posted by Matt W on June 5th, 2013

While I still consider myself a west coaster, I’ve actually lived in Tennessee for almost a decade now. When we were finalizing our move, everyone I knew was kind of horrified at the prospect of living in the South. But for the most part, bigger cities are all fairly similar, and I don’t live in the country so I’m good. But there is one aspect of Tennessee that people just can’t get over.

When I left my job in California, they had a little going away party for me and our graphic designer gave me a weird going away present, a can of chili. As she was a quiet person with a very dry sense of humor, I figured there was more to her gift. I then noticed that she had taken off the old label and replaced it with a perfectly Photo-shopped replacement. Brilliant. It said “Hormel’s Roadkill Chili.” She had also put in little pictures of all the potential little animals that could be in my chili and even changed the ingredient list to, All matter of roadkilled varmints: subject to availability. Now that was her style. I walked over to her desk to thank her and she said to me something that I have now heard hundreds of times. “Matt W., did you know that Tennessee has a roadkill law, if you hit an animal you can eat it.”

“Or I could just buy your Roadkill Chili, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm!” was my thankful reply.

Since that time, almost everyone I have met that finds out I’m from Tennessee has mentioned the roadkill law. Phone calls, in person, traveling, literally hundreds of people have mentioned it. It is without a doubt the one thing that virtually everyone knows about our state. We have a great musical reputation, the most visited national forests in the nation, good universities and sports teams, but it is our abundant wildlife and more accurately our inability to miss them while driving that comes up in every conversation. I was in Israel for training and met a guy from New Zealand and even he brought it up. I said “Wouldn’t you eat it in New Zealand?” and he replied “Sure, but I’m not from the states, you guys are weird in Tennessee.” Perfect.

So there you have it, everything you need to know about Tennessee. We have a roadkill law. Period. Every day Tennesseans all over the state go out of their way to run over squirrels, snakes, possums (I’ve heard their best when ran over because it tenderizes then), and when lucky the occasional deer, although hopefully they were driving their deer hunting truck because if not the repair bill outweighs the cost of the meat. And then everyone in the state goes home and makes up a huge pot of Roadkill Chili, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm. Except us, because my wife is the only vegetarian in Tennessee.

Seriously, we’ve all heard about the law, and while I can’t speak for my Appalachian brethren, I have never seen anyone pick up or even heard of anyone picking up roadkill and eating it. Ever.

Ask us about our living wildlife instead.

(stow soapbox)

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