Well, it wasn’t quite summer, more like late spring, May 15th to be exact. It was an early Saturday morning, the morning of my daughter’s 12th birthday, we set out to the eastern end of Long Island, a healthy hour and half drive. The birthday girl and I headed on our venture because I had some loose ends to square away for work and didn’t want to leave her alone on her special day. Our plan was to get work done quick and then off to explore the quaint coastal towns with lunch and ice cream.
If you have ever been to the very end of Long Island, then you already know it is as if you traveled into another state. Farmlands with the lone house littered here and there, so very different from the suburbs of clustered population just a few towns over. It was while driving on a dirt road, we first saw him. A brown furry creature navigating his crossing. My initial reaction was to brake as we locked eyes through the glass windshield of my little sedan. When I hesitated, so did he, when I accelerated, he scurried forward. A few long seconds of negotiation took place until we both ultimately decided to just go for it. That dreadful moment I felt and heard a thump. My daughter and I screamed in horror, looking at each other in disbelief. Immediately I pulled over to assess the damage I have done to this creature. Panic took over as I realized that I in fact hit an animal.
When I got out to the car and crept closer to see if anything can be done, it was apparent that he was dead. I thought it could be a cat, fearing I have hurt someone’s pet, visualizing a family waiting by their front door for their fur baby that would never return with no explanation, but this wasn’t a cat. It was larger than a squirrel, a rabbit and a chipmunk. What is it?
My daughter and I went from the lone drivers on a dirt road, to a group on spectators pulling over and questioning me on what happened. What did I do? They all wanted to know. I rambled, “It was an accident. I swear. I have never hit anything in my life!” The looks from the car window, the front lawn screamed at me in disapproval. As if to say How dare you trespass on our land and hurt our creatures! Murderer! One woman hopped out of her pick-up truck and began examining the animal with her bare hands! Reaching in its groin area for a pulse. I would have thought the squished body and ejected eyeball was a dead giveaway (err no pun in intended). She identified the animal as a groundhog and declared him dead. A groundhog. I have never seen a groundhog before. I mean sure, every February on television and all, but not in real life. He was sort of bigger than I would expect a groundhog to be. I had no clue we even had groundhogs on Long Island. Well, we do, and now one less thanks to me.
The examiner lady soon brought me a box from her truck with a towel on the bottom of it. Yup, she works for an animal sanctuary and just has these things on hand in the back of her truck. She told me I need to take it with me to a wildlife sanctuary with specific instructions. “What? No, don’t we just call the town to pick it up?” I don’t mean to be insensitive here, but why I am going to drive a dead animal to a sanctuary? What is going on? The woman, ignoring me, placed the groundhog in the box and proceeded to go to my car. I suggest if she works there or volunteers, then she can bring it. I am not driving around with a dead groundhog in my car!!!
“It is the least you can do” she snaps at me placing the box in the back of my car.
I am explaining the story to my husband over the phone, my daughter is keeping a close watch on the box, just in case he springs out and attacks us and I am driving. I am driving with me, my birthday girl and Chester. We felt it would be appropriate to name him at this point, if he was going to get in the car with us.
We took him to his final resting place. We were terrified, saddened, guilty but also a touch of humor. Like, how did we get here? The day really got away from us at some point. My daughter thought it would be nice to say a few words, so we joined hands. I apologized for hitting him, I sent love and condolences to his groundhog family and wished him well in the afterlife.
So there, now you know. You know what I did last Spring. You know about my pal Chester, the groundhog.
Dedicated to Chester ?/?/??-05/21/2021