Interview with Rupert Vulture

The unscheduled end of Season One of Roadkill Obituaries resulted not from the tedium of writing or picture taking, nor from the end of hurried humans in automobiles, but from the dramatically improved response times from scavengers in middle Tennessee. We interviewed one such scavenger, Rupert Vulture.

Roadkill Obituaries (RO): Rupert, first off, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.

Rupert Vulture (RV): Yeah, no problem. It’s been a fairly slow morning and I’ve done plenty of circling so this is actually a nice break for me.

RO: As I mentioned earlier, it’s been really tough finding fresh roadkill lately and considering you guys are really the specialists in this subject, we thought you’d have some helpful information for us. In your opinion, why the lack of roadkill on the streets the last couple months?

RV: Well, the quantity really hasn’t changed that much. It’s been more of a supply and demand issue. Despite the recession, Williamson County real estate continues to grow. More industrialization means more cars; more cars means more roadkill; more roadkill means more of us… you get the picture. Lots of competition for what’s out there.

RO: So what you’re saying is there are more birds scavenging, and therefore we are seeing fewer dead animals on the streets.

RV: Exactly. And there’s a lot of excitement in the air around here. Early bird gets the worm… or in our case the carrion. Unless you’re out at 4:30 or 5 in the morning, you’re probably not going to be snapping your prized pictures of opossums and rabbits.

RO: Yeah… you guys are definitely clearing the bodies quickly. No evidence of fowl play left for us to document. Should we expect you guys to ease up or do you see this as a long-term trend.

RV: No, I think that you’ll start to see more roadkill out there soon. There are definitely seasons where we’re out early, but vultures a lazy by nature. I mean, honesly, we wait for you guys to kill stuff for us. One man’s roadkill is another man’s main dish.

RO: Well Rupert, I guess that’ll do it. Thanks again for your time today and we’ll see you out on the roads.

photo by David Braud 
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Petunia Opossum, 18

Petunia Opossum was found dead on Atlanta Highway in Athens late Saturday afternoon, May 5th. Witnesses say that when the tourist’s trolley car rounded the corner, the rumbling apparently startled Petunia, who curled up into a ball, directly in the path of the wheels. Despite honking and throwing on the emergency brake, the trolley driver could not avoid her. Preliminary investigations lead to the belief that the painful brightness of the sun disoriented her, causing her to wander into the road. According to acquaintances, Petunia had not left her den below ground in several months. It appears that some young revelers decided to throw a Cinco de Mayo party above Petunia’s residence and, startled by the noise and smell of tacos, Petunia wandered above ground.

Petunia was born and raised in nearby Watkinsville. She is survived by her parents, Virginia and Unkefer, and her 47 siblings. In high school, Petunia experienced a great deal of success as the drum major, the president of the student council, and the captain of the water polo team. She graduated from Watkinsville High at the top of her class, and was accepted on full scholarship to the Ag department at the University of Georgia, the first of her family to attend college.

Unprepared for the temptations of college life, Petunia was quickly lost to the dangerous world of whippets and she never turned back. Failing to attend a single class after syllabus week, she wandered the halls of Brumby dorm, clutching whipped cream canisters and scaring fellow freshman with incantations.

UGA declined to renew her scholarship for a second semester and asked that she vacate the dorms. It is now clear that Petunia moved into the labyrinth of tunnels underneath the campus. Officials found her hideout underneath the Philosophy building. Petunia’s lair contained hundreds of empty whippet containers along with dozens of “Dungeons & Dragons” implements, including capes, figurines, and handmade weaponry.

Her family, who thought Petunia was still attending college, will privately mourn their loss, preferring to remember and celebrate the Petunia they knew. It is unclear whether or not the family will sue the university for liability. In lieu of flowers, they are asking for donations to the charity they founded in her memory, Opossum Peer Pressure (OPP).

Petunia Opposum
photo by David Braud
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Darlene Deer, 25

Darlene Deer passed at dusk last Wednesday after a brief encounter with a 1997 Jeep Cherokee grill. She had a short career in acting, best known for her title role in the film, Bambi Does Pacific Coast Highway, one of a series of porn films based on Disney characters. Despite being famous in the venison porn industry for the seductive tilt of her head and her big eyes, she found that  porn-deer roles were rare so her career was short and she spent most of her life grazing alongside a highway. She and her first husband, Darren Buck, known for his 18-point rack, bore two fawns each spring, until he suffered a lingering death when caught in the sight of a 30/30. Later, she married an old friend of both hers and Darren’s, Benny Bunny, who played the role of Thumper in her first film. They became advocates for the controversial right to interspecies marriage and the banning of deer blinds as unfair advantage to hunters. She is pre-deceased by Benny after the swerve of a Pirelli failed to miss him on his daily romp across Jackson Road to the lettuce patch. Guests to Darlene’s memorial service are asked to bring a buck knife and tanning tools. In lieu of a funeral march, Manfred Mann will play “Blinded by the Light.” Darlene will always be remembered for her shyness, love of pea shoots, and clover.


photo by David Braud

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Fr. Thom Turkey, 67

Since his death on Friday, a steady stream of visitors from around the county have come to pay their respects at the site where Father Thom Turkey drew his last breath. According to unverified reports from congregants of Sacred Plume of our Blessed Virgin, the local parish will be petitioning the Vatican for Father Thom’s sainthood. Fr. Thom had a reputation as a miracle worker who ministered for many years within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Cumberland Valley in Middle Tennessee. Devotees of Fr. Thom are praying for his sainthood.

“There aren’t many who want this parish because it is a lot of work,” the 64-year-old priest was reported to have said in an interview with a local paper The Caruncle Chronicle, “but I just want to be an ordinary priest in a rural area. There isn’t much glory in loving the lowly.” Those are his words. His congregation doesn’t find him to be ordinary at all. When he was assigned 27 years ago to Sacred Plume, his first and only parish, the aging red-brick church was in poor condition, its flock dwindling.

Since then, the parish has grown into a refuge for agrarian Catholics. A standing- room-only crowd of believers gathers every Sunday to hear Fr. Thom’s homilies. The smell of burning cow pies replaces traditional incense, and a drum and paintings depicting Thanksgiving sacrifices stand side-by-side with the altar and crucifix.

“My approach is not to convert folks to Catholicism as much as it is to help them to be the best turkeys they can be,” Fr. Thom said. Birds flock here from all over the farm region to attend mass. Other parishioners have flown the coop from the Southern Baptist congregation, God’s Gobblers, and come to the Saturday evening mass. Some live nearby in one of the area’s poorest neighborhoods. Many were drug addicts, but quit cold turkey after their first visit to the church. “I think that is the beauty of the people down here,” Fr. Thom reported. “Although they may be poor, uneducated and suffering, they live in the real world. Not everyone can afford wattle insurance, but they can all afford the free love of Jesus.”

If the church was in bad shape when he got there, the rectory was even worse. That’s where he lived, however, with his three Yorkshire terriers: Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.

Parishioners like Mavis Mabry say he has touched their lives profoundly. “After I left the flock, I didn’t really go to church because all of the abuse scared me away,” she says. “I was negative and judgmental, but he changed my perspective on life and on God.” When doctors were not certain her 10-day-old granddaughter would survive Turkeypox, she remembers Father Thom coming to the hospital to baptize the chick. A decade later, the little hen runs to him for a hug every Sunday.

Thom Turkey was the sixth of eight born to Southern Baptist tobacco farmers in Wayne County, North Carolina. They were poor, “but we had a cow, chickens, pigs and a big garden,” he says. He credits his illiterate mother with great wisdom and understands that education and intelligence are not one in the same.

He was drawn to the Roman Catholic Church by a small group of nuns who ran a hospice for poor people who were dying of cancer. “You would think it would be a very morbid place, but amazingly it was very uplifting,” he reported. “I’ve been a Catholic ever since.”

After mass each week, Fr. Thom went around inside and outside the Church premises to pray and touch those who pressed him for healing. One by one, he touched the forefeathers of those in wheelchairs and made them stand, according to Penny Puckett, who had been clipped when a neighboring farmer tried to domesticate her. “I felt my pain going away and feathers growing when he prayed over me,” said Penny, 69, who stood up and walked around the church grounds after being touched by Fr. Thom. She then had her tired sister-in-law, who was assisting her, sit on her wheelchair. Fr. Thom was famous for encouraging the hard-working congregants to “sit for a spell.” He will be dearly missed.

Sacred Plume of our Blessed Virgin is awaiting Fr. Thom’s replacement. The Archdiocese plans on taking their time with choosing the appointment, but will talk turkey as soon as the shooting season closes.

photo by David Braud
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Nicole Squirrel, 49

A beloved wife, mother, sister and friend, Nicole Squirrel died suddenly on Friday late afternoon in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. While trying to reach for an acorn, she fell from a tree into oncoming traffic. Her death was immediate. Nicole, known by her close friends and family as “Nicky,” was a hard working, stay-at-home squirrel. The parishioners in her bible study group at St. Matthew’s called her a true Proverbs 31 Squirrel.

Nicky’s real passion in life was her miniature acorn portraits, a skill passed down to her from her ancestors, an art form dating back to the early 1800’s. The tiny likenesses require a skill rarely duplicated outside Eastern Pennsylvania. Some have called acorn painting “kitschy,” but insiders understand how truly artistic and cherished these miniatures are. One family member—identifying himself only as Cousin Pauly—said in regards to Nicole’s character as well as her caricatures, “Yous guys need to know this. Nicky’s nuts were worth an upwards of fifty bucks per. But she was too generous. She even gave her nuts to some grasshoppa’s. She was an angel, that Nicky. God rest her soul.”

Nicky’s portraits are characterized by tousled hair, highlighted with broad sweeping brush strokes and cinnamon colored eyes.

At her memorial, Nicky’s grieving family comforted each other with memories and anecdotes about Nicky’s tail always being stained with whatever paint she’d last used. Nicky’s family asks that if you own a miniature portrait painted by Nicole Squirrel that you’d respect the worth of the acorn and not eat it if the winter ever runs long. Any families wishing to donate their acorns back to the family should be assured that the miniature will be added to a collection that will be displayed in the Second Oak to the Left Museum in the front yard of the Barnes Foundation in Philly’s city center.

Nicole Squirrel-1
(Guest Photographer: Richard Braud, Lansdale PA)
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Charles Opossum, 40

Charles Opossum, the quiet entrepreneur who, as Baby Charlie, captured national attention after falling into an abandoned well, died on Wednesday night. He was 40.

The cause of death was minivan, according to tire and bumper impressions.

Sporting bright, beady eyes and a rosy nose, Charles Opossum reluctantly spent his life in the public eye. He was born, with six others, on January 7, 1972, to a schoolteacher and a traveling musician. A gentle child, he gained fame at the tender age of four months after he wandered from his mother’s back and tumbled into a well near the family’s tree. Rescuers labored for nearly three days to free Baby Charlie, who, throughout the ordeal, remained perfectly still on his side.

News footage of the harrowing event spread like wildfire, and before long, the nation sported Baby Charlie fever. Unauthorized biographies, including the bestseller Too Close to Not Fall: The Baby Charlie Story, followed, as did the television movie, Out of the Hole, into our Hearts: Rescuing Baby Charlie. As to be expected, overexposure of young Charles led to eventual backlash, with several opossum groups questioning the media’s ultimate intentions in shining the spotlight on Baby Charlie. It has been argued that the term “media circus” originated out of this disgust.

“I never quite got used to the attention,” Charles said in a 2008 interview. “To be perfectly honest, it isn’t in my nature to engage in much of anything.” He confessed to years of professional coaching, which he said helped him “not just drop to the ground” when approached by photographers and television cameras.

In 1995, Charles received a trust fund of donations worth an estimated $200,000. With this money he opened his first successful business, Do-It-Quik Abandoned Well Fillers. That same year he began a scholarship program targeting young, underserved opossums. Further business ventures included Baby Charlie’s Lil’ Tyke Tethers, Baby Charlie’s Lil’ Tyke Trackers, and C.O. Industries, a communications firm and think tank.

Charles Opossum never married. He is survived by his siblings, Christopher, Caleb, Clay, Chelsea, Caitlin, and Chantel. The family asks for privacy during this time of mourning.

Charles Opossum
©2012 David Braud Photography
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Moldavia Rabbit, 73

Beloved literature professor Mrs. Moldavia Rabbit, was killed instantly on Saturday night on Old Hillsboro Rd., only meters from her burrow. She was returning from a late night poetry slam where it is rumored, the local “Rotten Peach Moonshine” was in abundance. Despite her auditory prowess, she did not hear the stealthy Prius until it was too late. Her latest work, The Tell Tale Heartache, The Life and Work of Edgar Allen Poe, will be released posthumously in July 2012.

Mrs. Moldavia Rabbit
©2012 David Braud Photography
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Ulysses Opossum, 57

Mr. Ulysses Opossum was struck on Thursday night on Southall Road just west of his winter residence at the Harpeth River. His wife reflected through tears, “I thought he was grinning and playing dead—like always.” Known as an excellent finder of food and water, he will be missed by all who knew him. He leaves behind 119 sons and daughters and a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Opossums for Safe Crossings Society.

©2012 David Braud Photography
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Pascal Skunk, 98

A World War II veteran, Mr. Skunk was killed instantly when struck by a car this past Saturday. His two living grandchildren say that he kept his mind sharp through the years by doing crossword puzzles and watching Wheel of Fortune, and mentions that “he complained almost never – except about Kelly Rippa and the hairpin turn on the Natchez Trace Parkway.” His family thought it ironic that after storming the beach at Normandy what finally got him was a group of German tourists following the Trace from Tupelo to Nashville.

©2012 David Braud Photography 
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