Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Circle of Life

I was reading over my last few posts and I am afraid people might start to worry that I was beginning to be a Martha wannabe.  That's the farthest thing from my mind.  I do admire her and wish I had a smidgen of her talent, but in the same breathe-  I am a little anti-Martha.  I don't measure ingredients and I "wing" projects.  Unfortunately, there will be no protests or bra burnings.  Or in Martha's case-  freshly laundered and starched 400 thread count cotton sheets.

My sons have been diligently watching the Decorah eagles and yesterday my "baby" learned about the circle of life.  (This would be the time to cue the song Circle of Life from THE LION KING.)  He witnessed the eagles tearing a robin into bite size morsels for the eaglets.  Oh yes... 

He now understood why we kept telling him that the parents took turns to hunt.  No worms were on the menu here.  This evening I wanted to share a life lesson I learned when I was probably 6 or 7 years old. 

I remember the first time I witnessed the circle of life's dark side.  We were riding horses at my Uncle's parents ranch in the Sandhills south of Long Pine, Nebraska.  This is a beautiful piece of country and we loved to go visit with my Aunt Julie and Uncle Steve for the day.  There was always an adventure in the works when we were with those two.  We would go back roading or fossil hunting.  They had something fun up their sleeves, especially at the ranch.

My Uncle's large white dog, Shep, would always run out to greet you as you drove up the lane to the house and later follow us on our adventures.  Depending on the season we might be picking mulberries, apples, or cherries.  We weaved among rafters and implements as we chased kittens in the old red barn that housed the best nooks and crannies to play hide-and-seek.  There were wild turkey and deer tracks to follow and we might spy one in the distance if we were lucky.  In the winter, we would sled down the steep hills and be pulled back up to the crest by a tractor.  In the summer, we would fly kites or explore the creek. 
The best part about the ranch was the little creek which slinked through the pastures.  The creek is always cold-  even on the hottest summer days.  We would spend hours splashing in the bubbling waters or gliding along the current in old inner tubes my Father would save from the gas station.  We might find trout, craw daddies, or a special rock.  This was the place to be in the summer.

Uncle Steve had horses and that was a big draw for a little girl.  This particular day we were riding along enjoying a warm Nebraska day in late spring.  The tall prairie grasses were swaying in the breeze and the meadowlarks were calling in the distance.  We rode by a skeleton of a cow that was probably struck by lightening.  (If I remember right, you can guess by the color of the bones.) 

We had to bypass a few cattle guards and check a few gates, but slowly we meandered down by the creek.  As we neared the water, the horses got excited and a little quicker in step.  The earth started to rise and fall into deeper hills dotted by shrubs and trees.  Here is where I encountered one of my first life lessons.

The horses were just beginning to trot over a hill beside the creek when they noticed a large bull snake.  Shep's barking broke the prairie's serenade, but it didn't bother that mean snake.  Bull snakes are large and vicious.  On occasion, it is even hard to discern it's hiss from a rattle.  They are gray, ugly, creatures and brutal life lesson teachers.  Is it obvious that I am not a snake fan?

On an ordinary day, we would have bypassed this curled menace.  That day was different.  Shaded under a small cedar bush, the snake feasted upon a nest of baby bunnies.  His mouth was hinged open with one baby rabbit being swallowed.  All his sweet furry sisters and brothers lay there watching and waiting for their turn down the throat.  It was horrifying.

I still cringe when I think of it and I am sure my family balks when they think of how I handled it.  I don't remember tears, but I was probably in shock from the whole affair.  I know I had to have complained and whined as my stomach turned from the carnage I had witnessed.  Horseback riding didn't even erase that from my mind.

Looking back, I am glad I stumbled upon the scene when I did.  It is important to remember how the world works.  Cute bunnies do have a purpose other than holding second billing at Easter.  My son is now aware of the circle of life.  Life is not always pleasant, but that is how things are. 

We still frequent the creek when we visit my family.  My boys love it and I still enjoy going "creeking".  There's nothing like it and it's a simple respite from the hot summer sun.  Here's a picture from a year or two ago of my middle guy enjoying the rushing ice water.  And just a sidenote-  we didn't wear life jackets in my day. 
When did you first realize that life isn't always pretty?


Erin Branscom said...

I love your blog! I live in Nebraska! :) Erin


Amanda said...

i would like to be entered in the &20 amazon gift card giveaway :)

Amanda said...

$20 **

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