Why did the chicken cross the road? One possibility is that it did so to prove to the opossum it could be done.
And by the looks of our roadsides this summer, opossums aren’t the only ones finding road crossings challenging. A recent, unscientific study conducted from the driver’s seat of my car, indicates there are an average of at least four flattened animals per mile of roadway. Those numbers greatly increase on Interstate highways.
This brings up some interesting questions: First of all, what would motivate a perfectly sane rabbit or raccoon to attempt to cross multiple lanes of speeding traffic, dodge gigantic semi-trailer trucks, numerous mini-vans and large recreational vehicles just to get to the other side? Perhaps they are not sane at all, but are the more unbalanced of their species. Maybe they are simply taking the most direct route to the nearest Fur Family Pharmacy to get their prescriptions for Prozac filled. Possibly enormous gambling debts at the Rabbit Hole Casino finally caught up with Pauly Porcupine and after a night of drinking with his buddies he makes the ill-fated decision to take the expressway home. Or maybe deer whistles actually sound like dinner bells to the deer. Could it be the victims of road death are simply the more introspective of the animal world and are attempting to peel back the layers of their existence to discover the inner-opossum or inner-raccoon? If so, I’d prefer they not share it with me.
Could the increase in road kill along our highways be the result of peer pressure or bullying? Are there animals that are bad influences on otherwise good and trusting raccoons and coyotes? Are the flattened and sun-swollen deer, skunks and bunnies we see along our highways victims of a cruel dare or inhumane teasing by their fellow animals? I can’t help but wonder how many of the rabbits, deer, skunks, raccoons and other animals I see laying lifeless along the shoulders of the road were actually unmercifully pushed. Is this proliferation of squashed animals along our roadways the result of survival of the fittest? Do the quick, the healthy and the strong make it across the ribbons of death leaving only the slow-witted and -footed to be struck down by an 18-wheeler heading west? Or is this a test of intelligence, much like our ACT’s or IQ tests? Those who pass get to move on to a higher level of learning, while those who do not, well, to look on the bright side, they don’t ever have to be tested again.
And I wonder if the animals that make it safely through the maze of SUVs and speeding semis are met by an irate parent asking, as many of ours have asked us after doing something carelessly stupid, “If all your friends ran across a busy highway, would you do it too?”
Maybe trying to get to the other side of the road is a form of high-adrenaline sport, like bungee jumping or skydiving is for us humans. Does opting for running across four-lanes of highway make any less sense than jumping off a bridge with a rubber band tied to your ankle?
But there is some comfort in knowing that not all of these fur and feathered friends have given their lives uselessly. A friend in Southern Georgia tells me that road kill is often considered dinner in her part of the country. As she explained it, if you were actually able to read the license number of the vehicle that struck the animal, then you can consider it “good eatin’”. If you did not get a good glimpse of what vehicle was the demise of that particular animal, then it is best to leave it where it lay.
I am relieved to learn there are such strict standards of freshness when scrapping dinner off the expressway. But, I think I’ll pass. If my appetite ever returns I’m sure there’s a fast food drive-thru just down the road. After all, you know what they say, “It always tastes better when someone else cooks it.”