Have you ever seen a dead porcupine?

Have you ever seen a dead porcupine? I mean, up close and personal and not simply a picture of one or an image on a screen? For that matter, have you ever seen a live one, frolicking in the wild? Do porcupines frolick?

Porcupines are frightening and bizarre creatures, when you think about it. "God's own pincushion" -- if such a deity actually exists. The quills, or spines, are actually hairs with a healthy dose of keratin that strengthens and binds them into sharp points that easily penetrate flesh. To get an idea of the toughness of this stuff, human fingernails are made of keratin, as is hair and the outer later of skin.

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines can't actually throw their quills, which is something I actually worried about, recently.

As a cyclist, I'm keenly aware of the hundreds of sharp objects that litter the shoulders of the roadways I travel each day -- broken bits of stone, plastic and glass. Now I have a new threat to face: porcupine quills.

I can only think of two times that I've seen a porcupine in person, and each time was from my perch atop a bike saddle. Also, each time, the porcupine was decidedly dead -- victims of automobile drivers, likely late at night, when visibility is low. Late last year was the first time that I can recall seeing one in the wild, and yesterday evening was the second time.

It was a bit unnerving when I realized what the bundled clump on the side of the road actually was. My feelings were a combination of desire and wary. Of course, I felt some sympathy for it, but I welcomed the chance to get a closer look at the creature without it scurrying away. As I approached, I was mindful to maintain a safe distance. I wondered if, perhaps, spontaneous nervous reaction could cause a few of the spines to be thrown my way, even post mortem. As I later learned, the spines don't work that way, and so, I had nothing to fear. However, the buzzing of flies and stench of rotting flesh caused my upturned nose to happily continue pedaling on its way.

If your quest is to see a porcupine in the flesh -- the rotting, putrefying, festering flesh -- I invite you to aim your bike along the southward lane of Route 309, heading away from Mountain Top. Eventually, you will have your wish fulfilled. (At least, until someone or something carries it off.) Just remember to steer clear of it. Porcupines ain't nothin' to mess with.


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