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Archive for the ‘Road Kill’ Category

All my life as I have had run-ins, run-overs and near-misses with wildlife, I always thought – “Oh, they’re so dumb, oh, maybe they’re deaf and didn’t hear me, oh, maybe they were young and inexperienced in the ways of automobiles.”  Yesterday, I had another near miss with a wild turkey.  The circumstances made me wonder if, like us, some critters are simply depressed and suicidal.  What can they do?  They have no hotlines to call for help.  The mountain road I was traveling has maybe one car on it every half hour, if that.  She had twenty-nine other minutes to leisurely cross, but she chose the instant I was coming by.  Inexplicable stupidity or death wish?  I braked and missed her.  Was she relieved to have a second chance at her birdy little life or angry to have to await another vehicle?  She ruffled her tail feathers at me.

I suppose we’ll never know for sure, but I believe the evidence is stacking up.  My daughter called me one Easter night in an uncustomary, semi-hysterical state.  She had been driving home when, according to her, the largest rabbit she had ever seen hopped in front of her car and, well, then he was the flattest rabbit she had ever seen.  She kept telling me she had killed the Easter Bunny.  She was certain.  So, was he just bummed out about delivering all those eggs?  It was his busiest day of the year.  Had he just had enough and snapped?  It was a four-lane highway; not exactly bunny territory.

I myself performed an assisted suicide on two mourning doves.  This pair must have had a pact.  Maybe their moms and dads were opposed to their relationship.  I only know they placed themselves just below a rise in the road, beyond my field of visibility.  I came over that rise, and they saw me when I saw them.  Have you ever watched doves take off?  It’s not exactly speedy.  I caught them both in my front grill.  It was gruesome.  I laid them off the road and went on my way to my appointment thinking I’d never be caught.  Luck was not with me.  When I pulled up in front of my client’s business, he was standing outside.  I got out of the car, and he said, “So how many birds did you slaughter this morning?”  The evidentiary feathers were still stuck in my grill.

I was playing golf once on a beautiful summer day, when one of my golf partners hit a lovely arcing second shot on a par five.  She brought down a robin,  about fifteen feet off the ground, in mid flight…a fairway fatality.  Coincidence?  Hmmmm.

Squirrels are the worst at getting in your way, but I contend they are just stupid and believe they simply like to play chicken with cars.  The other flat little squirrel bodies regularly scattered about don’t seem to deter them from their games.  Ergo, my conclusion of stupid.  I think they’d need a bigger brain to have feelings of low self-esteem and depression so I don’t believe squirrels are suicidal.  As to everything else, I’m open to the possibility.

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This may not technically be part of the Road Kill series, but it’s quite a story, none the less:

THE ONE-EYED OWL

Long ago I worked for Doubleday.  Each Christmas the company hosted a grand and extravagant party for all employees and spouses.  I happened to be dating someone I worked with.  He had a rental car that evening, in that he had been designated to pick up all the New York VIP’s from the airport and shuttle them to the hotel before coming for me.  He had a perfectly respectable vehicle, but these guys went first class and weren’t made to ride in a mere manager’s car.

The party was always top-drawer and perfectly hosted, with fabulous and plentiful door prizes, unbelievable food, much merry mingling, live entertainment, wild dancing and copious amounts of alcohol.  It was always at Hershey’s Parkview, a beautiful venue.  Cocktails began at six.  Since this was before the era of MADD and stringent drunk-driving laws, we drank ourselves silly without much of a care.  Yes, people drank, smoked cigarettes and rode motorcycles without helmets.  We were certainly living on the edge.  It was just that – so was everyone else.  It was the early 70’s…just past the free love 60’s.

My date, Galen, was driving me home at 3:00 am.  The night was inky black.  There was no moon.  We had just turned off the highway unto a rural road, when the car was jolted like nothing I’d ever felt before.  We hadn’t seen a thing but had heard a loud THUD when we impacted something.  Slowly we crept another half mile up the road before pulling over.

Galen was suddenly quite sober, and in a state of panic.  “What did we hit?  What was that?  It was something big.  What if I hit someone?  Did you see what it was?”  These questions flew at me in quick succession.

When he took a breath, I said, “I didn’t see anything, and no one would be out walking in the middle of the night on this road.

Looking back we couldn’t see anything, but it was dark.  We turned the car around and slowly drove back.  He was relieved when he saw nothing.  He didn’t, but I did.

I said, “Pull over right here.”  I got out and walked a short distance to see what the little shape was.  I cupped my hands around it and carried it back to the car.  I knew what I was holding, but I had never expected to have such a close encounter with one.

As I got back in the car, the overhead light went on and Galen asked, “What is it?  Is that what we hit?”

I said, “It’s a screech owl, and yes, I’m sure this is what we hit.  He must have been in a dive for a mouse or vole.  They can’t pull out of a dive, and we got in his way.”  Our little victim lay quietly on his back in my hands, eyes closed, but he was breathing.  I said, “We need to take him home with us.”

And so, a short time later we pulled into my driveway.  I had a small apartment above a garage on another country road.  I’m still gently holding the little guy.  Now it gets crazy.  Galen opened the door, again activating the overhead light and also the survival instincts of the owl.  He immediately jumped upright in my hands, spread his unbelievably enormous wings for such a cute little guy and glared at me with one good eye.  Looking at his strong beak, wingspread and claws, I quickly decided a distance of twelve inches from my face was entirely too close.   My brain apparently screamed, “Alert, Alert, Too Close, Too Close,” and my arms quickly shot out to their maximum length.  Luckily he did not attack or I might have been disfigured for life.  For some reason, I never thought to throw him or drop him.  He and I just faced each other down, probably both terrified.

He had lost his eye when he impacted the car.  I don’t mean it was missing, but it was an ugly opaque shade of solid ocher.  I felt terrible.  We left him in the car and went upstairs to try and get some sleep.  We would figure this out in the morning.

Galen had to have the car back to the rental agency by 11:00 am so we got up early to deal with the owl.  This turned out to be challenging.  We couldn’t find him.  He wasn’t anywhere inside the car.  He wasn’t Houdini Owl, so shortly we decided there was only one place he could have gone, and, yes, there he was, just barely visible inside the dashboard.  For about twenty minutes Galen tried to pull him out, but didn’t like the strikes the owl kept delivering.  Threatened, the owl went further under the dash until we couldn’t even see him.

Galen said, “That’s it.  I have to get the car back.  He’s going with it.”

I said, “You can’t return a rental car with an owl in the dashboard.  There must be some rule against that.”

My significant other was undeterred, telling me, “I don’t care.  The little shit is going to have to stay in there.  I can’t get him out and the car is due back.  I’m not going to be stupid enough to tell them he’s there.”

I’m incredulous.  I argued, “You can’t do that.  What if they rent the car to someone else, a family, and suddenly an owl flies out from under the dash.  They could have an accident and be killed.”  I guess he hadn’t thought this through because he now looked at me a bit more seriously…or was it sanely.

He said, “Well, what do you suggest we do?”

Before I had a chance to respond, Galen reached for the key, saying, “I’m going to roast the little sucker out.”  We turned the car on and set the heat on high.

Twenty minutes later we returned.  The car was like a sauna.  Our little friend could not be found.  He wasn’t under the dash.  Now Galen is cursing that he’s somewhere in the engine compartment, neither of us knowing if it’s even possible to get from under the dash into the engine.

I sat back and turned around.  There he was, sitting quite calmly on the backseat.  I picked him up.  I guessed by now we had bonded because there was no fear on his part or mine.  Galen was happy – no, ecstatic.  He left to return the car, and I took Little Owl upstairs.  These are the kinds of things that can happen when you drink and drive.  You end up with an owl living in your bathroom.

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Since I made some people a little weepy with the Casa Blanca Lilies story yesterday, I thought I’d follow it up on this lovely Sunday with one of my road kill yarns.  I have a number of them.  I don’t go around aiming for unaware creatures to maim and mutilate.  They just seem to find me and ruin my day.  In my defense, I don’t even like to kill bugs.

This particular incident ruined more than my day.  It’s been a few years and I still think about it.  I call it:

Be Careful Who’s In Your Backseat

A thirty-something daughter and her mother were looking for a horse farm in the Gettysburg area.  They weren’t even my clients.  These are the kind of things that can happen when you do someone a favor.  It was a gorgeous Sunday morning and I should have been home in bed, or at church.  Maybe that was the problem; I wasn’t in church.

Another Realtor in my office asked if I could show her clients three farms this particular Sunday morning.  She was going away for the weekend and couldn’t take them.  She assured me they were nice people and I said yes, I’d take them.

I had my little Audi then.  We started off with Daughter up front chatting with me and Mom in back…as in the seat immediately behind me.  They appeared normal, though Mom was quiet.

We left the first farm and headed for the next, turning from one quiet country road onto another.  It was quite buccolic.  I suddenly had a great sense of well-being and felt euphoric that I had gotten up early on such a beautiful day.  That’s when it happened.  Doesn’t it always?

Faster than you could say, “What the?”, a small fawn was in front of my car.  I knew he had jumped from somewhere, but it was more like he had materialized from thin air.  I rumbled over him like he was a mere twig.  There had been no time to brake or even swerve.  It was a sickening sound and my stomach went from happy to queasy in seconds.

Looking back, I didn’t see him, but I pulled over to investigate the horror I had caused.  Daughter jumped out of the car and walked back with me.  He was beautiful but sadly mangled and lay in a grassy ditch fighting for his last little gasps of his short life.  I really wanted to cry (seriously, like a baby), but this stranger was beside me and I feared if I lost it there on the road, I would not recover anytime soon.  I was also awash in guilt for I was certain his mommy was watching from somewhere close, heartbroken, and fixing me with accusing, sorrowful brown eyes.

Suddenly, Mom is yelling at us from beside the car, “Is it dead?”

Daughter called back, “No.”

Mom yelled again, “Do you want me to kill it?  I can kill it.  I have my knife with me.”

I may have been mistaken, but the offer sounded almost gleeful and anticipatory.  My brain was silently screaming, “No, no I most certainly do not want you to kill it.  Stay back.  Don’t come any closer.”  I was ready to throw myself over my victim to protect him.

Daughter and I shook our heads no, perhaps guessing or hoping all would be over in seconds without Mom’s help.

Mom calls out again, “Are you sure?”

Yes, yes I was very sure – stay away!  Well, Bambi expired just then thankfully, which was good because I knew he was suffering.  I said a prayer thanking God for taking him and not the Mom from Deliverance in my backseat.

We continued on because:  1.  it’s my job;  2.  I was in shock;  3. they seemed unfazed.

The entire time, I’m now thinking, I don’t know these people, I don’t know anything about the woman sitting within arm’s reach behind me and she has a knife on her person big enough to kill a deer.

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