I’m continuing to find it therapeutic to recall experiences of my past life. Why should I wait for that moment of crisis when my life flashes before my eyes?
I’ve been thinking about my life as a young boy growing up in rural Cross County, Arkansas. The happiness I reveled in playing in grandpa’s fields, exploring the best of nature that left me with several layers of grime at the end of the day, is fresh in my mind. I enjoyed being outside, which was good for me, since parents back then preferred kids be outside, not inside making a mess of everything.
I don’t remember exactly when grandpa introduce me to his 22-caliber rifle. He only had two guns: his 22 and a 10-gauge shotgun that had a rough hand-carved stock. As I recall, the weapon had been damaged in some manner and grandpa had replaced the stock with something he hewed. The thing had a recoil that kicked like a mule. I do remember asking grandpa to teach me how to shoot. After firing the shotgun once, I chose to stick with the twenty-two from that point on. Grandpa wasn’t an educated man, but he did teach me about gun safety: never keep a loaded gun in the house, always keep the barrel pointed downwards unless you’re aiming at game, always hand a gun off to someone else stock first. I don’t remember ever shooting anything, rabbits, squirrels, or any of the little creatures grandpa would venture into the woods to kill, bring home, skin, and prepare for Sweet (my grandma) to miraculously turn into some good vittles.
There was something missing in me that prevented me from shooting animals, slaughtering hogs, or taking the lives of wild or domesticated creatures. To this day, I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to gut fish. I think my powerful desire to turn farm animals into pets developed in me an inability to take the life of any animal. In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not a vegetarian. I just don’t like killing animals.
I remember a traumatizing experience I had when I was around ten years old. Grandpa had given me a pig to play with. I named it, played with it, led it about everywhere I went. The pig grew up into a hog, and I’m sure you can guess what happened to it. I refused to eat any of the meat produced from my friend. I remember all the adults telling me that hogs are raised for food not for pets. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend why grandpa and my uncles had to kill my friend, even though poor folks like us needed the meat from the animals we raised for food.
Yep! I was a country-raised kid with no stomach for shooting Bambi, any of his friend, wild or domesticated. Strange. Isn’t it?
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.
I’m the same way, I hate the idea of hurting or killing any animals, including fish. I do eat meat though, but not often.
If we had to kill and prepare animals for food ourselves, I’m sure many of us would be vegetarian.
I don’t find it strange at all. I’m also an omnivore who has never killed her own dinner. As a child in 4-H I was always lucky enough to have pet animal projects rather than food animal projects. I was very aware of the painful ending of a 4-H summer when the food animal kids had to auction off their projects (friends that they’d mollycoddled, groomed, cried over all summer) to one of the local meat packers. I knew how awful that would be.
The closest I got to the slaughter of our own livestock was once when I came back from a ride and one of my stepfather’s steers was strung up in the barn, with the butchers in the process of slicing him open. By the time he was meat on a hook, he was no longer the steer with 2 big, soft brown eyes. Dreaming of someday becoming a veterinarian, I stayed to watch the entire process, absolutely fascinated that everything inside looked just as it did in the science books.
I think my stepfather was also hiding out somewhere during the time between the steer going from standing on all 4s to hanging upside down. Neither of us had the stomach for that —moment.