For the Squirrels

September is Kill a Squirrel on Your Way to Work Month. Or so it would seem from the looks of it. Each day that we travel the 3.5 miles out to Highway 29, the road is freshly littered with furry little carcasses, as though an ogre has collected baskets full of them and is strewing them merrily along the aisle like so many rose petals before some unthinkable bride.

As autumn approaches and the oaks and hickories drop their copious fruit, the squirrels—more berserk than ever— dart about in their perilous zigzag, back and forth in front or between the tires of our car, and even my bicycle at times, threatening our lives and their own for the sake of an acorn.

Some make it, some don’t.

For those that do, we breathe a sigh of relief and, both hands on the wheel, drive a bit more slowly out to the highway. For those that don’t… well, that takes a little more time.

I have a long-standing policy of removing dead carcasses from the road, safety permitting. I do this for two reasons.

1. To give them a more dignified decomposition. Given the choice of being laid out beneath the shade of a cool forest, or being ground beneath the tires of countless cars and trucks into a greasy spot in the asphalt, I would choose the former.

“Why bother?” a friend once said. “They’re dead already.”

I wouldn’t feel that way if there were a human lying in the road, say my cousin, or a great aunt even. Wouldn’t I at least drag them to the side? I like to think I would. Same for the animals.

2. To keep the kids on the school bus from starting their day witnessing the results of the previous night’s carnage. When I was a kid, it made me sad to see a dead dog or cat in the road, or a deer, possum or raccoon. The image and the sadness would hang on me all day. So when I got older, I’d move the deceased just inside the woods, just outside of view of the kids on the bus. If the animal has a collar, I collect the information, contact the owner and gently break the news.

This later translated to my own kids. On weekdays, I was always first to leave the house. This gave me a chance to clear the road of its morning grief before their carpool shuttled them off for the day. Our learn-everything-as-it-happens world of technology offers enough sad visuals. Let our scenic road, at least, be a place of contentment.

So be on the lookout for a silver Prius, pulled slightly to one side of the road, emergency flashers blinking. It’s only me, going from one squirrel to the next, placing their limp bodies off to the side, offering a short apology for the speed of our world.

Thank God, September’s almost over.

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