Some Days You're The Alaskan Cyclist, And Some Days You're The Porcupine

I'm not sure, but I think the references to porcupines and garage doors in this editorial in the Anchorage Daily News is some kind of GOP code.

Keep right, quills

I've never seen a porcupine sprint.

The other night I almost hit one while riding a bicycle home. Waddle and roll, old quills was in a hurry on the right side of the trail just shy of the overpass that leads to the landfill outside of Eagle River. Headlamp light caught his tail a few feet before my front tire would have. I swerved. Quills kept going in a straight line.

No dash to the safety of brush and shadow. Just straight on, huff and puff and still slo-mo.

I had a vision of a leg full of quills if I'd hit the critter and fallen on it. Having pulled quills from the swollen muzzles of yelping dogs, I've got no desire to feel their pain.

Quills can kill, but the porcupine never seems to mean any harm.

Good thing they're nocturnal. They don't move fast enough for daylight living.

"Death on dogs," is how an acquaintance once described them. He recommended shooting them. Another old Alaskan once told me they were walking wilderness survival kits. Easy to kill with a stick. Fresh meat.

Deal death to a porcupine? Its very nature rules out fair chase. I once watched one go up a birch tree to escape a dog. The leaves grew faster than the porcupine climbed. Fortunately for both dog and porcupine, it was already out of the dog's range by the time the dog saw it.

Another time a porcupine huddled, head tucked between front paws against a garage door as I walked up to it in the dark. It raised its head once and looked back to see if I was still there, then put its head back down. It seemed to be thinking that if it didn't see me, I wouldn't be there anymore.

So I left. I waited half an hour before checking to see that it was gone. I figured the porcupine needed at least that much time to get away.

-- Frank Gerjevic

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: September 9, 2008.

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