Have You Ever Rescued a Worm From the Sidewalk?
The occasional car drove slowly past our house on our rural road. The morning light bringing with it people on the way to the dump or just looking for a shortcut. What started like a normal morning, would be one that changed me profoundly. Suddenly, it became one of the most prominent memories of my life. My brothers and I were playing in front of our house on the farm. Our mother was sitting on the porch checking her various e-mails. Just 12 or 13 at the time, I was not much younger than I am now, but the difference between that Emerson and the Emerson I am now is irreversible. Because my family was ready early, we were waiting to go to school by kicking a soccer ball back and forth and wasting time by laughing and playing. I noticed the ducks from our neighbor’s pond crossing the street on their daily journey to hang out with our ducks and turkeys, and forage in our orchard. We did not mind, in fact, it was nice to see them wandering around together. There were five in this group and they looked around warily before stepping onto the pavement. We were always nervous when the ducks crossed the road, although we had never had been given a reason to be nervous. Before that day.
The three of us looked to our right, when suddenly we heard a truck speeding up the road. It was travelling well above the speed limit. We had stopped playing to watch the duck trek as we often did. They really are not meant to walk on land. One had not stepped onto the road yet, but four were halfway across. The truck did not slow down. Instead we heard the engine rev. I expected the driver to slam on the brakes. But as the truck crested the hill, we could tell that when the driver saw the ducks, he went faster. The world seemed to slow down as I realized what was about to happen. The ducks panicked and tried to fly, but it was too late. The truck plowed through them as the driver continued to accelerate. It even looked like he swerved to hit more of them
Two of the ducks popped, eyes out, blood and organs red on the black road. The other two had made it into the air, but not far enough as one broke a wing and the other a leg. The remaining duck that escaped harm, backed hurriedly away from the road. As he sped by us, the driver threw something out of the window. As it shattered into a million pieces of green light I realized he had thrown a beer bottle against a tree. The glass remnants were a reminder of that horrible morning as we continued to find pieces for years.
Looking back, it is hard not to be filled with hatred for this driver. Hatred for the act mixed with sadness and pity for the person’s ignorance and carelessness. Sadness and pity for people who turn to violence when inconvenienced by ducks on a rural trek. I can only hope he did not know what he was doing. Did he know he was impacting a child and killing more than just ducks? Did he think about the impact his careless act would have? This was the first time I had seen someone kill an animal with disrespect and with malice, and for no reason. Because of the environment I grew up in I was always taught to treat the animals and environment with respect. While we raised animals for food, we honored and respected them as living creatures. It was quite shocking to see people like this driver, who have no respect for the world and its residents. That morning marked the beginning of the death of my innocence. Emerson the innocent was as dead as the two ducks remaining in the middle of the road.
When we recovered from the shock enough to think again, I ran in and told our father. He came out, and as my mother and I tried to catch the injured ducks, he went to tell the neighbor what we had seen. The three ducks remaining from that group seldom came across the road after that. I remember one day seeing the one with a broken leg, mostly healed although still walking strangely and I was reminded again of that terrible morning. I have never quite recovered from the shock, and even now remember it vividly. That someone could care so little for all the lives in our world that he was willing to purposely destroy life. That day shook my faith in humanity and reminds me of the flaws of our kind. It reminds me of those who still need to be reeducated to have more respect for our world and the creatures in it.
I am the one who gathers up the hurt ducks and helps them. Who are you?
By Emerson Borghardt
I have a 20 acre farm with goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, pigs, ducks, dogs, and cats. I have been operating our farm since 1997 with the help of my husband and more recently our children. This spring has brought us 5 new lambs, and 11 happy baby goats! However, it has been a tragic traumatic last few days. The kind that makes you wonder if you can keep doing what you're doing, or even if you want to. This week we had 2 deliveries go wrong. Our 11 year old goat herd queen, Tellula, died after giving birth to a large buckling, and her 9 year old daughter, Riza, died after trying to deliver a buckling with his neck twisted. Tellulabelle was my favorite doe. She was born on this farm and came out looking exactly like her grand-dam Twin Bridge Farm Falou. She had a very calm, loving disposition. Her daughter Riza took after her in personality. They were both fantastic milkers producing more than 4 cups every 12 hours. That said, our loss was not just a material one, but a bond that stretched back sixteen years. That bond started when we purchased Falou in 2000.
My sorrow is palpable. I posted my thoughts and regrets on our Facebook page, Hobbit Creek at Shirefarm, and got the typical responses: "so sorry", "regards", "best wishes", and then the response, "I'm not sure I could do what you do." This snapped me out of my stupor. There are a lot of reasons I live this way. Society has been developing a general disregard for life. This careless recklessness scares me to the core. Some families never own a pet. If you are blessed to own a pet, you develop a sense of responsibility and an empathy that others can not grasp. Even more, when our society was less industrial, families had to work harder to obtain the nourishment they needed to survive. People worked hard just to keep their animals alive. People understood how very difficult life truly was, they were more empathetic, less entitled, and realized the brevity of life. Now you witness the disregard for the lives of others in just the little things. For example, the driver behind you feels that your 5 miles above the speed limit isn't fast enough. They pass you on the left over a double yellow line. There is another car coming from the other direction. Luckily it pulls off onto the side of the road as the reckless driver passes in front of you. Was this 15 seconds worth risking the lives of the 3 vehicle drivers? Not at all! I can come up with a lot of examples of societal disregard of the lives of others, as I am sure you can too. I think it would be very interesting to do some psychological studies in this subject. Perhaps there are some already out there. I am too far withdrawn from the world of psych at this point to know where to look.
The nourishment we need to survive was once alive. Don't tell me you are a vegetarian for this very reason. Plants were once alive too. Not only were they alive, but plants also communicate and help the plants around them. We are only just beginning to scratch the surface on how plants communicate and respond to their environment. People who eat meat often do not make the connection in their minds to chicken...that chicken was once a living and very vocal creature. It was dusting itself happily in the sun, or it was stuck in a miserable dirty cage at some point before you placed it's meat in your mouth. Do you know what if feels like to take another life; to take that life and later place it on the dinner table? If everyone raised their animals, tried hard to keep them alive, do you think it would be easy to pull the trigger of a gun pointed at an animal? At another human? The mass production environment we have perverted over the past decades is foundational to society's deep rooted issues.
The general population of the developed world "could not do what I do". For some people the sorrow might be too much, for some people the stress might be too hard, some people just have no idea what it takes and lack the knowledge to endeavor. This is precisely why I do what I do. I feel it is important to raise my children in this lifestyle so they know. I want to know where my food comes from; I want to have empathetic children who are respectful of life. Not just their own life, but the life of every living thing around them. Respectful of the ants, the bees, the whales in our oceans, and sad when a life is lost because of human interaction like hitting a squirrel on the road. "Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children"-A native American Proverb.
I have always loved animals, that love has been with me my entire life. I thought I wanted to be a vet when I was much younger. When I worked in a vets office one summer I was shocked to realize that a vet saw sick animals all day, every day! I don't like to see my animals sick, or suffering. It is hard enough to deal with death when it happens to your 11 year old doe, the eleven year old doe you watched be born. So I have found another way to surround myself with the love and lives of animals. It is at these times, when a life is lost and an animal passes that we are reminded how special our days are by being blessed with each beautiful animal that passes through our lives. I am lucky to have great animal friends. I am lucky to have their respect. I am lucky that they look to me for protection and well being. We will remember our very sweet Tellula and her loving daughter Riza fondly. We will continue to love the generations of offspring that each of our animals has blessed us with. The tragic and traumatic death of two of my favorite animals has hardened my resolve to continue living this lifestyle; I am blessed.