Friendship & Roadkill

Snake Skin, inspired by Maplewood State Park. Brandi Malarkey, artist.


Once upon a time, around 1965 or so, there was a Minnesota farmer. None of the other Minnesota farmers seem to know him personally, but all insist that he was a friend of someone they know. On a cold and snowy evening in November this farmer was trying to finish harvesting his late corn when his picker jammed. Frustrated and annoyed, he was in the middle of trying to un-jam the machine when he heard a noise in the corn. Curious, the farmer walked toward the sound until he located the source–a raccoon. Irritated in general, looking to burn off some frustration, and unaware of the homicidal tendency of raccoons, he packed a snowball and threw it at said raccoon.

The raccoon turned into a slavering, enraged beast and started chasing the farmer who ran away as fast as he could, especially when he realized the raccoon had several accomplices. Scrambling to the top of his tractor, the farmer was forced to defend himself for the next twenty minutes or so against abnormally large and vicious raccoons armed with only the large wrench he was using to fix the machine. Eventually the raccoons lost interest and left, leaving him behind, exhausted by his ordeal.

I believe the moral of the story is “Don’t mess with the wildlife, Stupid.”

So what does this tale have to do with anything, you may ask? The answer is that the line between friendship and roadkill is far shorter than I would ever have imagined, and getting shorter all the time.

In April I launched this website to showcase the previous year’s worth of artwork and share my continuing art adventures. The unexpectedly lovely benefit if this is that now friends and acquaintances will randomly send me images of things that remind them of me–mushrooms, and butterflies, and floral arrangements. Lovely little surprises with no schedule, with no warning, that someone is seeing something pretty and it makes them think of me. How unbelievably cool is that?

As I have also discovered an interest in bugs, and have a new microscope, I have started a small bug collection. Again, friends and acquaintances have assisted me with this endeavor with enthusiasm–often to my surprise. While most of them are not as epic as the drunken zombie scorpion, I have still somehow started to get a reputation for liking dead things, which has resulted in an odd assortment of gifts. I was telling a good friend of mine–who used to be a Minnesota farmer–the story of my neighbor’s daughter, who was quite emotionally distraught when a bird flew into her window and died. Not because the bird had died, but because her mother suggested they bury it. This resulted in much sorrow, and a tearful “But Brandi collects dead things!”, which is unbelievably sweet and thoughtful, but I am NOT collecting dead animals. Which I was saying very firmly to my ex-farmer friend who had just finished telling me the raccoon story.

Shortly thereafter he came across a dead raccoon in the field near his house, and since it was too perfect to resist, he sent me a photo of the dead raccoon.

Then, on Thanksgiving, he saw another dead raccoon on the side of the road, stopped, got out of his car, took a photo, waved to his confused neighbors driving by, and sent me another picture of a dead raccoon.

Obviously, I had only one option for his Christmas gift this year–his portrait as the wrench wielding farmer.


I think he will like it.

This is doubly amusing to me, however, since at Thanksgiving I started a painting that I have just now finished, and the subject isn’t a raccoon, but is–you guessed it!–roadkill.

Each year very close friends of ours go on a woods walk in Maplewood State Park in the fall. The last several years we have been lucky enough to accompany them. There are always colorful leaves, trees to climb, fungus to hunt, and a fire to roast sausages over.  This year, ground into the dirt, was the carcass of a snake. It was flattened into the road, and yet the scales were still distinct, and the pattern they made very compelling. So I came home with many photographs, and finally completed this:

Snake Skin, inspired by Maplewood State Part. Brandi Malarkey, artist.

I did it botanical style of object on white background, because I wanted the focus to be on the familiarity of the shape, the clear patterns still very visible, and the way the gaps caused by missing bits of the snake offsets both.

I am really quite pleased with it.

Even roadkill can be pretty.

My husband thinks I am insane.

He’s probably not wrong.


I’m off until January. Hope everyone has a great New Year!

2 Responses

  1. Cool story…..Farmers have lots of them.

    The snake is magnificent! I should dig out the ones I took years ago of a garter snake swallowing a frog.

    Merry Christmas

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