My twelve-year-old daughter loves old cars.
We work on them together, and while other members of my family will opt for the quiet, smooth ride of a newer vehicle, she loves to rattle down the road in one of our projects. I happily chauffeur her to activities, as it’s an opportunity to hit the road and talk cars with someone whose eyes don’t glaze over.
As a loving and supportive father, it is my duty to encourage and support my kids in their myriad of interests, even if they are not car-related.
Hence, it happened a couple of years ago that I was on the look-out for roadkill. You see, unlike her father, my daughter’s interests extend beyond cars, and this particular summer she was obsessed with collecting animal skulls. I need not get into the dissection and preparation details, but suffice it to say, our compost pile was busy and her collection was growing.
One skull missing from her collection was that of a raccoon. While we had made a few attempts, finding an intact skull is harder than it sounds and so, we were on the look out.
One glorious summer morning, we were driving through a rural area in our 1975 Triumph TR6, trying to determine what was making a clunk in the back end every time we encountered a right-hand curve.
On the drive, we came upon an unlucky raccoon on the side of the road. It looked as though the poor creature had met its demise without shattering its cranium. Oh happy day!
I was not in the habit of carrying appropriate skull recovery equipment in the cramped confines of the TR6 trunk. Undeterred, we dragged the creature off the side of the road and planned to return immediately with suitable tools. We were unable to return to the raccoon resting place until much later that day, but we found the site without difficulty.
I took the axe out of the TR6’s trunk and prepared a mighty swing to separate the skull from the rest of the body.
My science-y wife would like to interject at this point that, during the decomposition process there is bacteria and methane and compressed gases, and blah, blah, blah, and that this process is expedited on a hot day.
My not so science-y self would like to note that these details did not occur to me until after I began the downward swing of the axe. In those milliseconds, I noted that the raccoon had grown considerably fatter in the ensuing hours of the summer day, despite being dead. My axe finished its powerful arc, connecting in precisely the right spot, neatly severing the head from the torso of the unfortunate creature.
That was the only neat thing about it.
The pent-up gases of decomposition exploded on impact, blowing the contents of the raccoon in a 20-metre radius. It is a little known fact that the inside of a dead raccoon is approximately 10 times larger than the outside. Blood, guts and the foul stench of decomposition rained down, stippling the blue of our car with red and soaking both of us.
The previously quiet country highway suddenly became busy with numerous cars. Passing drivers gawked at the preteen girl standing next to a middle-aged man holding an axe – both dripping in blood. No one stopped to help.
Anxious to be away before the police arrived, my daughter rapidly double-bagged her prize while I mopped up what I could with the rags from the trunk. With the windows wide open, we drove home as fast as we could so that the three of us – father, daughter and TR6 – could all get a much-needed bath.