Kathleen Clary Miller has written 300+ columns and stories for periodicals both local and national, and has authored three books (www.amazon.com/author/millerkathleenclary). She lives in the woods of the Ninemile Valley, thirty miles west of Missoula.
Before I moved to Montana, I lived in San Juan Capistrano; was born and raised in Pasadena and spent every summer in Newport Beach, California. We went to dinner at El Cholo and California Pizza Kitchen. We supped on clam chowder at the Crab Cooker. Enjoyed fresh seafood and sizzling steaks at any number of popular eateries on Pacific Coast Highway. If on the drive home we spotted a dead cat or dog on the road, we lamented for the pet owner and wondered how long it would take for Southern California coyotes to scavenge. Skunks only warranted pinched nostrils, since not even coyotes wanted those.
Now I live in Montana, and when company’s coming, I need no longer travel from my cabin in the woods thirty miles over dirt roads and across open highway to Missoula to the market, where I pay a high price for gourmet groceries organically grown and locally farm fed.
Legislation that cleared the state Senate in March, if it gets a nod from the governor, will allow me the pick of any animal dead on the road. On one condition: The “Roadkill bill” (HB 247) points out that the bear, elk, deer, or mountain lion I heave into the open hatchback of my Toyota 4Runner has to have been accidentally slain. Where’s the sport in that?
Something tells me “accidental” might be rather difficult to prove, providing I can negotiate a speedy escape from the scene of the alleged crime so I have enough time to scour the front bumper before my dinner guests arrive.
I needn’t be concerned with spoilage in the winter months that boast high temperatures of -12 degrees, but summer here is bit trickier, and determining time of death will be left to the discretion of the scavenger. A picky eater, I am not partial to scraping up the remains of a fawn that has qualified as carcass for a long hot day in the sun. How will I know at the next neighborhood potluck that Sally with the slow cooker filled to the brim with “meat stew” didn’t?
The problem with my serving such repast is that I will undoubtedly have to taste it before deeming it entrée-worthy. Last summer an adult blue heron with the wing span of a 747 slammed into my front windshield, rolled across the roof of the car, and bounced hard behind me on the highway, leaving a wake of bloody innards and feathers that no windshield washer could address. I wonder; with a little salt and paprika, could it have passed for chicken? What’s more, if I dish up I-90 deer I will necessarily have to gobble down my ill-got game, right along with my guests… or suddenly claim vegan.
Another reason for the governor to cap his pen is the additional road hazard. Now I not only have to swerve for darting wildlife but also when the other housewife having unexpected houseguests swerves to kill rather than to avert. I can see state budget dollars being dedicated to the required highway sign: “Caution! Roadkiller Crossing!”
Still, I choose to look at the advantages: This bill could well be the solution to supermarket shopping stress, not to mention easy on the pocketbook. The “Roadkill bill” could be the answer to the chipmunk and squirrel plague I face in the spring and summer, since there are bound to be a serious number of “accidental deaths” on my driveway during that time.
It also addresses the squander of perfectly usable meat, so before everyone riles up to white-hot rage over my apparent flippancy, let me say that I don’t begrudge anyone else the bounty. In an era wherein most of us toss enough leftover food into the trash bin to feed another family, it is indeed laudatory that the food bank can provide additional meals before the vultures hover. As a friend of mine commented when she read about the law, “Waste not; want not. Although I want not to eat it.”
At the very least, this legislation would put a crimp on the Montana hunting culturist’s twist on the original constitutional purpose for the right to bear arms. How futile to argue against gun control based on the need to be properly armed for deer, bear, and elk seasons! Who needs a gun when you’ve got your truck?
Depending on which way the bill bounces, I plan to invite the governor to my house for a campaign fundraiser dinner.