Burton on the Bay:
Second Thoughts on Dinner
Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that those wants should be provided for by this wisdom.
-Edmund Burke, 1729-1797.
Wisdom, government, and in the same sentence? Maybe in Burke's time, but, hey, this is more than 200 years later.
And maybe there's some consolation for Marylanders in learning that our General Assembly, which builds stadiums that incur costly overruns at the expense of libraries, schools, the needy and other good causes, is not the only legislature prone to boners.
We in the so-called Free State have no lock on legislative absurdity. The plain folk of neighboring West Virginia, for instance, are blushing these days. The legislators aren't, of course, but their constituents are, what with the latest news generated from the state house.
When I called the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources the other day to inquire about the story, the helpful person who handled my question preferred not to be identified. Can't blame him; I'd be embarrassed, too. Why, one of the latest bills enacted even made USA Today.
Now non-office holding West Virginians are nice, decent people, so let's not blame them. But maybe we'd better have second thoughts about dining in the Mountain State.
Me, I'd decline the invitation and send a legislator in my stead.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Maybe you heard it on the news the other day, via radio that is; the boob tube rarely has news anymore - though this item is more fitting for television drivel. The West Virginia Legislature passed a bill to allow the possession of roadkill.
Which translates into the suggestion of roadkill for the table. Pardon me while I barf.
The most incredible thing about this is that it all came about while in their infinite wisdom, the Solons tried to correct a previous mistake, presumably thinking that two wrongs make a right.
Last year while trying to update game laws pertaining to the possession of wildlife out of season, the legislature ended up with a bill that banned possession of any species that was not in season at the time.
So, presumably if a father and three sons each got a deer in a given season, they'd have to consume it before that particular season ended. And if mother and sister also got a deer in the same season - two weeks for modern firearms - that family would have to do an awful lot of eating.
Or give the stuff away, feed it to the dogs, or whatever. Just as long as they didn't get caught with it stashed away in the domicile.
Thankfully, game wardens displayed more wisdom than their lawmakers and didn't go around checking family freezers. They did what many of us would like to do.
They ignored the law of their legislature. But one must give West Virginia legislators some credit. Unlike those of our General Assembly, they honestly tried to correct their mistake. Only trouble is, they ended up with a roadkill bill.
Don't ask me how it came about, but legislators work in curious ways.
So now there's a law that allows residents to claim any roadkill; the only requirement is that it be reported to a wildlife officer within 12 hours of the big thud, squash and the dented fender.
This seems reasonable for deer, or perhaps a black bear, maybe even one of West Virginia's wild boars. Many states now allow motorists to keep deer they bowl over on the highway, compensation you might say for the time and aggravation in filling out forms for the insurance company.
With big game, wildlife officers in Maryland as in other states welcomed changes in disposition of road kills. Time was - and not too long ago - when a deer was done in by the family jalopy, the driver or another motorist or perhaps a nearby resident called the local game warden, with notice of the kill - and the officer had no choice.
Whether in the midst of dinner, sleep or whatever, he was obliged to report to the scene promptly, dress out the deer, salvage any edible meat possible, then take it to a local hospital, jail or any other such institution where it would later appear on the menu.
For all his trouble, the game warden wasn't even allowed enough meat for a venison burger.
Come to think of it, in view of the shape some of the roadkill was in, he'd probably lost his appetite anyhow.
Now no one likes to see edible food go to waste, so salvaging big game seems appropriate - as long as the fine buck wasn't done in by a 20-wheeler racing down the interstate. But in West Virginia, the roadkill law applies to anything.
Squirrel pot pie, anyone? Hey, better make that stew.
You Kill It, You Grill It
Now in West Virginia they've got quite a situation. Say, you're driving down Route 21 wondering what you're going to have for supper what with no paycheck, a covey of hungry kids and no credit at the local grocery store - when what appears on the road but a plump wild turkey.
It's as easy to drive straight on, maybe veer a bit towards it - aim the bumper to the head. Presto, supper is solved. And there's leftovers for the next day or two.
The only cost is a call to the game warden and some sage for the stuffing.
The term roadkill has become increasingly popular of late. One small musical group adopted the name; even an entrepreneur or two have used it to merchandise food. When in Utah in '96 one of my best breakfasts while touring the hinterlands was at Jr's Roadkill Restaurant at Moab.
Jr. knew how to cook. He also knew how to have a bit of fun, sick fun you might say, especially in creating his menu. I had hotcakes, ham and a few eggs sunnyside up, but you had to go deep into the menu to find such fare.
The cover of the menu advertised You Kill It, We Grill It. The chefs name was Roadwarrior Ron, and there was a picture of him chasing down a rabbit in a Porsche convertible.
The daily special was Guess that Mess - and if you guessed right, the meal was free. The top of the menu was Center Line Bovine at $4.95, and said to be straight from the hood. Or there was The Chicken that Didn't Cross The Road at $3.95. Shake 'n Bake Snake was $2.25, Road Toad ala-Mode, $1.65.
Our waitress said that maybe a few times a year she heard objections to the menu, but only from tourists "and we cater to local people with a sense of humor - and who sometimes had previously accused us of serving roadkill. You can't take things too seriously around here."
How serious West Virginia legislators are taking their latest flub remains to be seen next year, but with their record I'd tend to leave worse enough alone. As they say back home in Vermont, "It's but little good you'll do a-watering the last year's crops."
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VolumeVI Number 10
March 12-18, 1998
New Bay Times
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