You get your daily dose of Mortality living on a farm, and though you are perfectly aware nothing lives forever (not even Voldemort), farms have this way of sprinkling little reminders throughout your day. Like when you check the little chick cages every morning and let out that breath you didn’t know you were holding as you notice one or two didn’t make it through the night. Or when you walk by a rooster who wandered off to the middle of the yard to die, offering a pathetic little flap of his wing after you poke him with your toe to see if he is alive. You walk by him three more times as he lay there, life slowly seeping out, knowing you should just mercy kill him by separating his head from his body with a yank, like you saw Kai do with another struggling hen, but you just can’t bring yourself to murder a chicken. Instead you say a silent prayer to Nature, asking her to run her course a little more quickly, and the day drags on. More toe-poking, more pathetic flapping, more insanely wide arcs to avoid Death, but pretending he’s not there not surprisingly doesn’t make him disappear. And then you remember your pact with your sister, that if you are hooked up, drooling and crapping your bed, no longer enjoying That Which is Life, she must pull the plug, and you hope the chicken feels the same way as you pick him up and say you are sorry at least ten times before closing your eyes to do the deed, freaked out that he’s still blinking after, one eye staring RIGHT at you, so you lay him back down on the yard and slowly back away not knowing if he’s dead or alive, feeling even worse than you did before, but upon checking on him 20 minutes later, you sigh in relief. He is dead.
Dejected, you walk into the barn and hear an unfamiliar baaa and discover a new baby lamb in the house(!), which also sort of freaks you out because it was definitely not there 21 minutes ago when you were still poetically procrastinating murder by playing with Mo and Curly (yes, I named them), the two baby lambs you are nursing, and you can’t help but wonder if that lamb was born at the exact same moment you killed the rooster, and maybe now the rooster is a lamb?
No, you can’t escape death on a farm. Luckily there is more than enough life to make up for it.
I am not a vegetarian. Mostly because animals are delicious, especially those of the pig variety, and I am specifically talking about bacon. And as long as the animals are respected and treated well before they get to my plate, I don’t see anything wrong with paying my respects by enjoying the very literal, physical version of their afterlife. My good friend Mufasa once told me, after he explained that everywhere the light touches is our kingdom, this is simply the Circle of Life. Antelope eat the grass, lions eat the antelope, lions die and become the grass, which the antelope eat. If we all just ate the grass, we would become this incredibly long, overpopulated, straight line of hungry critters fighting for the same earthy goodness until we ate it all up, sort of like how the baby chicks go insane with shoving each other to get to the freshly refilled food containers. It’s a food fight to the umpth degree. So. Who will eat the animals, connecting the Circle of Life, restoring the delicate balance, saving humanity and the animal kingdom and Mother Earth from being pecked to death?!
Sure, okay, I’ll do it.
That brings me to Curly. I may be the wet-nurse for Mo, but I am Curly’s full out mama. Mo’s mum loves her, she’s just milkless. But Curly’s mom head-butted him right out of the pen when he was born, despising everything about his needy, awkward lamby-ness and ran off with the rest of the sheep to the pasture party, leaving me to take care of him. Me.
Poor Curly. He looks so ridiculously awkward, he’s almost cute. Apparently he spent a little too long inside his real mom, and came out with some big, crusty, stumpy horns. He’s got these tall skinny legs, with a round oval belly (I believe I am contributing greatly to that roundness) and sleepy eyes on tiny head with black and white splotches everywhere. And I love him.
Sure, at feeding time, he’ll follow anyone around. But I’m telling you, he recognizes me. He sees me coming and gives this excited hop and bolts baa-ing toward me. He wags his little tail aggressively, weaving in and out of my legs like a little puppy as I do my chores around the barn. And just like dogs have that sweet spot that makes their hind legs thump quickly on the ground, Curly regularly loses control of his back leg when I scratch just behind his left ear. And when I scratch under his chin his eyes get all sleepy and he starts to nod off, jerking awake when I stop. He tucks his head under my arm while I am feeding Mo and stands there making these little happy, oomphy grunts. He’s repeatedly checked between my legs for udders, at which point I have to explain how he’s adopted.
And like a true mother, I can’t help but coo at him as I shower him with attention. Poor little Curly, got no mom. Aww, buddy, you’re all alone. No one to love you. What? So I am bad at cooing. At first I listened in horror as the truths tumbled out of my mouth each time I spoke to him. Who needs to be reminded of their deadbeat mom and utter aloneness? But if I learned anything from Tom Selleck (aside from the obvious fact that some men look ridiculous without a mustache), it’s that it doesn’t matter what you say to babies, it’s the tone you use (if you don’t get that reference, you are missing out on a classic). Curly just wants to be close to a warm body, one that doesn’t shove him away. Yesterday he got his ears pierced, which I would have NEVER agreed to, but I wasn’t consulted. Noticing Curly’s girth and new tags, I joked to Kai about how they grow up so fast. He smiled.
“Oh, yes. And soon they will be ready to eat.”
I think he sensed my growing attachment, worried I was going to go all Charlotte’s Web on him and come up with a plan to Save Curly. But before I could think too much about Curly’s future, the wisdom of Mufasa via James Earl Jones boomed through my head.
“Meh. The Circle of Life,” I shrugged.
It’s a farm. People eat animals. Animals eat animals. And I know I am not Curly’s mom. Curly is a lamb. But everyone deserves to be loved. And even if he will be someones’s sweater, someone’s chops, someone’s gyro, someone’s dinner someday, I’ll be damned if I don’t give him the happiest little life a lamb can have while he’s waiting to join that circle.