Tom Clyde: Roadside casualties on S.R. 248
The other morning driving into town, S.R. 248 was as messed up as usual. It was Sunday morning, so the school and construction traffic were out of the mix, but more than offset by Sundance. The merge, where it reduces from two lanes to one (with a shoulder and center divider that would easily provide room for a second lane, but for a little paint) seems to flummox people. You go, then I go, and we take turns and really don’t have to screech to a dead stop in the center to block the guy in the other lane from getting twenty feet ahead of us. But if the same batch of commuters on that road every morning for years now haven’t figured it out yet, they never will.
Now we have the added complication of traffic coming from the old dump road, entering 248 almost exactly in the merge zone, so there is a three-way merge that is just more than people can cope with. So it doesn’t work and traffic backs up to U.S. 40 every morning, and leaves people stopped in the traffic lanes with trucks coming toward them at 70 mph because the off ramps are backed up. It’s been like that for years. The inaction suggests that City and UDOT think this is a good thing. They could at least give the appearance of caring.
But what made the commute unusual that morning was a dead elk on the side of the road in front of the middle school. Seeing dead wildlife on our roads is way too common. It’s also mostly avoidable if everybody just slowed down a little bit in the dark and paid attention. Put down the phone.
But a wildlife collision that deep into town is pretty unusual. It’s not like the elk from Round Valley are wandering the streets of Prospector scalping Sundance tickets.
The real mystery was how anybody could get up enough speed on congested 248 to actually hit an elk hard enough to do any damage. It must have happened at three o’clock in the morning or something, because the clogged traffic the rest of the day would make it impossible to get enough speed to even bruise the animal.
There was a guy parked by it, on his cell phone. His truck didn’t seem damaged, so I don’t think he hit it. I guess he was trying to figure out what kind of permit he needed to salvage it. On a Sunday morning, I think the answer is that it couldn’t be done.
A friend drove through there a few minutes later, and reported that there were two guys in yellow safety vests on scene investigating. I suspect they were with the City, and that a front-end loader was dispatched immediately to remove the carcass. Not even UDOT would leave it lying on the front lawn of the middle school. “Good morning, boys and girls. Please ignore the gruesome scene at the bus drop-off this morning.”
At the end of my ski day, it was gone without a trace, though I don’t know exactly what you do with a dead elk unless somebody at Public Works butchered it. I guess it was well enough frozen that if it took until Monday to get proper permits from Wildlife Resources, it wouldn’t have been much worse for wear.
I had this image of busloads of Sundance people, coming from the Richardson Flat parking lot, looking out the bus windows while on their way to see a movie, and watching somebody quartering an elk on the side of the road with a chainsaw. The Michael Jackson movie is apparently so disturbing that they had counselors standing by in the lobby. I don’t think the City has provided counseling services on the shuttle buses, yet, but if roadside elk butchering continues at this pace, it might be time. This is the second roadside elk recovery in a couple of weeks. One was quartered on 224 in front of the barn a while ago.
Anyway, if our visitors are here for some cinema verite and stark realism, it doesn’t get a whole lot more real than butchering a dead elk on the front lawn of the middle school. Just a little authentic Western Gothic; sort of a cross between Quentin Tarantino and the Cohen brothers. Carnivorous as I am, I’ll confess that if I had to butcher it myself, I’d probably find quinoa, faro, and kale more appealing. Anyway, pay attention out there.
In non-carcass news, more people are being indicted for lying to Congress. It occurred to me that if it’s a crime for a citizen to lie to Congress, shouldn’t it also be a crime for Congress to lie to us? I downloaded the new tax forms, and much to no one’s surprise, it’s bigger than a postcard. Shocked.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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The governments of the Wasatch Back have to reckon with its future as a contiguous metro area, Tom Clyde writes.