On Eating Roadkill and Learning a Life Lesson

The first and only time I’ve eaten roadkill was last fall when I ate a deer my husband accidentally hit on our road in rural Maine late one night. The experience was a profound one for me, so, the next day, I told my deer story on Facebook. A dear friend of mine, a born and raised Mainer wrote, “You’ve eaten roadkill. You’re a real Mainer now!”

It was a cool late night last fall when my husband hit that deer in his pickup on our road near our house. He was out late picking up our oldest son from his midnight shift at the LL Bean call center, and, as they were coming home, just a little bit from our house, a young deer jumped right in front of the pickup.

I was at home with your youngest son when my husband and oldest made it home. My husband told me the story, told me he had called the police, and I could tell they were both a little rattled. Our oldest son was pretty pale and wide eyed, and my husband was sad about hitting the deer and also worried about our pickup. It had sustained quite a bit of damage.

By the time the police officer arrived, it had to be close to 1:00 in the morning. The officer gave my husband a tag, and my husband brought home our first deer. I didn’t think about it as such at the time, but we were about to have to process roadkill, as there was no way we were going to let that deer die for nothing. Such a thing seemed like it would be disrespectful to me.

roadkill picture
Photo credit: Erik Olsen, Unsplash

I grew up outside of Dallas and didn’t know the first thing about processing a deer. My husband had hunted when he was younger, but he hadn’t processed a deer since he was growing up in Montana.

We did the only logical thing to do…We hit YouTube.

Thankfully, there was a helpful video my husband watched intently. At first, my husband didn’t want me to help process the deer. To say that I’m soft hearted is to put it mildly. I’ve tried several times to become a vegetarian, and I’ve always failed. But eating animals has been a moral dilemma for me. I’ve cried more than once preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

But I had been reading up on homesteading and knew that I wanted to learn to help raise our own meat. I’m against factory farming with every fiber of my being, so, since I seem to be unable to go vegetarian, I figured was to going to have to grow a thicker skin and learn to help process animals for food. We had recently started our own little chicken farm, and I was intent on avoiding the food industry as much as I could.

So I insisted that I help. And, perhaps because it was about 2:00 in the morning and our oldest had school the next morning, my husband relented and agreed to let me help clean the deer that night.

That chilly fall night between the hours of about 2:00 and 3:00 AM, I helped my husband clean a deer by flashlight. The experience was profound for me. I was mainly just the “holder of things steady” while my husband did the real work of cleaning, but I had never been that close to a deer. His fur was so soft and so beautiful. His eyes and nose and hooves were just magnificent to me.

We thanked that deer and told him we were sorry. And we were.

My husband was a little worried the experience might cause me to try to go vegetarian again. He’s definitely a meat eater, and since I usually do the cooking, you can see why he might be a little worried. But I didn’t.

However, I did gain a much greater respect for hunters and farmers who process their own meat, bypassing a food industry that is abusive to animals. I came to believe that everyone who eats meat should have to process an animal for food at least once.

I gained a greater appreciate for the animals as well, so I am now the food police when it comes to waste at the dinner table. If one of my boys leaves even a little meat on the plate, I scold them:

“You had better eat that. Somebody died for that!”

They tend to finish their dinners.

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