By Suzanne Strazza
This story is specifically for my friend, D, with whom I love to share animal stories.
Not long ago, a friend and I headed out on a girls’ trip to south-central Utah. It was a five-day escape for two friends who, for various reasons, both needed to get away.
On the morning of our departure, while enjoying a cup of coffee, a friend (male, gentleman, cowboy) expressed grave concern about two little ladies heading into the wilds of Utah without either a man or a firearm.
Taking a man was not an option, so that left us with the firearm.
Totally unbeknownst to me.
We drive off. We have a cooler of beer, canned chicken chow mein and a very big truck. We drive away from Mancos and after a stop at Shirttail Junction end up camped at the base of Mule Canyon. That evening, we sit in our chairs and watch streaks of lightning strike the mesa tops 360 degrees around us.
Later, after crawling into our tent, we are awakened by a loud roar.
Not thunder. Not an 18-wheeler.
Soon, Comb Wash is filled with raging flood water, which was beautiful and impressive but slightly disturbing to those of us camped in the wash bottom.
The next morning, having survived the flood of biblical proportions gives us a heightened sense of bad-ass-ness, with which we head off to our final destination.
About an hour into the morning’s journey, my friend turns to me and declares, “We’re packing heat.”
“I have a gun.”
“S@#$, do you even know how to use it?”
And on we drive. Now comes the exciting part…
Over the hill, around the bend, and there, right in the middle of the road, is a large, bloodied animal.
She slams on the brakes and I jump out of the truck, Walmart bag in hand, ready to be a bleeding-heart do-gooder and move the carcass out of the road. There is no dignity for a dead animal in having its guts spilled all over the yellow line.
“K, it’s a badger.”
“K, it’s still alive.”
K jumps out of the truck and we stand together watching him watch us, head moving, eyes blinking.
“Get the gun! Get the gun!”
“We (read: you) have to shoot it.”
So she gets the gun out of the truck, returns to my side, takes aim, then lowers the gun wondering if the bullet will ricochet off the road if she misses and hit one of us.
After debating the physics of a bullet shot from a small handgun, K takes aim and fires. The bullet hits the badger’s skull and flies into the cutbank, sending up a cloud of dirt. Badger blinks.
“Do it again.”
Badger blinks twice.
We know she’s hit the damn thing – its eye is bleeding.
But he is still watching our every move.
At this point I am starting to crumble. My bleeding heart is breaking. Here we are trying to put him out of his misery and instead we are making his last moments on earth a living hell.
One more bullet and K caves. I look him in the eye and he raises his head and hisses.
Why won’t he die?
Next thing I know, K has run to the truck and returned with a shovel – she is going to scrape him off the road.
I grab the shovel and bring it down on the badger’s head.
Wham! It bounces off his skull. I try again. Same thing.
I give up and hand the shovel to K.
She tries to scoop him off the road and he hisses at her.
Seriously? This guy has been run over, shot three times and whacked on the head twice and he is still alive and feisty at that?
I order K to get in the truck and run him over. This poor guy has got to die.
But in words unspoken we understand that we have set something into motion with our hands that must be finished that way. Running him over would be the easy way out, although, probably the most humane.
Frustrated, exasperated, guilt-ridden and in tears, K slams the shovel down on his head.
One. Still watching.
Two. Still breathing.
Three. Dead. Finally.
We pull the badger off the road and leave him for the turkey vultures. And head west.
Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.