Slice of Life – A Shortened Life of a Roadrunner

30 January 2024

Yesterday on the way home from church
I was sitting in the passenger seat.
From the left side of the road
I watched a roadrunner hurrying
toward us. It happened quickly.
Roadrunner, why didn’t you veer off
or stop? The cartoon Road Runner
has led me to believe you are invincible,
wildly wise, and never take a wrong turn.
But you ran right under our truck’s
front tire, and I was sickened.

Today my heart hurt when I rode by
the place where it happened.
There are too few of you, anyway,
and now there is one less. Who waited
for you to come home yesterday?
And you didn’t.

On a lighter note, we were hiking the other day, and this box of animals with some sort of electronic tracking devices was sitting by the side of the trail. There was a large group of middle schoolers in the parking lot hearing a talk by the park ranger, so I figured they were going to be something for them. It was a funny site.

The trail was tough, so I welcomed this break with my Thermos of hot tea…

and an oatmeal date bar.

I’m enjoying reading this beautiful book of poetry by Margaret Simon and artwork by her father, John Gibson. So lovely!

15 thoughts on “Slice of Life – A Shortened Life of a Roadrunner

  1. I’m sorry about your run in with the roadrunner. I’m glad you had the experience of the hike to bring you a few moments of peace after that!

  2. Denise, I think we are cut from the same cloth when it comes to mourning lost lives. It stays with you when you hit something. I hit a deer last year on February 1. It actually hit me – ran alongside the car and jumped out in front in a suicidal dive, determined to be hit. I was so grieved by the incident, and while I was also sorry about the car, I still think about that poor thing. I’m sorry about the road runner. The basket of tagged animals lightens the mood.
    When road runners die, they come back as stuffed animals and live on in educational programs. That hike looks like it was an adventure!

  3. Poor roadrunner – and poor you, Denise. I feel for you. I still remember the quick “thump thump” of my tires going over a squirrel my first year on the job as an itinerant. Vehicles can be weapons of destruction. I, too, wish the roadrunner had not crossed at that time, I’m imagining it had four healthy eggs last year that are now four more roadrunners in your area. And I imagine others saw the damage and will be extra careful for awhile, at least.

  4. I learn much about you from this slice. You take time for your spiritual life, you love all in nature, especially the loss of an animal., you take time to hike and be outside, you take time to read, you take time to rest and feed yourself healthy snacks. Then I learned that your commenters have great imaginations! I loved reading what they imaged about the roadrunner! Thanks for writing today.

  5. “The cartoon Road Runner
    has led me to believe you are invincible,
    wildly wise, and never take a wrong turn.”
    These lines resonate with me, how cartoons have always had that “never to die” quality. I think about that a lot and wonder what effects it has on kids. Obviously, it had an effect on you, and your poem powerfully captures it.
    Those middle schoolers had some fun tracking, I’ll bet. A full day for you!

  6. Denise, your poem is so poignant, especially the ending question. I love the photography and other details about your day. I am so curious about the tracking devices. I bet those kids are having a day they will always remember!

  7. I’m so sorry for you, Denise – for this experience, oh my. I, too, think most of my knowledge of road runners comes from that childhood cartoon…I would have thought it would escape your tires. Your final question is so empathic, mournful, and haunting, “Who waited/for you to come home yesterday? (The poetic line break after waiting is a beautiful touch.) This is sad and lovely writing.

  8. Haven’t almost all of us felt that sickening thud, that we never intended? You write about that lingering sadness well. And your last line, wondering about who your bird wont be coming home to, lifts the poem into another place for me.

  9. I mourn with you. I felt every word you so kindly wrote. I loved the pictures — the western skies are remarkable. Such blue.

  10. Oh, I know that sorrow. I, too, have mourned after hitting creatures. That horrible thud is like an arrow to the heart. I’ve never seen a roadrunner in the wild, but I imagine their speed can make it easy for them to avoid cars, but also tough for cars to avoid them sometimes. I can totally imagine your distress and your poem shares it beautifully. I’m glad you had some positive connections to share as well. The box of stuffed animals is so unexpected and funny! PS Are you willing to share your oatmeal date bar recipe?

    1. Molly, yes, indeed. My sister made these little bars of deliciousness. I think she modifies every recipe to make them more rich and delicious. I asked her for the recipe and she passed this on for you. She started with this recipe from Betty Crocker:
      She made some changes, though: First, use old fashioned oats instead of quick. Then add a cup of coconut to the oatmeal mixture. Finally, add a layer of broken walnuts over the dates before the crumble topping. Press the mixture into the dates to help keep it from falling off when eating them.

  11. I was so touched by your roadrunner experience that I almost stopped there, but wait. Thanks for sharing my book. It’s special to me because I did it for my father’s 80th birthday.

  12. Denise, I am always sickened when I see the remnants of an animal on the road. I can imagine how you felt, Hiking, tea-drinking, and reading the book written by Margaret’s Dad-what a lovely treat. I would love to know what treat the ranger has for the kids in that bag of animals.

  13. Have you read BRAIDING SWEETGRASS? Whenever I see roadkill, I think of the chapter “Collateral Damage.”

    1. I have not read this yet, Mary Lee. I’ve heard a lot about it, so I just placed a hold on it at the library. Thank you. I will pay attention to “Collateral Damage”.

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