Everything Dies on a Farm
It’s not an exaggeration to say that every important thing I learned growing up on a farm, every idea that went on to truly shape not only my worldview but my identity, had to do with death.
The thing is, on a farm, everything dies, and everything is meant to die. People love to rush along to the part where dead things become compost or food for the living and therefore everything is reborn into new life. But I’m telling you, it takes time to get from death to new life, and death is not nothing. Death is not a moment to avert your eyes from, it’s not to be ignored or glossed over. It’s not an unfortunate and uncomfortable inconvenience to be wished away.
Death is the whole thing. Look at it. Don’t look away.
The Ghost Parade
I think my first encounter with death on the farm was as a toddler; my mom tells a story of leaving me alone for just a minute or two with a little flock of ducklings. When she returned mere moments later, I had my tiny hand wrapped around a downy yellow neck, and it was lifeless. My mom took it away and put the ducklings back in the stock tank out of my reach. That’s the whole story.
Sometime after that but before I was old enough to really start participating in the farm, there were two horrific death incidents. The first was the night a pack of feral dogs attacked our breeding ewe in her pen. I only have snippets of memories of this night; my dad waking up to death cries, me, standing in the barn yard in a night gown with my mom, the sheriff talking to my parents about where to find the animals who had done it, and then the worst, the horrifying sight of the mother sheep, on her knees, still alive, but with about three-quarters of her neck detached, hanging down from her chin, her wool splotched with blood. The amazing thing was, these fearless momma had saved her two lambs, they were alive. The tragedy was that she wouldn’t survive. My dad shot her in the pasture and buried her next morning. It was the first time I ever heard and understood the words to be “put out of ones misery.”
The second incident was somehow worse. I don’t remember how that one was discovered. What I remember is being with my dad when the sliding barn door was…