Clumsy beasts

I was on my way home after a rather long day. Wednesdays are always a bit of a drain, as I teach my regular day job, and then I teach at university, and then I drive home a bit tired at night.

I am happy by the time I turn onto the last road that leads to my house. It's probably some seven clicks long, and all country, with very little traffic. It's a bit bumpy, with a few small hills, but still relaxing. I do need to watch out for wildlife though, especially at night. There's no speeding here, and I've often had to break for deer crossing the road. Yes, it would cause quite the damage on my little Kia car, but that's not my main concern; I just don't want to hurt anything.

I don't own a fly-swatter. I'm one to catch flies by hand (yes, I am still fast enough and rarely fail if I try), and then take them out of my house for release despite the fact they've really annoyed me inside, but I digress.

I was driving home, watching as always for that night-time glint of critter eyes, and I was feeling quite good about things as I topped a blind hill; I had barely a second's chance to react to the Racoon that was crossing. In that split second, my tires screeched, and I swerved dangerously close to the ditch. A whole lot goes through one's mind in such short time, and under stress, though nothing much else of consequence than self-preservation in most. For me it was a combination of that, and the fact that another life was about to end.

That brief time seemed so long, but in truth I knew it was but a fraction of a second, and I also knew that I had put myself in danger through my reaction. My tires briefly touched the gravel shoulder and the car began to slip on the bearing-like pebbles when I finally and quickly righted my car. In that second, I wondered why I had not heard anything. Maybe the animal had turned back at the last second? It was then I heard and felt that awful "kadonk." It's head probably hit first, and then it's body. Can you understand that I ran this scenario through my mind many times!

I guess it's one of those hazards of living in the country. I put one hand on my forehead in … what was I thinking just then? I think I swore! Maybe it was sadness at what happened, and anger at what I had done. I thought maybe the creature was just dazed and would soon get up, lick it's wounds and walk off into some forest to … no, I didn't believe that.

During week, oddly enough, I had had been thinking that the mild weather we were having would prompt some critters to come out of hibernation, and such critters would be rather groggy. Should I learn to recognize such thoughts as warnings? Premonitions? Intuitions? I continued driving several minutes, for I was close to home. I don't quite remember what else I thought except that I felt terrible for what had happened; yet I drove on?

I have no qualms about killing an animal, respectfully, but there needs be a purpose. I was in Newfoundland in the summer of 2009. I had just pulled into a protected inlet to camp after having paddled hard over unfamiliar and rough waters for some three hours, and I was tired. I had not eaten all day, save for breakfast, and I was looking forward to preparing some dried soup. I looked out on the beach and noticed unusual shimmering silver things on the shore, and there were thousands of them; the Newfoundland Capeland had come in.

They're a fish smaller than a Sardine (I think since I've never seen a live Sardine), and an American woman who spent her summers in a coastal village (Chance Harbour) said the fish were late arriving that year. The Capeland decided the come in this very evening, and I was starved. I collected so many (probably two handfuls, if not more). Some of the fish were dead on the shore, and others were still struggling to get back in the water. The sea birds were having a feast also. Though I collected too many, I ate every last one of the ones I gathered, which is where I will justify a kill; not without cause, and nothing to waste.

I drove on, thinking about what had happened. I thought eventually it would end up smashed to nothing more than a bit of leather and some fur, which is the way of most roadkill. It was about this time that I remembered a poem I read long ago. I could neither remember the words nor the title, and I've since tried in vein to search for it on the Internet. The gist of it though, I do remember.

It had to do with the eyes of creatures being the windows to the soul. It spoke of the souls of other animals, killed on the road, looking back through the last reflections of life through their eyes and pleading for a more fitting end to their bodies than to be pummelled to a pulp by mechanical monstrosities. To be killed and eaten was an honourable death, but to be spread across the road was such a waste, and a dishonour.

I stopped, turned around in someone's driveway, and returned to the scene, perhaps as a criminal returns to the scene of a crime. No! It wasn't like that at all, for I knew my purpose was not to hide what I had done. I did not know what state the body would be in, but luckily it was still whole, and yet untouched by other vehicles.

In hindsight, it was all too unceremonious. I half-hoped the animal would not be on the road. Maybe it had survived and moved on. I came up to one small hill and saw nothing, and I briefly thought that it had been thrown into the ditch by the impact. Then I realized this was not the hill where I had hit it, and I continued to the next hill where I found it on the roadway divider. I looked at it briefly, said "I'm sorry," and then I took the carcass by it's tail, lifted it and moved it into the ditch. There were cars coming, and so the movement was rather fast. I stepped into my car, and drove home to greet my cat with the news of what I had done.

Respect? Judge me you will? Please judge me!

What would you do in a similar situation? Would you leave the thing and drive on? In my early twenties, I ran over a rabbit, and I didn't know any better. I have now killed two racoons in the past ten years, and both times I've moved their bodies off the road. Philosophically, and in my mind at least, it is a more fitting end to their bodies to be found as carion.

Gods! In our cars, we are such clumsy beasts!