Growing up out in the country, I remember we had our share of emergencies. My mom was born and raised in the City and even though she loved our country home, she still had a delicate nature and would appeal to us kids to help her manage some of the tricky situations we found ourselves in.
We had an old goat that the dogs would occasionally chase. He’d run around bleating and The Call would go out and we’d all scramble down to our pasture to get him to safety. Sometimes stray dogs would get into the pasture and harass our pigs. I remember snakes in the house. Animals getting loose. Animals getting hurt. Animals getting sick. Animals dying.
One time I heard my mom calling me, “Susan! Get your dad’s gun! Rats are killing the chicks!” That’s pretty much all the information you need to act immediately. I ran to their bedroom, grabbed his pistol, and out onto the deck where I could see that the coop, about 25 feet away, was in chaos. I aimed carefully and I swear one little bugger stared me straight in the eye right before I pulled the trigger. I only got one shot off before they all dispersed, but that was enough to take one chick-killing rat out of the game.
Another time, we found the pasture gate open and when we finished counting heads, my horse was missing. I got on my bike and rode around, finally spotting him locked INSIDE a neighbor’s pasture about ½ mile away. They weren’t home and the pasture was surrounded by electric fencing. So I tracked down their control box, disabled the fence, dismantled one panel, got
my horse and walked him home. I went back and put the fence together, fired it up and rode my bike home. I was probably 12 at the time.
There was one tragedy, we felt completely helpless. My mom raised angora rabbits for their wool which she would spin into yarn. She had a litter of babies out in the hutch and if you’ve never seen a baby fuzzy bunny, I can tell you they are among the cutest things ever
invented! One day, she found the Mama rabbit distraught in her cage, trapped inside with a snake that had eaten all her babies and then was too fat to escape. My mom never did like snakes and that snake did not live to tell the tale.
When I left home at the age of 19, I left the country life behind. I spent 25 years in suburbia, raising my girls, before finally coming back a couple years ago. Our recent tragic events have reminded me of the dark side to living this life. While we are in mourning, I also realize that there will always be failures and losses. Whether it be an animal, a crop or a recipe, the goal is to have as few as possible. We have learned a valuable lesson. We will be smarter next time and perhaps prevent an even greater tragedy from happening in the future. It hurts, though. And that is why we can call ourselves farmers. We will grieve every loss, every time. It’s in our hearts, it’s who we are. I wouldn’t change a thing.
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