Friday, November 29, 2013

How odd—wildlife attached to the underbelly of my car.

When I was parked along the street at my niece's house day before yesterday, someone asked me, "What are you dragging?" I didn't know what she was talking about until she pointed out what looked like a big piece of meat hanging from the back axle. And, as it turns out, that is what it was.

When I was driving through Wyoming in the wee hours Wednesday morning, I saw huge blood stains on the highway extending for about a quarter of a mile. What I didn't see until too late to swerve and miss it was the carcass of an elk. I'm pretty sure it was an elk judging from the color and size, though I couldn't see the head, just a brown heap. I turned enough that when I ran over it, it went under the right side of my minivan, just inside the tires. It whumped pretty loud as it hit the undercarriage but not enough to do any damage. I didn't even stop to look, as it was very dark and I didn't have a flashlight. The car drove just fine and I don't see any damage.

I drove my car to my sister's house, and using her garden hoe, lifted the substance from where it was draped over the back axle. When stretched out it was about a yard long and fanned out a foot or so wide—a piece of roughed up muscle and tendons and/or ligaments. My sister noticed splatters of blood on the hood of my car. "You sure you aren't the one who hit the elk first?" she teased. I wasn't, thank goodness. But it was a fresh kill, and probably by a big truck. If a car had hit it, the car would surely have been disabled and the occupants most likely injured, if not killed. Emergency vehicles would have been called, and the elk would have been removed from the middle of the lane.

That was the most interesting part of my mostly uneventful drive to Colorado, and one I'd pretty much forgotten until the evidence was found dragging under my car.

It reminded me, however, of a discovery the day before when I had my oil changed in Bozeman. The young man who did the work showed me what he'd found hanging near the oil pan. He thought at first that it was a rope or gasket of some kind. When he pulled on it, it broke off. He was amazed almost to the point of disbelief at what he saw, so he managed to get hold of the piece still hanging and fish out another length of it. "I tried to find the head, but couldn't," he told me.

It was a snake. A rattlesnake, I'm sure from the pattern on the skin. It was about as big around as my little finger and very dried out.

I cannot explain how it got there, or why it died there. I have found small rattlers near where I park my car a couple of times before. I usually just scoop them up with a shovel and carry them to a neighboring pasture a long way from the house and drop them into the soft grass so they can go about their lives.

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