swerve to hit a turtle? Smash its back, leave it splayed out and broken and bloody and drive on? I don't understand it, but I know why they do it: 

Because they wanted to kill it. Because they wanted to kill something.

And I know something else: I don't want a person who would kill a turtle anywhere near me. I don't want them in my family. I don't want them in my place of employment. I would not hire or recommend them for any job. Especially for a job in law enforcement of any kind, whether as a police officer, corrections officer, border patrol officer, etc., etc., etc.

Because they like to kill things.

Maybe we need a new question on job applications:

"When I see a turtle by the side of the road, I ____"

There are a lot of scavengers in the world - coyotes, jackals, vultures, maggots, blowflies - that come out of nowhere and grab and loot whatever they can. And in times of protests and riots, they get all the attention, because - and this is just the brutal truth - in this country (and many others) property gets a whole lot more respect than people, especially the poor or minorities. "When the looting starts, the shooting starts" was said in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, in 1968 by presidential candidate George Corley Wallace at a campaign rally, and a few days ago by President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, not a lot is said about the systematic looting of our money and property by corporations and the wealthy through tax breaks, tax shelters, special rules, deregulation, and the highly under-reported and frequently used eminent domain (for dams, condos, fracking, pipelines, border walls, shopping malls, golf courses, etc.) See: Wikipedia and also see 7 Maddening Examples.

Scavengers - of all kinds - aren't good.

But you know something? Scavengers only show up after the killers have done their work. "Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather." (Matthew 24:28)

9 comments:

O'Neil De Noux said...

OK Eve. Yours made it up and mine looks OK for tomorrow. All right. Love your posting. One additions. If you stop to pick a turtle up off the road put it across the road in the direction it was headed. Otherwise, it'll just start back across the road again. Discovered that by accident.

As for one of my favorites, "Dead Skunk (in the Middle of the Road)" –
I found it on YouTube one night as we babysat our granddaughters (ages 7 and 3). The following day their mother called and said they begged her to find the dead skunk song on YouTube. It's one of their favorites now.

Eve Fisher said...

Thanks O'Neil. I'm looking forward to reading yours tomorrow.
Yeah, I've learned that about turtles - you've got to put it where it was headed. And I have loved Loudon Wainwright III for years. His "Crime of Passion" is certainly not for the faint of heart. :)

janice law said...

Amen! Fortunately the big snapping turtles I saw today were safe on the old rail line laying their eggs.

Robert Lopresti said...

Good piece, as usual. Do you remember the turtle in chapter 3 of The Grapes of Wrath? Very memorable and relevant.

I have hit and killed deer twice, both more than thirty years ago. As a bicyclist I have played crossing guard for deer (as recently as yesterday), waving at oncoming cars to make sure they saw Bambi by the side of the road.

Leigh Lundin said...

… fluid gratitude …

Your aliens cracked me up. But of course the topic didn't. An elk suicided on my car a couple of years ago. There's no joy in that.

In Minnesota, I too noticed a tendency of some ƒ-tards deliberately mashing small crossers, particularly turtles and tortoises. Wow, what big heroes, able to hit a target moving at 0.0002mph.

Don Coffin said...

In the last week, we've had 2 chipmunks and a robin left for dead on the private road in the development in which we live. The median age is well over 60, so I'm guessing slow reaction time (clearly not fast driving) and suicidal chipmunks. I really don't understand how the robin bought the farm.

Elizabeth said...

My parents were driving around in rural Maryland 40+ years ago & he hit a deer. He walked a few hundred feet to the nearest house & asked to use the phone. The house belonged to a black couple. He told them he had killed a deer & wanted to notify the police. They asked him for the deer & he told them they were welcome to it, but when the police arrived they said they needed it for "evidence".

Where I live, in Buffalo, there are lots of deer around & every time I see one, I'm shocked at how thin it is.

Eve Fisher said...

The deer are thin up here, too, Elizabeth. Hard times, I suppose.
As for snapping turtles, Janice - you have to use a stick to herd them, not pick them up.
Rob, yes - the GOW turtle is very relevant.
Thanks, Don, Leigh - and yes, I'll never understand people deliberately running over small animals.

Jeff Baker said...

I drove delivery runs for about thirty years, the last one about 400 miles every workday around rural Kansas and I would see evidence of collisions with wildlife all the time.