Growing up in Texas, I always looked forward to car trips. Texas is big, but its landscapes and ecoregions are diverse. Plants and animals changed with the mileage. I remember seeing much more wildlife on those trips than I do now.
Scissor tailed flycatchers lined telephone wires by the dozen every few miles. When corn or sorghum fields came close to the road, hundreds of red wing blackbirds swirled in and out of the edges and lounge in the ditches, taking breaks from whatever they were doing inside those rows. Roadrunners unwisely dashed in front of the car — at least several every trip. Which brings up the carnage. There was a lot of road kill. There were foxes, skunks, armadillos, snakes, coyotes, turtles, birds, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, possums, lizards, frogs, you name it. Every half mile or so was a reminder of mortality.
Sometimes we would be lucky enough to spot a turtle before it got too far across the road and pick it up and move it to a safe spot on the other side. When was the last time that happened to you? Not in a long time for me. I don’t remember helping snakes across the road, though. Driver prejudice, I’m fairly certain.
Even living in the city, it would be common to see geese flying south for the winter. I would hear them first. You could tell how high they were by the sound. Now, I hardly ever see that. No more fireflies arising from the ditches or woody copses on spring and summer nights.
I saw rivers of silver in the sky one day. Then it began raining spiders. We ran inside. I remember a biblical invasion of grasshoppers. Huge yellow things that spit brown juice. The power in their legs when they launched from my hand was amazing. Texas horned lizards were an everyday thing for a kid messing around outside. I haven’t seen one in the wild in thirty years.
I still see the occasional victim of vehicular slaughter, but it is more likely to be a dog or cat than a wild animal. The only thing I see more of now than back then is deer. It’s almost as if we care more about them and have carefully cultivated them so that now there is enough to register as a major percentage of road kill. I guess we don’t care as much about the rest of the lot. Which is too bad. I kind of miss those silly looking scissor tails.
I think it is important we remember these things and compare them to our current reality. It is particularly urgent because of climate change. Things will soon start to change faster and faster. I think it is important to convey this information to others and to our children. Think back to when you were a child. What was around then that is missing now? Write it down. We need to remember lest we forget completely, as a society and a civilization, how things are changing — for better or worse.