tragedy on Middle Road
Monday, September 23 2019
When I'm driving to and from work every day, I always use Middle Road to avoid faster but less-direct highways. Middle Road passes mostly through farmland, and three separate ponds are visible from it. I've seen a Canada Geese at the westernmost of these ponds, though the other two are near houses and are home to a large number of domestic geese and a few muscovy ducks. The road separates one pond from the other, meaning that the ducks and geese are forced to cross the road to go from one to the other. It's rare to see the domestic geese in the road, but the muscovies are frequently waddling along it in small groups, often foraging in the grass along the shoulder. There are several signs along Middle Road in both directions warning motorists about animals (specifically those with duck-shaped silhouettes), and this warning has seemed to work; I've been using Middle Road frequently for the past year, and before today, I'd never seen any roadkilled ducks or geese. But that impressive streak ended today. There in the middle of the road, just a dozen or so feet east of the shortest route between the ponds, was a crushed muscovy duck. This tragedy seemed to wrench apart the tranquility that normally hangs over this pleasant part of the world, and 50 or 100 feet west of the dead duck, a seemingly-disoriented chocolate lab was also standing in the road. The other muscovy ducks, though, seemed unfazed by the recent tragedy to their comrade and were together doing all their usual absurd-looking head movements in the grass some distance away.
I didn't know what the story was, but the scene was too unpleasant to linger in, and I kept driving. What kind of person, so fully warned about ducks in the road, would run into a duck in the road? It would almost have to be the kind of person who takes pleasure in filling the world with roadkill.
I had the evening all to myself, because Mondays are the nights that Gretchen teaches her poetry class, and after class she'd be meeting friends in New Paltz. I began my evening with work on my stone wall, extending it several more feet to the east. The conditions were such that the this work (which didn't seem too strenuous) drenched me yet again in sweat.
My wall has reached the edge of a flat plateau and, in order to continue eastward, must now slope downhill. It's not a steep or long escarpment, but it does somewhat complicate wall construction, since the bottom-most stones must now rest on a sloping surface.
One of the downsides of using stone as a raw material is how disruptive it is to the things that live beneath rocks. These are mostly invertebrates: centipedes, slugs, pillbugs, and ants of all colors and sizes. Occasionally I'll also see a salamander. They're usually small brown ones with an orange dorsal stripe (probably Plethodon cinereus) , though occasionally I come across a big blue-black salamander dappled with whitish spots (Ambystoma laterale). There is also a kind of spider that is under nearly every rock I overturn. It's about a centimeter long, dark brown, and is sometimes living in a little tent of silk. Later back at the house, I tried to use Google to find out what this spider might be, but the internet proved surprisingly unhelpful. One of the things I hate about the world I find myself in is that searches for information about insects and spiders mostly yield web pages from exterminators or agricultural services concerned about pests. Imagine searching for information about Judaism and only finding pages made by Nazis.
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