A motorist on Virginia Route 687 between Jeffersonton and Opal threw a bag of garbage out the window the other day that killed a fat raccoon and her babies. It also made me strangle a turkey vulture, dent my van and tear up my pants.
It didn't happen all at once, of course. The garbage, mostly corn on the cob, luncheon meat and tomatoes, landed in the brushy ditch on a curve, where the mother raccoon found it while foraging during the night.
After she had eaten her fill she set off for her den, but her kits never got any more of the milk that swelled her teats because she was hit by a car as she crossed the road. By the time I came along, two or three days later, the kits, wherever they were, were dead or dying.
Two vultures were tearing at the raccoon's putrefying carcass as I approached the blind curve. They were in a tangle of honeysuckle at the edge of the road, and perhaps that slowed their takeoff. One flew clear, but the other hesitated a moment too long, perhaps unwilling to let go of the raccoon's liver, which splattered on my windshield as I hit the bird.
Braking hard and swerving, I ran off the narrow road into the ditch, where my wheels hit an abandoned highway caution sign that flipped up and raked the side of the van. As I sat there breathing hard, I could hear the vulture thrashing around in the greenbrier thicket where it had landed.
When I got out to survey the damage, I saw the vulture's lower left leg and foot caught in the grill, and I knew I would have to find the bird and kill it. I took my cane and went poking in the briers. Even with only the stump of a leg and a shattered left wing, the great, fragrant beast was hard to catch as he flopped deeper in the tangle. In the end I had to crawl, and because there was no room to swing the cane I had to wring his long, moist neck with my hands.
The motorist who dumped the garbage apparently was coming back from a picnic; judging from the number of corncobs it was a sizable group, perhaps a family. I suspect they were city people, because they ate around the cobs instead of along them, which left a lot of kernels for the raccoon.
No doubt they had enjoyed themselves in the Virginia countryside, which is lovely except along the roads.