This Story is a Keeper

Several years ago, the magazine Fur, Fish, and Game ran a story by Charles Rogerson entitled, "Road-kill for Two."  This was one story that was certainly a keeper for any Michigander.  For all you outdoorsy people, Fur, Fish, and Game is perhaps the best outdoor magazine available.  It is for ordinary sportsmen and contains relevant information even in older magazines.  It's something that can be passed around and saved for years.  Check them out here.

Road-kill For Two
Charles Rogerson

    Whenever I admit to eating road-kill, people look at me askance.  Combine this with the fact that I hail from a certain Appalachian state (which shall go unnamed) that has a reputation for moonshine and outhouses, and I get my share of strange looks.  When I tell folks where I’m from, they check to see if I’m wearing shoes.

    Anyhow, as a child I occasionally dined on road-kill, mostly owing to my father, who was a master hunter, even while he was driving a car.  He spied every dead critter on the road and could tell when one was fresh, even when he was driving along at 50 miles an hour.  He was so accomplished at picking up road kill he didn’t even stop the car.  Instead, he lined up the automobile, and in one smooth motion opened the door, scooped up the dead critter, tossed it behind his seat, shut the door, and rolled on down the highway.  Sitting in the back seat, my sister and I knew when to lift our feet out of the way.

    We were so to speak, a family unit.
    Back home, Dad would scrutinize the squirrel or rabbit intensely.  He had two categories: smashed and keeper.  Smashed usually involved a tire death.  If any tread pattern was evident, Dad would declare it “smashed,” and over the hill it would be flung.
    A keeper, however, was both warm and limber, its demise caused by a bumper or car undercarriage.  To Dad’s thinking, a bump on the head was much cleaner than a fistful of lead shot at high velocity.  Once he determined that the critter still had authentic body heat rather than sun bake, Dad declared it a keeper, and we would skin it out.

    Years later I found myself far from home, attending college.  Come October, I really missed squirrel season.  I hankered for fried limb rat, and the abundance of fox squirrels on campus only added to my longing.  They were everywhere, and they hopped right up expecting a handout.

    I would toss them a peanut, and think, “If I only had my .22...”

    One day, I had some library books to return, so I hopped in the car and ventured to the library, dropped the books off, and drove back the winding road to my Spartan apartment.

    Rounding a curve, I spotted a fat fox squirrel right in the middle of the road.  I figured it must be fresh, since I had just driven by ten minutes before, and I could not have missed that orange fur ball in the middle of the road.

    Executing a scoop that would have made Dad proud, I snatched that squirrel and dropped it behind the seat.  Returning to my apartment, I determined that it was, indeed, a fresh keeper.
    Then I skinned it and called my girlfriend.  Along with book learning, I also acquired a girlfriend while at college.

    “Have you ever had squirrel for dinner?”  I asked.

    “No,” she replied, with considerable hesitation.  “Is it good?”

    “Oh, it’s the best.”  I said.

    “Did you bring the squirrel from home?”  she asked.

    “Yeah, something like that.”  I said.  “So how about seven o’clock?”
    She was game, and so the big date was made.

    I applied all my culinary skill to that squirrel, frying slowly and lovingly in my trusty iron skillet.  I smashed potatoes and heated beans on the side.  I even broke out the candles.

    It wasn’t exactly a café in Paris, but I was swooning in romance.

    We commenced to eating.  Let me pat myself on the back once again.  That dinner was good, and I silently gave thanks to the anonymous motorist who had provided our main course.

    About halfway through, I decided to pop the question.

    “Have you ever eaten road kill?”  I asked between bites.
    She stopped in mid-chew.

    “Why would you ask that?”  she replied slowly.

    “Well,”  I said, “You have now.”

    If ever there was a moment of truth in a relationship, this was it.  She looked at me across the table, and after a long pause, reached out and picked up another haunch from the platter.

    Now, looking back after 20 years of marriage, I realize that was when I knew I had a keeper.