A multitude of strung-together expletives punctuated DW’s exasperation. It was out of frustration more than anger, the joy of watching a doe and her twin fawns nibbling on clover and oak leaves in our front yard over-shadowed by the proximity of the road and the cars opening up as they made the tight curve onto our straightway. She wanted to put up signs, more than are already posted, telling folks to slow down.
Not that many would heed the warnings. Our road has an abundance of such warnings for fauna and road features, and for the most part they seem to be disregarded. Long-time readers will remember that our compost piles have typically received the remains of deer that use the woods across the street for cover before they come to our pastures (and hostas) to graze.
DW cares. If forced to choose one word to describe her, it would have to be ‘empathetic’. And anyone who spends more than 30 minutes with her sees this character trait, and probably experiences some manifestation of it as well. So it is with animals as well.
We have a crab apple tree that acts as a respite of shade and food source for the deer. In past years, does have parked their newborns under the tree for hours at a time while they forage about, and they know that this is also the place of special treats such as lettuce, carrots and apples, all left for them by DW. Seeing the mother and her twins must have prompted DW to take a few apples out to the tree at dusk last night.
“Patrick?” I heard her soft call from the yard, and came to the door.
I knew from the look on her face. “The cat is sitting on the edge of the deck.”
The cat has little to do with the deer in this story, except that it too had benefited from DW’s concern. Except the cat did not have the advantage of relative innocuousness, one reason being that it had become a matter for discussion in our household. The cat was a male, a spraying and therefore a testicled male, and shows signs of disease. That’s a lot of strikes against the cat, except that it might also be the same cat a neighbor has been feeding and petting, and taking a bit of a shine to, except for trapping it and taking it to vet for tests, and if free of disease, neutered and perhaps vaccinated. DW had spoken to and sent along a picture to the neighbor in order to get a possible identification, and received nothing positive, including no expressed desire to do more than feed the cat.
DW’s plan was to begin feeding the cat while said neighbor was away this last week. It fed some, then less, then not at all. We assumed the worst. So, when DW called me to the door, the 20-gauge was already propped behind it.
As with a host of similar events on the farm, from a nutria to the remaining birds in our flock, DW has not only wanted to be present for the killings, but has insisted in participating to some degree, which often means that she transports the carcasses to the compost piles. In that she started with more of a city dweller’s sensibilities about such matters when we first moved here, to her credit, she has adjusted to the realities that farm life/death forces upon one.
I grew up with it; she didn’t. And while I recognize a certain gravity to the decision to end the life of an animal on the farm, I don’t experience sadness for livestock and varmints. In fact, for the latter what I experience is more a contempt. (The feral or dumped cats become the latter when there is more than one on the loose for they have a devastating effect on the bird populations. Last year we had fifteen California Quail foraging on our property. This year we have two. I have seen at least two other cats that neighbors do not claim.) DW experiences a degree of grief for all but the nastiest of pests.
If I had my druthers, DW would not witness any of the killings. I want to protect her from grief where I can; and in that desire to protect her, I understand her compassion toward the animals. And I understand why, when anticipating that I would share the above with my readers, she asked that I post a photo of the cat.