By Christopher Cudworth
Seriously. We tried to warn you.
When this blog began in August we introduced you to the danger of tarsnakes, both the literal and allegorical form, that are waiting on the open road to take you down and consume your flesh. Or at least they try to produce some road rash upon which they can feed after you scrape your body off the tarmac and keep riding. Or running. They’re not choosey who they consume, these tarsnakes. Just look at the one in the picture. Coming at you. Click on the pic for a closer look. You can see the vicious expression on its face, such as it is.
Some of you probably thought we were joking. You still blithely ride over tarsnakes thinking nothing will come of the danger, or actually trod on them with your running shoes thinking no ill can come your way.
But look at the bottom of your shoes, people. They’re just covered with tar after a run on a hot summer day. The tarsnakes have it in mind to take you down even if it takes years. They’re patient as pythons and once they have you in their grip, they can squeeze the air out of your bike tires or your expensive Nikes. They’re hungry and evil as leeches, those tarsnakes. And they seem to be on the increase, and the warpath.
Is global warming increasing the tarsnake population?
So far we’ve all been lucky. Tarsnakes have pretty much been confined to living in the cracks of the road in temperate climates. But as global warming increases the intensity of summer heat and warm periods extend into the fall and even winter, you had better beware. Tarsnakes will begin to breed out of control. Many will be forced to go seeking new territories, and that’s where the encounter between tarsnakes and people could become really dangerous. Even deadly.
Take a look at the photos accompanying this article. Here is photographic proof that the species of road vipers known as tarsnakes have actually begun to emerge from their dormant road-grade state to make their way up onto the actual road surface where they can cause real trouble. Some roadologists believe we could see an emergence on par with that of the 17-year cicadas, with millions upon millions of tarsnakes dispersing across the highways and byways of America. It is not known whether tarsnakes have the ability to sing as cicadas do, but some have speculated they may know a few Jerry Jeff Walker songs.
You think speed will save you? Ha ha hah haa hahhh.
Oh sure, when you’re hammering away on your bike all summer you’ve probably run over a few dormant tarsnakes, letting your tire slip into that tar-filled groove. Even a dormant tarsnake can take you down if you’re not careful. They can wriggle like mad under a bike tire.
The road crews know all about the life history of tarsnakes. After all, they’re the ones who lay down the tar that transforms from a tarsnake larvae (shown in the header) to a living, crawling tarsnake (as pictured in these story images.)
In fact while I was stopped on the road (keeping my distance from the tarsnake of course) to photograph these live images of a tarsnake emerging from its road crack habitat, a red utility pickup truck stopped behind me on the road and waited for me to finish taking the photo.
Then the driver leaned toward the passenger side window and waved me over.
“Watcha doing?” he wanted to know.
“I’m taking a photo of this tarsnake here. We cyclists don’t trust them.”
“You shouldn’t, he agreed. “Yeah, I used to do that for a living. Make tarsnakes. I’ve got the burns on my legs to prove it. Hey, that one looks pretty lively. Did you get a good picture?”
“Yes, I think so,” I said, showing him the image on the digital camera.
“Damn, that is like a trophy tarsnake almost! You could have that one mounted! With eyes and shit!”
“I thought about that,” I admitted. “But despite the fact that they’re dangerous, I’m still pretty much a catch-and-release guy when it comes to fish and tarsnakes. I guess the PETA people finally got to me.”
“Rrrrrooah Boy,” Big Jim muttered. “Don’t get me started on PETA people or those jerks who honk at us guys holding the SLOW signs during road projects. You know it’s hard work laying down tarsnakes. They don’t always want to stay in the cracks where you put them. You can see where we have to stomp them dead sometimes. I’m sure the PETA people would not approve of that. But what else are you gonna do with 3 feet of writhing tar out on the road. You gotta kill it. That one you just photographed is proof, right there. Those tarsnakes are out to gitcha. Sure enough.”
I thanked Big Jim for the warning.
“Well, nice talking to you to,” Big Jim said, sticking out his large hand to shake. “It’s my belief it is always good to do right by your fellow man.”
And that’s a true story. Big Jim really exists. And he was big. Filled up one whole side of his truck. The other side was filled with dirty hats and what looked like the remnants of lunch. It just might be that Big Jim lives in his truck, driving the roads of America to warn people about the dangers of tarsnakes. Don’t laugh, it could be true.
One more look
After Big Jim left I walked cautiously back to take a last look at the tarsnake. My bike lay alongside the ominous creature and I had to creep carefully around its tarry shape to retrieve the Felt 4C and be on my way.
We all should really thank God here in Illinois (or anywhere tarsnakes, exist, which is everywhere…) that a cold spell arrived in late October. Otherwise millions of tarsnakes might have emerged en masse and headed for the subdivisions to terrorize little kids on their bikes, or leap up like rattlesnakes to strike runners and joggers who stray inside the white line. And we don’t want that.
But for now, we’re safe. At least until the snow snakes emerge when winter comes and the snow flies. Snow snakes are known to confuse the eye with twisting shapes on cold, windy afternoons. On country roads, if it’s not one type of snake, it’s another, I tell ya.
It’s getting as bad as Australia here in the States, with all these poisonous and dangerous creatures everywhere. Tarsnakes and snowsnakes are nothing to be trifled with. But at least you’ve been warned.