Melissa's Hobo Army
Who's eating all the roadkill?

What's happening to roadkill? There is hardly any to be seen anymore. A few years ago there was such a variety, somebody did a roadkill calendar. There was a different animal for each month, photographed in rigor mortis right at the site of the accident. A roadkill cookbook came out, explaining just how deer, possum, armadillo, snake, otter, beaver, and nutria should be prepared by the motorist adventurous enough to get out of the car and drag the carcass home. Some of the recipes called for cooking the beast right on the spot, on the radiator, thus combining some elements of "car cooking" with "roadkill cooking."

See also...
... by Andrei Codrescu
... in the Scope section
... from November 23, 1999

Car cooking, such as frying steaks on the radiator, was popular for a while, before this damn prosperity that's making everybody lazy and unresourceful. It's hard to imagine all these people driving SUVs now, stopping for a nice, plump dead racoon and frying it under the hood. Do these new cars even have radiators?

A friend of mine, Melissa from Vermont, has been driving thousands of miles checking on the state of American roadkill. Every time she sees one, she gets out of the car, photographs it, bags it, and then stops and talks with local environmentalists, forestry officials, and highway departments about what's going on with the local fauna. Some of these people claim that the paucity of roadkill is due to better highway maintenance and cleanup. Others say that there are fewer animals, with some notable exceptions like deer and coyote, and that they are staying off the roads. None of these explanations satisfy Melissa, who is convinced that there is a huge army of new hobos, invisible to the rest of us, who come out at night and drag all the corpses into the woods and eat them. She has found evidence of this roving army in every state, right outside fancy suburbs.

I wouldn't be surprised if such a hobo army existed. Our news media reports only on celebrities and rich people now, so if there is anybody out there who's not rich and famous, we'd never hear about them. The government has just raised the poverty ceiling to almost $20,000 a year, which puts about half the country officially under the poverty level, which means you'll never see them on TV or in the newspapers again unless they kill about ten people just before prime time. (It's not enough to be a serial killer, you have to time your kills for the evening news.)

Anyway, I digress. Melissa's hobo army would be flying so far below the poverty level, the only way to prove its existence would be to link it to the charred bones of roadkill. Melissa thinks she has succeeded in this, but I think that more research is in order. Meanwhile, she is writing her own cookbook, which applies elements of white trash cooking (such as dishwasher fish) with elements of cooking with your car, and applies them to roadkill. What there is of it. All I ever see on the road these days are huge, black, rolled-up dead snakes shed by humongous trucks.

Andrei Codrescu is the editor of Exquisite Corpse: A Journal of Letters & Life, now online at

Bad Byte appears every other Tuesday on GettingIt.