Thursday, August 28, 2008

Suicidal Wildlife

I have to drive about 15 miles through the country to get to work. It's a lovely drive in the morning, with lots of beautiful scenery and farms and fields and forests. In the evening it's an altogether different story. Right now my homeward route takes me on the road right at dusk, and I must say that fifteen miles seems like fifty when you're dealing with all manner of suicidal wildlife!

You expect the crazy animals (yes, I'm anthorpomorphizing here... endulge me, ok?) like the squirrels to play their game of chicken. You know what I'm talking about - they stand in the middle of the road and stare you down until you are about to plow over them, then they dart to one side (and hopefully NOT the side you're swerving towards to avoid the animal in the first place!) You even expect that with the larger critters like groundhogs and possums. And unfortunately for them, they are neither as quick nor as canny as the squirrels. And they're also LARGER, which means you, the driver, are more likely to swerve to avoid having to clean your vehicle's undercarriage. The frogs are a bit more challenging - you can sometimes see them hopping across the tarmac, but more often you only hear a tiny "squimph" as you careen over their squished bodies. And really, there's no way to avoid those anyway.

Then there are the deer. Bambi also has a death wish. Fortunately for me (because I drive a tiny Ford Focus) they prefer to wait, poised on the side of the road, for that F350 to zoom by before making their leap. Unfortunately for me, there are a lot of them. And I worry continually that Faline will someday consider it a challenge and see just how Ford-tough my car really is.

The bugs, of course, have plastered themselves so thickly on my front grille and windshield that I really should wash my car every day. And it's the bugs that bring my greatest problem during my dusky commute. The BATS.

Bats are supposed to be smart, right? They have that sonar thing going for them. They can fly, for crying out loud. So I can only conclude that they wish to commit suicide in the most thrill-seeking way possible - by colliding with my car. I counted at least a hundred bats on my drive home last night. What, you say? Bats are small, so how could I possibly count them while driving at 50 miles an hour? Ahh. That's simple. They were flying so close that they were getting caught in my slipstream!

These close encounters with the natural kind brought to mind a disturbing story I read many years ago. It's one by Stephen King called Mrs. Todd's Shortcut. In the story the main character (who appears to be taking "short cuts" through worlds not our own) finds on the front of her car a startling animal after one of her "jaunts" through the back woods. A dangerous-looking animal. One with teeth. One that would probably scare the bejeebers out of me if I saw something like what King describes. After considering my plight concerning terrestrial animals (stupid, suicidal ones, yes, but terrestrial nonetheless) I will be thankful that I find nothing but moths, dragonflies and the occasional bat on my front grille.

Finally, I must not neglect to mention the cattle. I pass several cattle farms, ones where the fences are right up against the road. Almost every night, all those creatures will be close to the fence, as though they were rubberneckers of an accident waiting to happen. I am reminded again of something I read, this time Gary Larson's "The Far Side". There's a particular comic about "what cows do when no one's looking" where you see in the first pane cows standing (on two legs, mind you) in a field next to the fence reading the paper, playing cards, smoking, drinking a beer. The next pane shows a cow (apparently on lookout) yell "CAR!" The last pane has a car driving by, with all the cows down on all fours, looking suspiciously normal.

So that's it, then. The cows are watching the road while playing poker and relaxing with a nightcap, taking bets on which fellow creatures will manage to smash themselves into the next poor slob that drives by. Let's just hope it's not me!

1 comment:

Blondie said...

We have the deer problem, too. I feel very fortunate that we have never collided with one, as I am not sure which of us would win.
Bats, however, are a new one on me! If I didn't know better, I'd think you live in Transylvania!
I am glad that you are enjoying your new position and that your husband is heading back into a teaching position!