Sep 03 2009

Absent Friends: Face-to-Face With the Butcher’s Bill

 
Don’t turn away from the awful scene. Take a moment to reflect. To think about the life that was. It’s only right.

 
This porcupine died the day before I came by on my bike. Porcupines are docile beasts. They feel safe inside their coat of sharp quills. And they cannot move quickly enough to get out of the way. Their quills will do nothing to fend off tons off metal, glass, and rubber. This porky died hard. His back leg was snapped, he had internal injuries. Bits of his flesh and guts were ground into the pavement. Did he die before the vultures came to eat his entrails and remove his face? I sure hope his death was swift so he didn’t see the beaks coming at him or feel those first hunks of flesh and viscera being ripped out.

 

Absent Friend

 
A cloud of flies lifted away, but only for a moment. They’re doing well.

 

Absent Friend

 
The porcupine will never again bask on a cool morning as the warm sun burns fog off the fragrant fields and generous woodlands.

 

Absent Friend

 
Never again will he pad along in his solitary, deliberate way on leathery feet with strong toes.

 

Absent Friend

 
Gone forever. What does it matter? It matters to me. I hope it matters to you. After all, it could be someone you care about. Or it could be you.

 
Death is off stage for most people most of the time. We know it happens, and know it will happen to us. It’s one thing we cannot escape. But death is held at arm’s length, something we don’t like to think about or contemplate. Never more than when we drive the roads. How many animals do we kill when we drive? How many animals have you struck? Even the most careful driver is to blame for the deaths of living beings, from insects (who cares about those?) and frogs, to birds and mammals. How many do we unwittingly kill? I don’t know the answer to that question, but when I’m riding my bike I sure do see a depressing number of dead animals on the roads, and in many ways worse, I see maimed animals like turtles who are barely alive and suffering agonizing pain trapped inside smashed shells. I do what I can for the ones I find healthy and alive—I take them to the roadside, safe, I hope. I do what I can for those I find who are injured. Most I find are dead already.

It’s terribly sad to see their corpses. And I thought it was about time that people came face-to-face with the slaughter, that people step out from the climate-controlled vehicles that cause the unnecessary deaths. I’m not ghoulish. I don’t like shooting photos of these animals who are the relatives of the ones I have come to know. But I shouldn’t be one of the few who notice them, to see the gruesome bodies—or what’s left of them—and I shouldn’t be alone in smelling them. You don’t smell them as you drive past the flesh and bones at high speeds with the windows closed tight, the music blaring, and the air conditioner in full blow. I want everyone to see, to see the horrible wreckage that’s taken on an innocent population. It may make no difference to show these photos. You certainly can’t hear the flies buzzing nor can you smell the sweet, stomach-turning rot. These animals who have died doing nothing more than go about their business deserve a memorial. They deserve to be remembered. So before I take them to the side of the road among the colorful flowers and tall grasses, I’ll memorialize them with my camera. Someone should. For the living, the survivors.

 
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