They call it roadkill. I call it both disgusting and sad. As a taxpayer, each time I see a dead animal along the road, which in the country is many times a day, I am furious.
In one 10-mile stretch of highway last week, the count was incredible. I find those sights and smells along the roadside disheartening.
There was a large deer still in its dramatic death repose. In addition, there were several raccoons, a possum, one skunk, one dog, and two cats. While most animals are smashed to smithereens, deer, show little signs of body damage.
They often appear as if they could get up and run into the field. Perhaps that's why my greatest sympathy goes to the deer that meet their fate in highway accidents. They are such beautiful animals.
If this were a debate, the deer argument is predictable. The fewer deer in these parts, the better, many would say. After all, they do eat the corn and other crops and the damage they do to an automobile when they are hit is not only costly, but can be dangerous to the occupants.
Certainly all of the animals seen on the 10-mile stretch of road were not killed the day I counted them. Because they are not disposed of, after a few weeks the bodies add up.
Are the animals running more slowly to cross the road, or are drivers speeding with little regard for the rabbit that thinks the grass is greener on the other side, or the raccoon that is sure there's a ripe tomato in the garden on the other side of the road, or a barn cat that has its tastebuds set on a mouse in a distant field?
Perhaps it's a little of both. Though I find squirrels obnoxious when they eat bird feed or chew the backyard feeders, I do dodge to miss one in the road if at all possible.
It behooves night drivers on back roads to be on the lookout for deer. Though they may pop out of the woods during the day, they are more apt to seek the safety of darkness.
I can be counted among animal devotees who imagine sad tales of grieving animal families. I am sure that back in the woods there is a doe saddened by the death of the buck deer.
It was easy to figure out what happened to the young raccoons that were killed in the center of the road. Obviously one had followed the other and both were hit by the same car. Chances are their parents were in the lead and made it to safety.
Mother rabbits that never return to their brood of little ones is another tale I spin while driving the country roads, where the problem seems to increase each year. Dead dogs and cats of course tear me up, and I am thankful that mine stay out of the road, though Digby has been tempted to investigate roadkill on the other side of our road and bring it home. Was he spanked? You bet.
People who make a poor stab at humor about animal roadkill are almost as disgusting as the animals that litter the public highways. Roadkill cookbooks are distasteful. And the high school students who, as an end-of-the- school-year prank, gathered dead animals, took them to school, and scattered them around the school yard were not funny.
Is it time to bring back the community-service custom of disposing of animals? Roadkill is not a new problem, but apparently it is no longer the issue with government agencies that it once was. Volunteer members of community and church groups who agree to keep clean specific sections of a highway, as is noted on signs, do yeomen jobs picking up pop and beer bottles, cans, and other litter the thoughtless citizens throw to the four winds. Surely the volunteers must dislike being compelled to step over the dead animals that no doubt will still be there on their next cleanup round.
A road commission employee explained that large dead animals that are obstructing traffic are pushed to the side of the road and left to rot. The vultures get them, she consoled.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.