Written by: SARA SHERMAN
Growing up in a farm town, you begin to understand the “circle of life” pretty early on. My best friend growing up would show sheep at the county fair, and then cry every year as they were sold off for… you know. But she did it again and again because that’s how the world works, and she loved doing it.
I also grew up among Midwestern wildlife. Sometimes that wildlife would end up as roadkill on the interstate or in town. I’m that person who slows down for a squirrel or bunny scurrying across the road and have been known to brake for a bird that is seemingly ready to fly into my windshield. I also tend to talk to the animals as if they can hear me: “Hurry up, little squirrel!” or, with increasing volume, “Oh my gosh, BIRD DON’T HIT ME!!” I thought I had seen it all when it came to roadkill: squirrels, pheasants, raccoons, deer, rabbits, skunks. Even the occasional turkey had succumbed to the need to cross the road and had been squashed in the process.
Now that I’m on an island full of unfamiliar wildlife, I must say, the roadkill is quite unique here. My brain doesn’t stop saying, “DON’T KILL THE ANIMALS!!” just because I’m on a rock in the ocean; though my husband and I have different approaches to animal avoidance while driving. We have different approaches to driving too, but that’s a whole other story.
I slow down for iguanas. Have you ever seen an iguana run? It’s hysterical. It looks like your crazy Aunt Patty had one too many margaritas at the block party and then someone told her that the sparklers had caught her carefully puff-painted shirt on fire. Beyond that visual, running over an iguana is not pretty. I call roadkill iguanas the “island skunk” because they smell about as pleasant when they’ve been baking in the hot sun.
I’ve had my share of close calls with wildlife, including the darkened road and realization that you’re about to run over a land crab – CRUNCH. Oops. I slow down for the plethora of stray dogs and cats, obviously – no question. I’ve even seen a fish on the road – startlingly, not really anywhere near the ocean. I’m going to guess that a cat was dragging it around, or that it fell off a fisherman’s truck, because if fish can somehow get out of the ocean and walk around to be potential roadkill, my brain might explode.
A local bar has a menu item called “Smith Bay Nuggets”; read: the chicken that didn’t make it across the road. It’s all cute and funny until you realize they also have regular chicken nuggets on the menu. So where does that chicken come from? Seriously? I’d like to know.
My island Jeep, as it turns out, is a predator to chickens. They’re everywhere. And sometimes they have a group of chicks peeping away behind them, and it’s just too cute to handle. I’m always slowing down to avoid hitting the chickens, all while my disgruntled husband reminds me every time, “They’re chickens, they’ll move. Keep going!” So I’ve gotten better at forging ahead, and he’s right most of the time – the chickens do scatter pretty quickly. One morning, I thought I saw a regular old chicken trying to cross the road on a hill we travel each day. Dear husband and I had already been bickering, so I decided to speed ahead as to not aggravate the hostile passenger next to me. But as I got closer, too close to really do anything about it, I realized it was not a regular chicken.
It was a one-legged chicken. Hopping rather deftly on one tiny bird leg.
I couldn’t believe it. My instincts are to slow down for animals, but having been barked at to keep going one too many times, I’m pretty sure I closed my eyes and hit the gas, praying his one leg had bionic powers to get him out of the way in time. To my surprise, dear husband starts shouting, “DON’T HIT THE CHICKEN!!! IT ONLY HAS ONE LEG!!!” So, of course, I slam on the brakes, chicken now out of my sight in front of the Jeep, and start screaming, “DID I HIT IT!? DID I HIT IT!?”
No, I am happy to report than I did not contribute to island roadkill that day. That brave chicken continued hopping away into the bush, his one-legged chicken life spared for another day.
Life on an island will teach you many things about yourself, about your relationships, about your place in the world. My place in the world happens to be one that goes a little slower for animals and aggravates my husband. Besides, karma is real, and I’d hate to be the one on the other end of the Jeep.