Heading down for south Mississippi recently, and initially got excited when I glimpsed a flock of large black birds on the side of the road up ahead. It was still turkey season, and I began to think whether I could get to my shotgun without stopping the car. The car just ahead of me was showing no signs of slowing, though, so I reached toward the back seat to get my hand on the gun. At 60 mph, I figured the turkeys to run off the side of the road down by the little creek when the car in front flushed them, and maybe I could pull off, sprint down on my side of the creek, and get a shot.

The birds went for Plan B, instead. I braked and began to pull off, checking the rearview mirror to be sure no one was coming, but the big birds stood their ground until the last moment, then flushed across the road just in front of the leading car, some of them flying. One didn’t make it. The front bumper caught the bird and flung it into the corner of the passenger windshield. At 60 mph, the bird visibly splattered. The car swerved, almost veering into the ditch, before the driver regained control and pulled off the road.

Turkey shooting was forgotten in my concern for the other driver, who burst from the car as I pulled up behind her. It was a lady, and she bent over and threw up right in the road. Close calls do that, sometime. I got out to help, if I could.

GAG!!!! Those big black birds were not wild turkeys; they were buzzards!

Freshly-splattered buzzard is not something you want to sniff up close and personal!

I whipped out my bandana handkerchief for the teary-eyed lady, and gently guided her upwind of the stinking vehicle, then stepped closer (still upwind!) to inspect the damage. One headlight was broken out, and the windshield was cracked pretty good, though it didn’t presently distort the driver-side vision yet. I reported the damage to the lady, who by now had recovered enough to talk.

“If the windshield isn’t cracked all the way across, then what’s that streaked all the way over to the driver’s side?” she asked, pointing.

“Ma’am, that’s the insides of the buzzard you hit,” I declared.

“Buzzards! I thought those were wild turkeys!” she exclaimed.

Well, so had I, but I had an excuse. I’m from the Mississippi Delta, and we ain’t had buzzards to speak of since the cows left the Delta in the late sixties, when all the pasture land went to row crops. You just about have to leave the Delta to see a buzzard. Not that seeing a buzzard, especially close-up and freshly splattered, is something worth your leaving the Delta for, if you want my opinion.

An older friend of mine used to have an expression describing someone who was extremely depressed: “You look like you been whupped with a buzzard gut!” John Allen was a pilot, and claimed he had once experienced a mid-air collision with a buzzard, which ended up in the cockpit, as splattered as the one this lady had collided with. He said he had to sell the plane, because he never got the smell out. He was right on both counts.

The lady was recovered now, and went to get back in the car, which was still sitting on the side of the road with the door open. She got to the door, and gagged, turning away as she slammed it shut. She moved upwind again, fighting for control. I got a fresh whiff and declared, “Ma’am, why don’t you let me drive you home, and send someone to tow your car to where they can wash it for you?” I had seen from her tag that she lived in the county. She shook her head.

“No, I’ll drive it on home. I was in a hurry. My kids are with the babysitter and my husband won’t be home until late this afternoon. Surely, when I get on the road, that smell will dissipate. Thanks for stopping to help. If you’ll give me your name and address, I can mail your handkerchief back after I wash it.” I said she could have it, ‘cause I didn’t want it back. She nodded, and bravely walked to the car. It’s a good thing she still had the bandana. She opened the door, reached in for her purse, jumped back, and bent over to upchuck in the road again. I moved her upwind once more and took the bandana down to the creek to rinse it out. When I returned, she had a plan.

Grimly, she took a bottle of cologne from her purse and sprayed it onto the bandana, then folded it into a bandit-like mask and knotted it behind her neck, pulling it up over her nose and mouth. She looked like Butch Cassidy at the train robbery.

Last I saw her, she was driving over the hill, windshield sprayer and wipers going full-blast. I hope she got home okay. I bet she sold that car!