Tag Archives: Crashes

Of Cars and Critters

The House speaker, Paul Ryan, recently lamented how his personal SUV parked back in his Wisconsin hometown had been “eaten by animals.”

He said woodchucks chewed the wiring out from his Chevrolet Suburban. “And so my car was eaten by animals, and it’s just dead,” he said, according to a story in The New York Times.

Well, Mr. Speaker, you ain’t got nothin’ on AMR’s Richard Rodriguez who has his own tales (tails?) of woe involving critters and cars.

Fasten your safety belt and read Rich’s stories: 

Being born in raised in the Bronx, I had little opportunity for encounters with wildlife.

My wife and I moved out to rural Sussex County, N.J., and it was culture shock.

It was pitch black dark at night, and so quiet I couldn’t sleep. I missed being lulled to sleep by Cross Bronx Expressway traffic.

Over the years we have had numerous encounters with animals and our vehicles.

On a snowy evening, I was following my wife driving home when a deer ran out in front of her car and she hit the brakes but she slid and hit it.

The deer slammed down on the hood and bounced off onto the roadway.  I pulled over and checked on the deer and it was alive but surely had broken legs.

I had no idea what to do.

A truck pulled up behind us and a guy got out and said he could take care of this.

I thought he had a knife and would be able to put this poor animal out of its misery.

Then he went back to his truck and came back with a small sledge hammer and to our horror he proceeded to beat the poor animal’s head in.

Unfortunately, the first hit did not do the job and he continued to slam the hammer down until I finally heard the skull give way and the deer was finally done.

I then helped him pick up and throw it to the side of the road.

We were in shock as to what we just participated in, pristine clean white snow now marred with blood and brains.

Welcome to Sussex County.

This was just the beginning of our vehicle encounters with animals.

My wife proceeded to hit a number of deer in the years to follow, including a scary high-speed encounter on the way to work one morning.

The front of the van was smashed but only the top of the radiator cracked and she was able to drive back home.  It was close to being totaled but the insurance company fixed it.

This van became the Red Baron of the road.  I should have placed stamps on the side to represent all of its kills over the years.

I hit a deer with it, or actually the deer ran into me, almost came through the driver’s side window.

I also ran over a poor cat with all the kids in the van as I brought them home from daycare. Nice job, Dad. Now I was known as the cat-killer to my kids.

Last year the car I used for commuting to work started smelling like a small animal nest.

I checked under the hood by the air intake, and inside the car where the air comes through the vents.  Nothing there but some leaves and debris.

Not a good sign.

I hoped a mouse was not using my car as a nest.

The nest smell turned into the smell of death and decay and I was still unable to locate the culprit.

I used car fresheners that I attached to all the vents and it only masked the smell as the underlying stench still came through.

No one wanted to drive in my car with me.

I started to use my truck to avoid dealing with the dead animal smell.

I wondered how long it would take for it to decompose to nothing so it would stop stinking up my vehicle.

Winter came and I think whatever was in there froze and provided some olfactory relief.

I am now happy to report that after almost a year I am able to drive around without death in the air.

Glad I did not have to set the car on fire.

When I Drive, the Dead Are Always With Me

I am never alone when I drive.

I do a lot of chauffeuring of my kids, but I also spend a lot of time alone behind the wheel and I always have some unseen passengers.

In my front console I have a variety of items ranging from pens to Chapstick to an eyeglass cleaning cloth, but there is also a number of memorial cards for people whose funerals I attended.

I find myself deeply affected by them all.

I feel for the deceased and for their family, even if I don’t know them all that well.  I may have worked with them or known them through family or a friend, but I take their mourning to heart and I truly have empathy for them.

I know what it’s like to lose someone you love and it is devastating, and it will always be with you.


So when I drive around with my carload full of people who I remember and feel this connection to,  I hope they are looking out for me in some way.

This does not stop at the cards in my console.

As I pass by roadside memorials of where people had fatal accidents, some of whom I have known, I think of these poor souls as well.

Many of them were young and taken before their time. They had many more years of life and family to take care of.

One memorial I am deeply affected by is of a woman who I do not even know but the circumstances were so unbelievable I just cannot stop thinking of it every time I pass by this spot.

It started one morning on my way to work when I was detoured around an area that was closed to traffic.

When I finally got to work, I checked the news reports and found that a woman had been killed by a gas tanker that took a curve too fast and overturned onto her car as she was driving the other way.

The timing of this accident could not have been more perfect.

If this woman had been a minute later or a minute earlier, she would have most likely missed the truck.

She was coming home from work and was killed by this person who went down this hill too fast to negotiate the turn.  The driver of the truck survived, but he left a child motherless.

I guess we never know when our ticket on earth is going to be punched and we will leave this place, but we should try to live and get as much done before we are taken prematurely.

I pass by this spot almost daily and watched as the area was cleaned up because the tanker spilled gas.

The work was completed but someone still has left a small arrangement of flowers at the spot that marks where this woman died.

I’m sure most people drive by and do not notice, but I see it and think about her every time.

For other ruminations about mortality and death, listen to this AMR podcast (“No One Gets Out of Here Alive”) and read these blogs posts about close calls on the road (“Remember: Thou Art Mortal”) and mourning (“Where Do You Put the Pepsi and the Pain?”)

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