Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine -Redux

Many years ago, D. H. Lawrence wrote an essay with the above title (minus “Redux,” of course). The occasion was a situation that caused him to kill a porcupine on the ranch in New Mexico where he and his wife lived for a time. The killing was messy, beginning with a botched shot with a .22 and ending with a cedar post. The essay was cleaner, beginning with the backstory and ending with philosophical and political, not all of them entirely happy by modern standards. Still, it is well worth the read, especially for those–which is to say nearly everyone these days–who knows Lawrence only as the author of a dirty book and perhaps disappointed that the book in question proved less than its reputation.

I was reminded of the essay yesterday when I was called upon to dispatch a fox squirrel, mostly denuded by mange, clinging to a viburnum branch, barely able to move, and moaning piteously as it suffered the last stages of hypothermia. Denied the use of a .22 (suburbs, hardscaping, ricochet, neighbors), I was reduced to a shovel. The whole affair was managed at least as badly as Lawrence’s, and there was not the least thing literary about it.

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