Bay Reflection
On the Road
by Carolyn Stearns

You've probably seen me riding my bicycle up and down Rts. 256, 258 and 2. Sometimes I bicycle as far away as 214. Sometimes I only go as far as the library. Lately, I know I'm being noticed because people come up to me saying, "Aren't you the bike rider?" or "Didn't I just pass you on the road, way back at Rt. 2?" Probably so.

Bike riding is a lot more than physical exercise. I talk to myself a lot when I ride; my conversations help me to work out my problems. Always I travel with a pen and paper in my fanny pack so that as resolutions or new ideas come to me, I instantly write them down. As a writer, I find my bike riding time a creative part of my day.

This summer I created a "best corn" contest. I decided to taste the corn from all the outdoor vendors along my many bicycle routes. By the way, Vernon on Muddy Creek Road wins hands down. He had white corn that was consistently fresh all summer.

Sometimes I am a rescuer; I stop to assist box turtles that are determined to cross the highway. Every day I find road kill. I never get used to removing bodies of animals that didn't have enough warning of impending doom to close their eyes. I move it from the roadway and place it in the woods or under a bush along the side of the road.

I pick up a lot of squirrels, rabbits and possums. I can tell whose mating season it is because of the road kill I find. I frequently pick up raccoons and occasionally fox pups. Sometimes I pick up a domesticated cat; rarely a dog. One day, going over the Deale bridge over Rockhold Creek, I found a female mallard duck. The next day I removed a male mallard. I still wonder if this was a mated pair. Only once have I found a deer. I had to call the highway department for help; the deer was full grown and too heavy for me to move alone. Occasionally I remove a sea gull or other birds; once or twice a snake.

Always when I move them, I cover them with a wild flower, and always I say thank you. I never bury road kill because I know it will be eaten and gone within a few days.

I feel sad each time. I find their dying hard to accept because a dead creature can't learn anything. Years ago at my Canadian lake retreat in Ontario, we had a terrible time with porcupines that ate at the foundations of the cottages. All the cottagers were shooting them because we had all witnessed the destruction of an empty lake house by porcupines.

Then a friend said, "We mustn't shoot a porcupine because a dead porcupine can't learn anything." He put his 22 rifle away and pulled out his BB gun. That night when he was once again awakened by the chewing sound of porcupines, he stung them with BBs. The porcupines went running off, back into the woods. I'm sure they warned their porcupine friends because my friend never had porcupines chewing on his house again.

But harder than moving a dead animal, reptile or bird is watching a motorist whiz by with the intention of flattening out the body of a creature that has already been killed, or worse, with the intention of killing an animal, particularly squirrels (occasionally a turtle if they get to it before I do). I don't understand the impulse and never will.

I invite you to honk the next time you see me bicycling along so that I know you are alert for live animals in the road. I'm the woman who wears the baseball cap under my helmet. And if you can, please drive with the intention of braking for animals. They are only trying to get to another part of their domain.


Carolyn Stearns' children's book Where Did All the Water Go? has just been published by Tidewater Press. The story first appeared in New Bay Times.

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VolumeVI Number 42
October 22-28, 1998
New Bay Times

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