It is chilly as we step out onto the front lawn. The sky is a bit dark and the clouds skirting by overhead carry a hint of menace. And it is snowing. But the flakes are large and pink. There is a constant stream of them fluttering in the breeze as they drop from the blossoms of the big cherry tree that overhangs the driveway. There is a thick carpet of pink fluff covering the grass and blowing in swirls down the street.

The kids and I don helmets and mount our bicycles for a trek around the neighborhood. The wind bites as it cuts right through my normally cozy sweatshirt. As we climb a small hill I look over my shoulder and notice my son has stopped and is looking down at something on the pavement. It's a squirrel that has been struck by a car and luckily is thoroughly dead. My son looks down with curiosity and obvious empathy for the poor creatures plight. "Dad!" my daughter shouts, "Can we cut it open? I wanna see its brains!", this last with a bit more glee than I care to see in such a situation. "Don't touch it" I say, "you can get very sick". "Can I run it over?" she asks. "I already did by accident" my son moans. I drag them away and we zoom down the incline with the chill wind at our backs. We round a couple of turns and begin the climb up the tiny but steep hill with the big cherry tree on top that signals our yard ahead. Again I look back to see how my son is managing and I see that he is off his bike and crying loudly. I dash back and ask him how he has hurt himself, "What happened? Are you okay?". He is inconsolable, sobbing and squealing, tears pouring down his face, his chest heaving. "What is it Jack?". "Its not me", he moans between sobs. "Its because of the squirrel". Mom rushes out the front door to console him. We stand together for a moment amidst the swirling cherry blossom snow.

We get inside, I wrap both hands around a hot mug of tea and we sit at the kitchen table. "I really wanted to see its brains!" my daughter squeals with obvious delight and a wicked smile. "I think when I grow up I'll be a doctor 'cause then I can do a surgery and see someone's brains!" My poor son sits with his face in his hands, still gasping a bit and trying to catch his breath, mom hovering over him to see how she can help.

As he regains his composure I am struck by how completely different they are. And how much like their dad.

Scott Brooks writes:

Great story, Chris!

One of the great pleasures we have had on the Brooks Farms is to dissect the animals we've harvested. I know this squirrel was not killed by you guys, but getting a plastic bag and dissecting the squirrel could have very well put your son at ease. Get some surgical gloves or plastic gloves from the local drug store or big box store and make it a learning experience.

Use it as an opportunity to explain to your kids anatomy, the science of life and how the animal kingdom operates. I explained to my children how the death of an animal is no tragedy and is just part of the whole cycle of life in this world.

I should write more about that someday soon to add clarity to that somewhat vague last sentence, but it's 4:23 am and I have to wake the kids up shortly so we can go out turkey hunting and partake of the many life lessons that are involved in hunting, harvesting, dressing eating and "recycling" of the wild game that are on our farm.


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