Macrae Farm Park is a weird place. Or at least it’s adjacent to a very weird place. Every fall when hiking in the sandy forests between the Winooski Valley Park District’s natural area and Colchester HS, it seems like I find deer carcasses. A lot of deer carcasses. I’ve found them hanging from trees, as a pile of fur in a goldenrod meadow, and now this year in a somewhat disturbing pile of 13 rib cages.
When I first arrived to the natural area, I noticed a writhing black swarm of crows on the edge of the wetland area. As I made way towards the crows they erupted into the sky in a riot of squawks. My son, Cedar, was fussing about our sled so I assumed he had spooked the scavengers from their quarry. Not but a moment later, a red-tailed came zipping by on the tail of the crows.
As much as my moral hackles may have pricked up looking at the exposed mausoleum, the crows seemed rather indifferent to the ethical flash point they were feasting on. As we tracked the crows back into the natural area, I couldn’t shake that question of why this should bother me so much. I didn’t know anything of the hunter’s (or hunters’) motives, of how the deer had been processed after they’d been killed. This seemed beyond subsistence, but maybe the deer are pests to the farmer. Maybe not. It was all speculation, but the impulsive reaction was clear.
There was something undeniably visceral and evocative about the scene. With my back to the red stained snow, we made our way through the pasture towards the forest edge of the Winooski River. Looking at the open expansive of well-shorn herbaceous plants, I could see the farm too as a carcass, the remains of a once free and wild forest. The forest had at some distant time tangled its way up against the sandy shores of the Winooski before it was hacked and beaten back. What was so different between the ax and the gun? I could conjure this analogy, but I couldn’t feel it so viscerally in the same way.