Having planted several figs, two peach trees and two rows of blackberries at the Polka Farm, I find myself driving out there from here in Richmond about once a week to make sure the young fruit trees have enough water.
I didn’t have to haul any equipment out there this week, so I drove the old BMW instead of the farm van. The bimmer is fun to drive, but wants to go fast, and if you don’t pay attention, you’ll find yourself doing 90 mph on the mostly straight, mostly deserted stretches of U.S. 90A between Rosenburg and Hallettsville.
I was headed out of Eagle Lake just past Rock Island and working to keep the speed under 85, when I saw a dark mass off the right side of the highway up ahead. As I slowed to 80, I saw maybe 20 black vultures tugging on a fair-sized carcass. I just had a feeling, and so although the dead meat was well off of the shoulder, I moved over into the empty oncoming lane to safely pass the scavengers.
Or so I thought. Four or five of the stupid birds panicked at my approach and took off – not east away from the highway and into the woods. No, they all chose to fly west, across the road and directly into my path. They jostled each other as they strained their wings to heft their big stinking bodies off the ground. I moved the car over to the left as far as I could without going onto the shoulder, but it wasn’t quite enough. Three of the birds cleared the bimmer, but two others bounced loudly off the roof and maybe the top edge of the windshield.
Or so I thought. I pulled back into my lane, cursing, and strained to see whether there were any cracks in the windshield. I couldn’t see any. I was still 20 minutes from Hallettsville and another 15 to the farm, so I sped back up to cruising speed. It was early and I was hungry, and by the time I got to the Kountry Bakery in town, I was thinking so hard about their jalapeño kolaches that I forgot about the birds.
A short while later I pulled up to the Polka Farm house and started unloading the car. I opened the passenger door to take out my camera, and only then noticed that the glass was missing from the rear-view mirror. No cracks in the windshield and no bloodstains on the car roof, but also no mirror.
The mirror glass had been removed cleanly somehow, the rest of the mirror housing intact, with two small dangling wires, neatly unplugged from the back of the mirror, as if a mechanic had been working on them instead of a bumbling buzzard. Either the vulture had stuck its talon into the small opening around the mirror as it flipped over the speeding car, in a daring show of athletic prowess, or it had flown into the back of the mirror housing with such force that it popped out the mirror glass the way cartoon characters’ eyeballs sometimes pop out of their heads upon animated impact.
After puttering around the farm awhile, I went home by the exact route that brought me, glancing over at the opposite side of the road in case the mirror had miraculously landed unscathed in some weed pile. It had not. Finally I came upon the spot where the incident had occurred. It was easy to tell because one of the vultures was lying dead in the middle of the highway. I slowed to almost a stop, looked everywhere but could see no trace of a mirror, or even of any broken mirror glass. The only thing noticeable besides the dead bird was half of a dead coyote, which obviously had provided the meal from which the vultures had departed so quickly, although not quickly enough to suit me.
I contemplated the day’s events, in juxtaposition with a previous episode on which I have reported, and concluded I must now be caught in a feud with these carrion eaters. Is this how it started with Hatfield and McCoy?