I tried to get them to stop. Really, I did. I pointed out the dead porcupine on the edge of the road—quite fresh, too, as far as one can judge these things driving by at 65 mph. It wasn’t the least bit squashed. Its bristling quills, highlighted by the late-afternoon sun, would have been a great temptation to any creator of traditional beadwork.
I thought my sister—the one who sews and quilts and knits and dyes and comes up with so many creative things—might have appreciated a chance to do something interesting with porcupine quills. We had plenty of room in the car; we could have tossed the critter (carefully) into the back and taken it right to her doorstep, which is where we were headed anyway.
Besides, you would think the two guys with whom I was traveling would have jumped at the chance to examine an intact road-killed porcupine. One is a scientist with an interest in natural history and the other one is a law-enforcement student whose career will probably encompass plenty of road accidents. Not to mention that both of them carry pocket knives and know how to field-dress game.
But no. They refused to stop.
I didn’t understand the full extent of the opportunity we missed until I saw the headline in our newspaper’s online edition a few days later: Man does C-section on dead porcupine, saves baby.
The story was from the Associated Press (and no, it didn’t appear on April Fool’s day). A man in Maine saw a porcupine get hit by a car. He had heard that some sort of mineral deposit valuable to Chinese medicine formed in the stomachs of porcupines, so he cut open the dead porcupine to look for it. What he found instead was—not surprisingly, given the time of year—a baby porcupine. He “cut the umbilical cord and thought the baby porcupine was dead until he started massaging it and it began breathing.”
If my traveling companions had only been willing to stop, that could have been us. We might have saved the life of an innocent unborn baby porcupine. Assuming I had been able to figure out the video function on my cell phone camera—which I’ve only used once and that was by accident—we could have even posted a video of the surgery online and become famous.
And we might have ended up with a cute little pet porcupine like this one. Just imagine having one of these critters in the house: climbing the piano, munching on the house plants, gnawing on the furniture, rubbing up against you, snuggling on your lap . . .
Wait a minute. What was the whole point of stopping to pick up the dead porcupine in the first place? That’s right. The quills. Those sharp, pointy, barbed things.
But I bet having a pet porcupine would teach the toddler grandkids a valuable lesson about not rubbing animals the wrong way.