Road Kill Tiger Tails

The speed of mule is the perfect pace to see what winds up on America the Beautiful’s highway shoulders. It’s ugly: thousands of Bud Light cans, Gatorade bottles, KFC boxes and MacDonald’s cups. Occasionally a love letter and a pink purse.

It’s loud, too. When you’re behind the wheel, you don’t hear what’s under the hood. You’re hushed travel capsule makes a hell of a racket as it’s barreling down the highway at 65 miles per hour.

Bernie Harberts,mule, adventure

Mules Cracker and Brick huddled on the side of the road. Some days, after 8 hours of road noise, I feel like joining them.

There are bright spots, though, like the butterflies. Smashed mid-flight against bumpers, windshields and grills, their bodies drift down in front of the mules as we plod across the land. On a recent stretch of Kentucky Highway 25, I came across 10 fallen butterflies in less than half an hour.

Bernie Harberts, mule, adventure, truck

Vehicles and butterflies just don’t mix. Here, one of the hundreds of trucks that pass us most days. On the right, one of the rocky passes Highway 25 passes through. I found a lot more dead butterflies in these gaps than in the open sections of land.

Bernie Harberts, butterfly, eastern tiger tail

There were dead butterflies in the grass and….

Bernie Harberts,butterfly, eastern tiger tail

…dead butterflies on the pavement. There were ….

Bernie Harberts, butterfly, eastern tiger tail

….dead butterflies on the gravel shoulder and….

Bernie Harberts, butterfly, eastern tiger tail

….at the mules’ feet and….

Bernie Harberts, butterfly, eastern tiger tail

….even under the mules’ feet.

After a long day of riding up the highway, I took all my dead butterfly photos and put them together. Laid museum-style on a black background, they made a bittersweet arrangement.

Bernie Harberts, tiger tail, butterfly, tiger tail butterfly

Beautiful wreckage: Eastern Tiger Tail bodies as found on Kentucky’s highway 25E between Middlesboro and Pineville. Rocky Face is where many of the butterflies came from.

Corine Montoya
2019-05-09 00:10:40

Hello Bernie,
I’m happy to see the pics you share, but if it weren’t for your adventurous spirit I would not be able to enjoy parts of the USA I have never seen in person. I am sure glad God has created a person like you (whom has shared your travels with people like me and many others). Safe journey on your traveling West.

Bernie Harberts
2019-05-13 07:22:20

Hello Corine,
So good to hear you’re enjoying the photos and stories on Rambling the land with mules really gives one a unique perspective of the USA. It’s not the easiest way to travel but hearing you enjoy the results sure makes it worth it. Have a great day. Bernie /


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