Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Small Memory in Idaho #2

Actually, I think a lot of men are like this, but when I'm out in open spaces--say hiking a trail or driving small roads in unpopulated areas--I like to stop and take a piss. Beyond the basic necessity and relief, maybe it's a simple or primal territory-marking pleasure, or perhaps it's just a stop-and-smell-the-roses (or in this case, urine) moment, a timeout for contemplation while also leaving your male scent behind . . . I don't know. I do know that I do it and know that others do also. Anyway, this memory is of one such moment.
It must have been in 1987 and I was winding my way back to Iowa from Seattle (and I would later that year wind my way back to Florida from Iowa). I was driving my powder blue Ford Maverick through a sunny morning in eastern Idaho. I recall I pulled into the town of Swan Valley, east of Idaho Falls, on my way to Wyoming and an eventual stop in Jackson Hole. I got gas--maybe--and inside the convenience store they had cans of beer on ice near the register. Sure it wasn't even ten in the morning, sure I had a long drive ahead, but I pulled a single tall boy from the ice and bought it. And yes, I drove off and opened it and enjoyed that breakfast beer very much thank you while I headed up from the plains and into the foothills of tall mountains--the Teton Range--on tiny Highway 31. And, as might be expected, I needed to stop and take a leak.
No one else was around much, so before the Wyoming border I pulled off the to the side of the curved and rising blacktop and stepped down into the woods along the road's side. It was warm but not hot and the pines, the dry western earth, smelled good. But no sooner had I found a quiet spot, unzipped my fly and my eyes adjusted to the shade, then I saw the dead deer. This was a full grown deer--a doe, I guess, as there were no antlers--and it was lying upon its side under the trees in the brown needles. It was a recent kill, because the fur was still brown and soft-looking, eyes still there--glassy and taxidermied-looking--and there were no obvious wounds to see. No doubt it had been hit by a car or truck and made it this far into the woods before dying.
I went ahead and finished my piss. Looked at the dead animal remotely, if I recall right. I'd seen many such animals before, but usually while singing by at forty or sixty or eighty miles an hour. But here was this dead deer at my feet, an unknown casualty of the manmade world--unknown until my random discovery. And I don't know why I still remember it--as I said, I was not shocked or upset about this dead deer--but it was, is, a small tragedy in its own right, the death of this one individual animal on a small highway in a small section of Idaho. And it happens everyday, to all sorts of animals, to insects and birds and fish and mammals, to humans: accidental and careless death.
I wonder if there is a statistic for death caused by being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

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