The country roads around here teem with walkers. Some walk mindfully many, however, choose to amble in the middle of the road, two, three, four abreast wearing hedge coloured or dark coloured clothes at all hours of the day or night.
This annoys me immensely when I am driving and offends my sense of logic:why should I care more for a strangers’ personal safety than they do for themselves?But before anyone thinks that this is another of my famous driving rants, there is one segment of our population that I try to slow down for:the wee animals that share their countryside with us.
They are extraordinarily vulnerable as they go about their daily lives as they have done for hundreds and thousands of years. Then here we come with our big dirty cars, running them down, eviscerating them, flattening them, leaving them as so much carrion at the side of our roads.
We need our wildlife. There is a magic that happens when out walking the spring roads a fox slips lightly out of the ditch a head, turning for a second to catch your measure before slipping through the gate opposite, an orange flash on the acid green of sunlit grass.
Over the years I have often seen a hare in this area. I hope there is more than one. He is huge and uses the road quite a lot and it is always a pleasure to see him.
I would love to see a live badger but I only ever see them when they are dead. I was captivated to hear my neighbour at Garrarus speak of moonlit night when a click-clacking sound drew her to her door in time to see two badgers , claws clicking on tarmac, companionably walking the silver road down to the beach. The image has stayed with me.
I haven’t seen a live hedgehog in years either. I found a hedgehog on the road to Kilfarrasy recently. I got out to investigate. His little body was lifeless yet there was no mark on him and I was seized with the thought that in speeding by him earlier I had given him a heart attack and ended his blameless life. All I could do was move his body into the ditch and to this day I feel a twinge of guilt at my possible crime.
The worst road kill experience I had was when I was driving in the States. I was on the Continental Divide in New Mexico, CD blaring, sun roof open, driving as one rarely gets to in this country, when a tiny animal ran out under my wheels I was devastated and did a U-Turn to see what damage I had caused. To my horror, the poor creature was still alive though his body was broken.
I felt I should try to kill it and I went searching for a rock. I couldn’t find one but I found a big piece of wood. I really wasn’t sure if I could do what was necessary and by the time I got back to it, it had breathed its last.
I later found out that it had been a Mexican Ground Squirrel, a cute spotted weasel-type animal. The incident so disturbed me that I later depicted him in a painting, on the same road, thought this time it had reached the safety of the other side.