Rick Shory

Offering a little something you might not otherwise have

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I was hitchhiking south out of Olympia, headed down to Portland. I took up position on the Henderson Boulevard on-ramp (exit 105), and things were slow. The roadway swept through maybe a quarter mile of swampy woods, straight and direct, before merging onto the freeway. This was the obvious place to wait. There was plenty of distance for drivers to see me, and then plenty of shoulder for them to pull over once they decided to give me a ride.

But the cars weren’t coming. Once every five minutes, ten minutes, a vehicle would go by. It was pleasant enough there. Summer blue sky. Green trees. This was a little pocket of unused land down a steep bluff from neighborhoods. There were tall trees all around and so I couldn’t see the slope, or any buildings. Except for the freeway noise, and the paved lanes, I might have been in wilderness.

Along side the roadway were small marshy meadows. Out from that shin-high light green grass, every now and then some little animal would run. It would zip across the asphalt, up ahead of me, too far to make out what kind of thing it was. Chipmunk? Woodchuck? Rat? But, quick, it would be gone on the other side.

And so the time passed, the afternoon drowsing away. Every now an then, a car would cruise by. Every now and again one of those little animals would dart across the road. Until finally, the two events coincided.  A small brown furry lump lay on the asphalt, slightly bloodied, and still.

Then — I hadn’t noticed — crows. They came floating down out of the tall trees. They had evidently been waiting up there, just for this. They pecked and tugged at the remains of the rodent. When the next car came, they deftly flapped aside. The tire neatly beaned the carcass, further tenderizing it.

Now I watched in great amusement as this little episode of natural history played out. The crows returned to their work. They picked at what was sufficiently pulverized, but I could swear they pulled and maneuvered the main body, to position it more directly in the tire tracks. I waiting with great interest for each passing car, to see how well those smart birds had done.