(Fade in: On a long straightaway of Interstate 80 east of Battle Mountain, Nevada, a heavily laden tractor-trailer lumbers along. A lone motorcyclist buzzes about the diesel behemoth like a meat-bee buzzing a burger. As the semi rolls down the road, its right rear outside tire begins delaminating and is suddenly slapping the pavement with a long wide whip of tread for a sickening second or so before it tears away completely and sails wildly through the air. The motorcyclist zigs expertly to dodge the projectile and then races back down the highway to where the twisted, mangled strip has come to rest on the pavement. He seizes it quickly and dispatches it with a precise blow to its hideous rubber neck. As he examines the hide, he swells with pride for this is a true trophy “truckadillo” (scientific name: Recapus Decapitatus), and the savvy hunter of the highway celebrates his success with an atavistic Pagan jig and a jug of Pagan Pink. Fade out.)
I first started hunting the highway about 10 years ago I guess, give or take. I don’t recall exactly. I don’t recall much of anything exactly. I do remember having wearied of being hunted by all kinds of bizarre highway creatures and deciding that the best defense is a good offense. I recall having wearied of my role as victim when it became apparent that I wasn’t getting any sympathy or government grants for my suffering and I decided to become the aggressor— to seek out my tormentors and best them at their own deadly game.
I started out small, initially just bagging chunks of blown-out sidewalls called “rubber skunks” (Vulcanus Kerblooie) which I would display on stringers like large-mouth bass for sportsman photo sessions with photographers who thought I was nuts. I am not nuts. I am not nuts. Instead of dreading the debris of destroyed tires, I sought it out—sometimes tirelessly stalking a wounded specimen for miles and even days until it finally blew and darkened the sky with rubber skunks like migrating mallards. In those early days I hunted purely for sport and generally adhered to a strict catch-and-release discipline, gently massaging the defeated rubber skunks after the photo session and then chucking them back on the roadside.
It wasn’t long before I found myself chasing after open gravel trucks, hunting hives of “rock hornets” (Gravellus Detarpus), and shadowing logging trucks hoping to bag some “bark bats” (Detritus Neglectus). It was while I was hunting bark bats that I first experienced the gut-lust for the larger, rarer game that became my obsession. While hunting along Highway 3 west of Hayfork one cool October morning, I rounded a curve following a particularly profligate source of my chosen quarry when suddenly an entire slab of bark peeled back from an immense log and I found myself face-to-face with a fully mature “redwood gator” (Deforestus Swervus Ohsweetjesus). The beastie came whistling through the autumn air in a flat spin like the blade of giant Lawn-Boy and only missed me by the grace of the curve in the road. I was upon it as soon as it landed and I wrestled the gnarly bastard into submission, being careful to hold its deadly jaws shut with a firm grip until I could secure it with my bungee net. The encounter was so harrowing, and the monster so malevolent, that I said the hell with catch-and-release and mounted the trophy on the side of my shed next to my collection of equally evil “chrome sailcats” (Hubcapus Oddjobus).
I’d always considered myself a peaceful man. A loving, caring man. But after I’d experienced the tingling terror and exhilaration of throwing down with the big stuff, there was no turning back. I began obsessing over trophies and spending more and more time and more and more money in the pursuit of the awful and the awesome. Highway hunting became my very raison d’être. And I was good at it. Real good.
A great highway hunter knows that success in all blood and motor sports is somewhat serendipitous, and the real secret to becoming a Bwana of the Blacktop is in becoming intimately familiar with the behavior patterns of your prey and putting yourself in the right place at the right time. To bag the truckadillo you must on some Zen level become the truckadillo.
That was certainly the case one early evening on Highway 101 in Santa Rosa when I spotted a Ford Pinto packed with white trash and sporting a cheap aftermarket sunroof. The moron who’d installed it got careless with the saber saw and the entire apparatus appeared to be secured only by a bead of caulk roughly the width of the Nile. My instincts went on alert and I rode in closer to the vehicle and followed. My patience was rewarded mere minutes later when the entire fixture broke loose and I was suddenly confronted with a rare and heinous “glass condor” (Roofus Oopsus). The glass condor came straight at me without so much as a howdeedoo and landed with a shatter beside my right boot, sending a spray of tempered beads into my chaps. Having failed to dismount me, the cowardly creature skittered down the pavement and onto the median. I chased it down, stomped it to death, and as I was skinning it the white trash driver pulled up and demanded that I return it to him. He said he had a buddy who might trade him some used brake shoes for it. That driver is now mounted on my shed beside my redwood gator.
This brush with death served only to further enflame my ardor for big highway game. The scars on my leg that I received from the fray became a source of pride that I, even today, will occasionally display at cocktail parties when the conversation flags and nobody can think of a good joke. When I reveal these hard-won ribbons of honor, I can see the admiration in the women’s eyes even as they’re tugging their boyfriends towards the door and telling me to pull my pants back up.
As my thirst for variety raged and demanded quenching, I began tailing beat-up pick-up trucks precariously packed with entire households hoping to snare an “Okie egret,” also known as a “common flying chair” (Ladderbackus Overboardus). It was during one of these hunting expeditions on Highway 37 west of Vallejo (the infamous “Blood Alley” of Northern California) that I finally flushed the rarest and deadliest of highway game. Perched perilously on the gunwale of a beater Toyota truck was a large white La-Z-Boy—yes, an albino “great flying chair” (Reclinus Gigantus Ohshit). Highway 37 at this point is a high-speed commute corridor across the marshes of the San Pablo Bay estuary, without shoulders or even dry land along its flanks. Just bog and asphalt. The beater Toyota was driving erratically and I smelled blood. I followed closely for a mile or two watching the load shift and getting an erection. When that big overstuffed white baby cut loose and began bouncing down the road towards me, I felt like Ahab confronting his great white nemesis. Yes, I was the best… the best highway hunter who’d ever lived. Perhaps the only highway hunter who’d ever lived. And my hubris had spawned this hurtling white demon; a horrible hundred pounds of pure fury and corduroy. I leapt from my saddle with a soul-searing scream and met my bounding destiny in mid-air. My bike cartwheeled off into the swamps as I thrashed and tore at the great flying chair trying to gain an advantage. Traffic swerved crazily about us as we rolled about the roadway—a dervish of blood, loose change and doilies—until I felt its strength ebb beneath my efforts and it rolled into the shallow muck… spent and undone. I stood upon its dying hulk and pounded my chest, bellowing at the heavens until the CHP guy asked to see my license.
I have not hunted since. Something burned out of me that fateful day on Highway 37. Nothing remained to prove and I felt only disdain for even the largest truckadillo and fuzziest bark bat. Now I spend most of my time reminiscing and recording the details of my great conquests—with reverence for the vanquished and a silent prayer that the day may come when men will no longer feel a need to stalk the truckadillo. The rest of my time is spent just kicking back in my new white La-Z-Boy.
It’s all right here in the diaries.