The Road Less Traveled

I was out for a run one morning last week headed up a dead-end road I like because it is much “less traveled by” with cars or semi’s or other large even-when-I’m-on-the-sidewalk-they’re-still-scary motorized vehicles. As I reached the end of the road and turned around to come back, I noticed a pick-up pull to where the pavement ends, turn around, and begin backing up the non-paved part that I was running back down. It seemed odd, then I noticed there was movement in the back of the pickup and I could tell there was an animal which I initially thought was a cat. I immediately decided if the person had come to dump it in a fairly abandoned area, that adding a 3rd feline to my menagerie wouldn’t be that difficult. I was sort of girding myself to have a respectful conversation with someone about the negative aspects of simply dumping animals you don’t want when I realized, it wasn’t a cat. The pick-up stopped and a very nice woman got out and began talking toward me as I was still running at a decent pace. I came closer, finally stopped, and she pointed to the animal which I now could see was in an interesting looking cage, and it was an opossum!!! One of those animals in creation that may be so ugly they’re cute?!!? I know that sounds weird, but there are a lot of us that resemble that in the world I think.

So the nice, and as it turns out, quite responsible woman is explaining to me that she lives on a farm not too far from the road I’m on, she has an orchard, and she thinks raccoons are eating the pears and peaches off her trees. She’s been setting traps for them in her own personal “catch and release” program and in the last 10 days has caught and released two other opossums, several squirrels, a bunny, and a SNAKE! And she’s brought all of them to this particular road, THAT I RUN ON, and released them. Meanwhile the so ugly that it’s cute opossum has begun to hiss, which is neither a pleasant nor inviting of friendship kind of sound. The nice woman told me to run on ahead because she needed to release it before it got any more angry or upset. I told her it was fine, that if it came after me, I’d make the sound like a gun which should cause it to, well, you know, play possum as opposed to chasing me with it’s teeth showing which it was doing in the cage at that point. She smiled toleratingly and said she’d just feel better if I ran on ahead rather than making any gun-sounding noises.

I wished her luck, invited her to church at Grace, and told her people used to pay pastors with sacks of produce, you know, like fresh peaches and pears back in the olden days and that I like tradition. She smiled again and invited me to come to her orchard and pick whatever produce might be left. In all of her catching and releasing, she hadn’t caught one raccoon. She thinks they watch her set the trap, and then laugh from the tree branches while they’re eating the fruit, at the other animals who take the bait and end up locked in the cage. There’s a sermon there, I told her. Good luck with that, she responded as she picked up her gloves to lift the cage out of the back to do the releasing part.

Maybe I should start packing some heat when I run. I one time asked a Kansas City, Missouri police officer what it was like to “pack heat”, to which she replied that NO ONE says that in real life (stupid Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood movies anyway). After which she also told me that carrying a firearm is NOT for those who don’t train multiple days a week, know how to take apart and clean and put the firearm back together with their eyes closed, and have been in enough high-stress situations to know how they are likely to react when the use of the firearm is required.

I read this morning that, “there is no appetite for a ban on automatic weapons in this country.” Because automatic weapons will protect me from snakes, bunnies, squirrels, and opossums? Because automatic weapons will provide pheasant or dove or deer meat in the fall for those who are hungry? Because automatic weapons are used for anything but the slaughter of human beings at as fast a rate as possible before trained police officers and other first responders can get to the scene to do their best to save innocent lives? Because the statistics are just wrong that show that in the United States before automatic weapons were easily available mass shootings were the exception rather than the rule? Mental illness? Yes. Hateful, divisive, and racist rhetoric? Yes. Feelings of isolation and alienation? Yes. Bullying and violent images and social media platforms and gaming? Yes. The ease and availability and access to AR-13s, bumpstocks, AK-47s, and other automatic and semi-automatic weapons? Yes.

Yes friends, yes. Yes all that and more that we perhaps cannot even fathom. Hopelessness, helplessness, victimization, promises that skin color and gender are supposed to entitle certain persons to a happier life than what they believe they are having so blaming those who are different, outsiders, invaders, enemies, sub-human, and/or anyone “not like me” makes the fires of destruction burn and access to weapons that kill high quantities fast is the vehicle of choice. Is it the only one? No. Is it the easiest? Yes. Will bombs made from fertilizer work? Absolutely. Is it more difficult than access to a gun? Yes. Will driving a car into a crowd work? Absolutely. Is it more difficult to drive a car into the doors of a Wal-Mart or a school or a movie theater or a church bible study? Yes. Do we need a comprehensive plan to address all the issues listed and more? Of course and without question. Are restrictions to access certain types of weapons part of that? I hope so. I vote so. I advocate so, and I upstand so.

I didn’t have to make the sound of a gun as I jogged farther down the road away from the releasing of the hissing opossum. I did make a mental note that clearly from now one when running at that end of the road, I might want to be aware of unhappy wildlife with an internal GPS trying to find their way back to the fruit buffet at the farm. Can they and I co-exist with vastly different purposes for our presence on the same road? I think so, though I’m a little questioning of the snake part of the equation. Perhaps with a bit of mutual respect, and in this case, a wide enough berth around each other’s “zone of safety” we can all enjoy together this “road less traveled by,” and maybe it will, “make all the difference.” #robertfrosttheroadlesstravelled; #itsapoem; #snakesdontreadbutdoopossums

Don’t try this at home with wild animals but I love this!