Roadkill diaries: Armadillo zombies

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Updated Aug 30, 2014


George is on a regular run, back and forth from Springfield, Ohio, to Laredo, Texas. We’ve taken the trip so many times, I know where we’re at during any given moment, and that’s pretty phenomenal.

I can tell when we’ve crossed from Ohio into Indiana by the road structure – it goes from bad to worse. I’ve learned better than to get my computer out before Missouri – typing while the truck is rolling across 70 West through Indiana and Illinois is damn near epileptic-episode-inducing, trying to type out of the question for me. Either I don’t have a good internal gyroscope, or that stretch of road sucks. I nearly blinded myself trying to put mascara on before the 55 split. I lived to tell you, but it’s a bad idea to try it.

I spend a lot of time staring out the window, wondering how long it’s going to be before the guy in the four wheeler driving with his knees and playing Bubble Witch on his phone slams into the side of our truck. I also happen to notice roadkill. It’s kind of a hobby (and totally not weird).

Ohio, Indiana and Illinois have the highest population of deer who cannot make it across. They’re also structurally arranged in a manner that when hit by a moving vehicle, they leave a swath of gore for a hundred feet. Missouri deer are much smaller and seem to lose their heads more than anything. It also starts to get interesting in Missouri – there’s a greater variety of animal parts and pieces. Coyote, fox and skunk, along with the occasional hawk – which for some reason always makes me sad. I hate to see a hawk or owl hit on the side of the road.

Anyway, to get to the point of my stupid, gross story – about the time we hit Arkansas I start seeing the armadillo. The further into Arkansas we go, the more convinced I become that there can’t possibly be any living armadillos left on this earth. There are spots on 40 where it looks like entire companies of armadillo have been wiped out. This is extraordinary, because traffic rarely moves faster than 11 mph on 40 through Arkansas, so they must be terrible at dodging things.

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Side note: Did you know a group of armadillos was called a “company”? Well you do now. Also, they can carry the leprosy bacterium because their body temperature is too low to kill it – 93 degrees Fahrenheit. And, they have multiple offspring in one litter that are genetically identical. Fun facts about armadillos to share at the lunch counter. You’re welcome.

I’ve still yet to see a live one. All the other animals I notice on the side of the road, I’ve seen the live version of on the side of the road, too – but not armadillos. When I was researching the fun facts section of this post, I read that armadillos are common roadkill due to their habit of jumping three to four feet vertically when startled, which puts them into collision with the underside of vehicles, so that explains the carnage on 40 in virtually stopped traffic. It does not explain why I just spent an hour of my life reading about armadillos.

By the time we drop down on to 30 and into Dallas, the only thing on the side of the road is gators and people – walking away from wrecked cars. I don’t enjoy Dallas, and by the time we get down to 35 to sit for a while, I’m usually in the bunk, reading articles about obscure things on the interwebs.

I stop bothering with variety in roadkill during the stretch between San Antonio and Laredo. Everything is shriveled up and blows away about an hour after it’s hit. The only thing that remains intact enough to recognize is – you guessed it – armadillos. Am I lying? Anyone who’s been this route knows it. So my new goal in life is to find a live armadillo on the side of the road. Also, I probably need to get some new hobbies.

Be safe out there.