In Mountain State, country roads bring me home cookin'

February 09, 1998

In Mountain State, country roads bring me home cookin'

Oh, I wish I were some West Virginia road kill

That is what I'd truly like to be-ee-ee.

Because if I were some West Virginia road kill

You could roast my hide quite le-ga-lly.

Or soon, anyway. Since I am often unjustly accused of stretching the truth, I will quote directly from the Associated Press in Charleston, W.Va.:

"A state Senate committee approved a proposal Monday that would legalize immediately collecting and eating animals killed while running in front of vehicles.


"Proponents said that if drivers can be encouraged to eat their road kill, the state could save paying highway workers to remove the carcasses.

"People now can take possession only after they've contacted authorities, which 'can take hours, and the thing's spoiled by then,' said sponsoring Sen. Leonard Anderson. 'They need to be able to pick it up and take it home immediately,' '' the Associated Press reported.

Gee. You mean all those times I've popped a raccoon and thrown the bleeding carcass directly into the back seat without calling The Man I've been breaking the law? Apparently so. But pray, which authority does one contact when one plugs a critter? The emergency room? The DNR? "Could you patch me through to the road kill division, please?"

The police? "Yes, officer, the rodent was northbound on W.Va. 9, when he failed to negotiate a curve, lost control of his claws and crossed the center line where he impacted with Vehicle A causing substantial trauma in and around the snout."

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?

A. To show the groundhog it could be done.

To be honest, I'd never thought much about the administrative delays which might be involved in hitting a woodchuck. I understand that God knows when the tiniest sparrow falls from the skies, but I never realized the West Virginia Department of Highways did too.

So it's easy to sympathize with Sen. Anderson's fear that bureaucratic delays might cause the meat to spoil - obviously, for prime flavor you want to get the beast from your grille to your grill as rapidly as possible. Imagine if you put a package of hamburger out on the counter and decided you wouldn't cook it until you had cleared up a little matter with the State of Maryland Tax Office. Your neighbors would be calling the coroner's office to report the smell.

There's a more immediate problem, though, especially on a busy highway where issues of accelerated spoilage are secondary to issues of accelerated carnage. You could watch your filet of possum disintegrate into possum stew in the space of five or 10 cars.

Which begs the question, is it legal to move the body off to the side of the road so it will be better-preserved while you scoot off phone the road kill police? Can you leave a little chalk outline for the investigators, or must you be content to fence off the corpse with yellow "crime scene" tape?

I drive a lot and figure I've seen about a million critters that have been fitted with a tread-mark toupee. And given the condition they're in, it isn't a matter so much of not wanting to eat it, it's a matter of not even wanting to touch it. When a 10-ounce squirrel comes in contact with a two-ton car, the only use it's going to be is to the toothless person who needs to ingest his meat through a straw.

And what do you do if you're, say, out on a date.

As chance would have it, you hit the biggest, meatiest rabbit you've ever laid tires on. Do you risk it? Do you reach for the spatula that you routinely carry in the glove box and excuse yourself as she watches horrified from the side of the road?

"Don't worry," you tell her as you get back in the car, flicking swatches of fur from your lapel. "This is West Virginia - it's all niiiiiice and legal."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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