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"One man's trash is another man's treasure" has recently taken on a new meaning. "Normal" people are becoming raving lunatics in a frenzy not seen since the Cabbage Patch doll made its debut. Instead of heading toward toy stores, however, these fanatics are hitting the road -- literally -- on their hands and knees in search of a morbid treasure: road kill.

These prized pavement possessions are becoming extinct as more and more people hop on the animal-body bandwagon. Now I consider myself to be a pretty tolerant person, but when I hear what some of my fellow human beings are capable of, it makes me shudder.

Once left on the side of the road to rot in peace, road kill is now being put to use. Anyone who does not believe in life after death has not witnessed the reincarnation of our dearly departed wildlife into art, auction memorabilia and, dare I say it, meals meant for human consumption.

There is a man in Australia -- I swear, I saw this on the news -- who is using his findings for artistic purposes. This is not as easy as you might think. First, he must go about selecting the proper sample for his work. This can take weeks of examining maimed and contorted frogs, birds and other assorted carcasses.

Once he has found a suitable one -- not too fresh, not too sun-baked -- that resembles something artsy, say a landscape, vase with flowers or Elvis, he gathers it up, takes it home and prepares it for sale. Just add some spray paint, suspend it in a frame, slap on the inevitable thousand-dollar price tag and, voila, it's ready for the family-room wall. This gives an entirely new meaning to the term "still life."

On to New Hampshire, home of the road kill auction. I heard of this event a few years ago when some citizens with nothing better to do -- except perhaps schedule a lobotomy -- gathered people together in the name of placing bids on Mother Nature's leftovers. What a dream-come-true for an auctioneer.

One woman was the lucky highest bidder on a bear. Intending to convert it into a rug for her husband, she underestimated its size and instead of carting it home in her trunk, was forced to strap the carcass into the passenger seat of her car. Although her husband was thrilled with her acquisition, he refused to enter the family automobile until it was fumigated.

Next we have the "Road Kill Cookbook." Personally, I have never had the pleasure of browsing through this gourmet wonder, so I will leave its contents to the imagination -- better yours than mine. I have heard, however, that it offers enlightening alternatives to your basic rabbit and possum dishes. The mere thought would be enough to make Julia Child choke on her beef brisket.

So, the next time you're driving over the river and through the woods of Western New York to grandmother's house and spot that roadside mess, don't get grossed out. Consider yourself lucky, because there is some stiff competition out there for such a find. And, by the way, when you reach grandma's house, it might not be a bad idea to check the freezer.

MARY CLISTA DAHL lives in Pendleton and hasn't run over anything recently.
For writer guidelines for columns appearing in this space, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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