March 30, 2010
One of my former students is now a veterinarian at a large farm in the country. Every spring, she pesters me to bring my kids out to see the animals.
"I'm going to be on vacation for the next two weeks, but please come by anyway!" she wrote in an email. "I'll tell them that you're coming."
As luck would have it, I timed this year's visit perfectly. To my boys' delight (my daughter was in school), the barnyard was littered with hundreds of sheep and their lambs.
In the middle of our self-guided tour, a large truck pulled up. A man got out and began loading the animals into its back.
"What's going on?" I asked.
Without looking at me, the man grunted, "Easter."
Upon hearing this, my heart skipped a beat. "People give their kids lambs for Easter?" I asked incredulously.
A pair of fertile bunnies, a plastic swimming pool full of chicks, a pygmy goat: all are appropriate Easter basket fillers. But a real live sheep? The thought struck me as ridiculous.
Nevertheless, I immediately began the challenging task of mentally rearranging the furniture in my house to make room for one, possibly two barnyard animals.
The truck driver looked at me like I had the brain of a sheep.
"They're not for Easter baskets, ma'am," he told me. "They're for Easter dinner."
Somehow in all of the commotion of the barnyard, I had forgotten that when you order "Leg of Lamb" at a restaurant, you are really eating the leg of a lamb.
I gulped and covered my kids' ears, but it was too late. They were already traumatized. Cortlen shrugged his shoulders and went over to another part of the barn to watch the dairy cows urinate. Kellen picked up a couple of kernels of hog feed and put them into his mouth.
"You should try this," he said with outstretched hands. "It's pretty good."
The tension was more than I could stand. I gathered my offspring together and explained the circle of life in great detail. I also drew a diagram of the food chain in the mud with a stick.
My teaching moment was interrupted by a loud honk. The truck driver had finished his business and was ready to go. We were standing in his way.
Although my lecture was far from finished, I took some comfort in the fact that my speech had prepared my sons for this moment.
"Good-bye sheep!" yelled my boys, waving their arms wildly as the truck rumbled down the road. "Have fun eating your prey! See you soon!"