At a small limestone quarry in Lee County, Alabama, there is a new digger that may change the face of mining stone, and the paving of roads forever.
John Johnson is the foreman of the dig and with the help of the improved extraction method; his small company has seen some pretty respectable profits of late. "No one had any idea that this kind of thing was coming along. In fact, we had been providing the state with aggregate for asphalt for the last 10 years to help combat it."
The answer has been to apply the same natural process that destroys the nations highways, into reaping stone at a rate unheard of before now. This was accomplished with the help of a small bird with a voracious appetite.
"Back in 1887 when they cross-bred the woodpecker to the roadrunner, the idea was to create a hybrid bird that could survive both the rampant cartoonists of the day and the deadly 'Wiley Coyote'. explained Johnson. "But what they really did was to guarantee horrible roads for over a century."
Indeed. Between 1889 when the first hybridized 'Roadpecker' escaped into the wild, and today, the roads of this nation have been systematically reduced to ruble on an almost annual basis. "The Roadpecker's natural instinct is to attack asphalt, brick and concrete, creating potholes where it could lay eggs. And because those eggs hatch rather quickly, even heavy traffic flow was never enough to stop their propagation."
But today, and thanks to the help of the University of Detroit where the Roadpecker was originally created so long ago, there is hope.
After the eggs have been harvested from new potholes, they are incubated in an old tar bucket and then upon hatching, fed nothing but limestone. The result is the perfect means of quarrying.
Mr. Johnson goes on, "We get them when they are really young and keep them close to the quarry facing. After a few first days of finding the wall, they are a natural."
The state of Alabama, as well as those of Tennessee and Ohio, have already signed contracts for trained Roadpeckers from UoD. Beyond that, West Virginia has contracted for the first generation of birds that will hopefully learn to peck coal.
Fast Facts -
*According to the 2006 report from the Federal Trade Authority, Roadpeckers cause $8.1 billion a year in highway damage.
*A study in 2008 suggested that Roadpeckers attack park statues as well, endangering millions of domestic pigeons.