I saw a dead mammal lying there on the right of the trail right before Plaines Road, by Sojourner Truth Park. I didn’t stop. Passing, it looked like a fox. A fox. Was it one of the foxes that hunts in my backyard? What could have led to that wily fox’ demise? I told myself I’d stop there and do my daily photos and search around for things on my way back.
‘Twern’t no fox. It was a groundhog with big buck teeth. Flies were all around his head. Hard to imagine someone moving fast enough to hit him with a bike on the trail. They can haul when they need to. This chap wasn’t fat and tawny like the Jackie Gleason stand-in that trundles across my lawn. This guy was pale. He was looking thin.
I took a customary walk around, searching for some new plants. Didn’t find much. There was a small white flower my app told me was snakeweed, that was all up and down the area I was walking in and I plucked a few stems and imagined it up on my desk. Back home I looked up snakeweed and learned that it was actually the cause of much trouble in the nineteenth century, when cows would eat it and their milk would inexplicably become poisonous. It was Abe Lincoln’s mom, in fact, who was one of the victims of snakeweed milk poisoning. It wasn’t for many years that they discerned that snakeweed was the culprit and milk became pasteurized.
I plucked the tiny leaves off the stems and placed the bouquet into a smart looking glass vase and went out to talk to my wife and daughter. Down in the basement, moving the laundry to the dryer, I suddenly coughed and felt a sharp, biting pain. Could it be? Had I somehow ingested some of this milk toxin by manipulating the snakeweed? I thought to go and wash my hands immediately. At the top of the stairs, my younger one now also coughed, over and over. She jokingly wondered if she had Covid. Then, I coughed again and it was clear that something else beyond cut flowers was irritating us. The older one explained that the Mrs. had fried up a big mound of chili peppers and took them out to . . . keep away the deer. Does that even work? The whole house was uninhabitable for the next hour or more. We all had painful coughs.