Perambulating the Bounds

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tennessee ♥ Road Kill

Road kill seems to be a minor fixation in these parts, to the extent that we even have a law in Tennessee assuring our right to take anything we hit for our “personal use and consumption.” (Actually, you have to get a kill tag from a wildlife resources agent to take any bear you kill with your car.) This law actually makes a certain amount of sense, especially if you drive around in a Hummer so you don’t have to worry about the hundreds of dollars in body damage the deer left you with as it passed out of this life into the next. But it’s more fun to imagine a bunch of slack-jawed hillbilly citizen-legislators sitting around coming up with their legislative priorities for the session, and this makes it to the top of the list.

I think maybe people in this state, where you are more likely to experience a rural environment than elsewhere, may have more awareness of road kill and the death of animals in general. When I ride my bike on the roads near my house, or take a walk, at some point I am likely to pass through an area dominated by the smell of rotting animal flesh. The scenery may look pretty, but this is not a pristine pastoral setting, and that’s the way it should be. Real pastoral involves zoological and botanical churn, stuff growing and dying. It’s not all designed with pleasure in mind, or a pleasure that’s much more complicated and difficult.

In a nice addition to the annals of road kill culture, April Hale, a jeweler at the Appalachian Center for the Crafts, had two “Road Kills Rings” in an exhibit at the Renaissance Center in Dickson. Working with very simple silver rings as a base, one had a small tuft of raccoon fur stuck on top of the ring, the hairs pointing straight upwards. The other had a tiny raccoon tooth on a tiny bed of red velvet and encased in acrylic. My wife described it as a reliquary for the animal, and it had a sense of appreciation for the delicate shapes of the tooth and the range of colors and tones on the strands of hair, and respect shown in the way the remains were preserved and presented. And it’s road kill!

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