Elk Water

You probably think it would smell pretty manly.

As some of you know, I work on a highway maintenance crew in the northern part of Canada. I love my job as a whole because it’s really cool compared to so many jobs I have had before. I never like to complain about it or devalue it because I know what it is to dread going to work at a job you hate and that pays a lot less.

No, I know I’m fucking lucky. I get to look at views like this when I’m working

and this

I really like my job for a lot of reasons.

Even on days like the one I’m going to tell you about now.

Last week it was raining pretty hard when I went to work. I had already had two cups of coffee and an English muffin for breakfast but sneaked back to the store to fill my Thermos up with some hot, black love for the rest of this cold, wet day.

That was my first mistake. I should have stayed the course and not dallied. If I had have left right then, one of my co-workers might have been dealing with this instead of me.

Did I mention that part of our job is cleaning up roadkill from the highway? Well, it is. See where I’m going with this?

So I am working on my third cup of coffee and I am heading for where our job was starting up that morning when I see a bunch of lumps on the road ahead. It’s still dark, so I couldn’t tell what it was. Probably someone lost a bunch of garbage. I slowed down and turned on my beacon light and hazards because our job also entails cleaning up the trash people litter the highway with.

Nope, not garbage. Turn away now if you are squeamish.

No, it was a dead elk that had been hit with what I can only assume was one of those bullet trains from Japan.

Whatever hit it removed a hind quarter and completely eviscerated it in a fifty-foot long swath of destruction. I dragged off the hind quarter that was basically a couple of busted bones with a tender looking roast hanging off of them. I went back for the rest of the carcass that should have weighed a few hundred pounds more than it did. The only reason I knew there were three quarters left is the amount smashed feet I grabbed with my increasingly slippery gloves. I looked at the guts smeared all down the road as I pulled the makeshift body over the edge and into to the ditch bottom.

I was panting pretty heavily by now. I was glad that it was raining so hard as it seemed to keep the smell down. I was breathing hard enough that I probably could have tasted it if it wasn’t raining.

I walked back to the truck and grabbed the flat mouth shovel. This part was going to be sketchy. As I started scraping at the far end of the smear, I noticed headlights coming. I could see that it was a tanker and it wasn’t slowing down. The mist rolling off the tires was pretty intense. The Jake brake should be kicking in about now.

No Jake brake.

I started waving my arms in the “Slow the fuck down.” motion but realized that if all the flashing lights indicating there was someone working on the road didn’t clue the prick in, this probably wouldn’t help.

I was right. As I watched him barrel through the carnage I noticed the colour of the mist turn from clear to a greyish brown. I shook my shovel and yelled “You motherfucker” into the diesel droning air around me. I tried to look that bastard in the eye as he went by but all I could see was the name on the door.


Have you ever farted in a bathtub full of elk guts? I imagine it smells the same as that cloud of elk water that permeated my nostrils and clothing. I immediately started wretching and felt my coffee trying to escape my stomach.

You ever try to stop a thin, acidic liquid from flying out of your mouth with a bloody leather glove on the side of the road?

Don’t. It can be pretty painful and it really doesn’t help at all. As the floodgates opened and I gave in to all of my body’s urges I heard a woman say in a worried voice, “Oh my god, are you alright?”

I nodded my spewing head that I was fine and waved her away. I could see that she didn’t know what to do. I finished hurling and after a bit of dry heaving I finished scraping the guts off the road. I was ready to go home but then I noticed I still had eight and a half hours left in my shift so it looks like I was going to be patching potholes with my new cologne on.


2 thoughts on “Elk Water

  1. Good god that’s a disgusting scenario to endure, and a very unique one too. I like how you wrote this. I was able to see the best and (I think?) close to the worst side of working on a road maintenance crew.

    I think it’s really nice that you have a job that means so much to you, in spite of ridiculous experiences like this. Now go get your rabies shot.

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