I enjoy about many things about sharing my days with Willie, and our daily walks together offer many opportunities for new experiences. Though we walk the same routes each day, these sojourns are never boring or static; we wave and wag at a few neighbors, we see many deer and wild turkeys, and one of our neighbors has a fenced yard filled with goats and chickens, all of whom rush the fence as we approach, thinking we’ve come to feed them. But a fair percentage of the wildlife we see each day is not on the hoof or on the wing, but on the road. Flattened.
The county repaved our road this summer, resulting in a surface so clean and so tar black it’s like a freshly washed chalkboard. The contrast of the double yellow line in its center and the single, pure white lines marking each shoulder is so great that the paint seems illuminated from below. This pristine new road surface makes each encountered bit of roadkill pop as if it were a botanical specimen ready for labeling; a pressed leaf ready for a frame.
Willie is, of course, magnetically drawn to each of these “specimens,” sniffing and pawing at every one we encounter. As we explore our world each morning we pause to take in each flattened little critter, most of them remarkably intact and identifiable, despite being run over multiple times, and squashed thin as a slice of bacon.
Our morning’s entertainment – and Willie’s quest – is to find and examine every new specimen on the road, each critter that appears to have been put through a cartoon wringer. Here’s a flattened bird whose beak resembles a Dorito chip; there’s a squirrel, mostly now one with the pavement, whose tail still flutters like a flag in the breeze.
The roadkills that have been in the sun for a few days – the painted turtles, the snakes — dry out like sentimental souvenir keepsakes pressed like flowers or clovers between the pages of a book. Willie pauses to nose and paw at these enticing bits of frog jerky or flattened chipmunk, to him a tasty treat and, presumably, a break from the monotony of the high-quality brown rice and bison pellets he eats twice each day. I allow him to browse and explore these discoveries, but try not to allow him to sample the merchandise, thinking it best – and only fair — to leave them for our neighborhood vultures.