You know what? I’m not a huge fan of Sundays. They’re the province of hangovers and the looming dread of an impending Monday. It’s the day I’m on my own with the kiddos. Not that I mind, but it does mean having to pretend to be Mr. Domestic for eight or so hours, which usually involves being asked why the hell didn’t you [sweep|mop|fold|cook|feed the kids|buy groceries|clean the counter|pick up that damn coffee cup] today? This Sunday isn’t going to be different, but it’s less awesome than usual.
Instead of crawling out of bed at 9:30, just in time to see my wife off to work and nod blearily at the list of the day’s chores that I will not get to, I was blasted out of bed to the tune of: “Dad get up, Alfie has a problem and mom needs your help.” When mom needs dad’s help with an animal it means major injury. For those not acquainted with the life of a farmer, major injury translates into the urgent need to butcher an animal. I’m not going to get into the details of what was wrong with the goose, except that there was blood and no remedy. In these cases, it becomes a matter of allowing the animal to slowly bleed to death and possibly be killed by his flock or making it quick and clean. The second option allows the possibility of salvaging meat – some ailments preclude consumption, but not this one.
So, at 8:27 on this Sunday morning, I was standing outside in a gentle breeze, the sort of gentle breeze only Alaska can deliver, an eye-watering breath of frigid air from the 9th circle of hell, looking at a doomed goose. I’m not a fan of this goose. He hisses at me and goads the flock into action like a hoard of angry vikings in my presence. To everyone else in the house, he was the favorite, and there were tears. When the decision to butcher him was made, you might imagine that I was pleased to be rid of the bastard, but no, not so much.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did not actually kill the goose. Those honors went to my wife. She picked him up, brought him to the killing cone and made the final cut. I just served as tactical and moral support. It was a subdued affair. The goose didn’t struggle, and he went quick. That said, I still feel bad. Not because I’ve still got to actually do the work of butchering, which I do, but because killing is a hard thing to do.
I wrote a blog post about this some months ago, perhaps even last year at this time, but it’s on my mind again, so here I am. Some folks, avid hunters, non-backyard farmers, and sociopaths, may shrug and say it’s not that hard. Perhaps there’s truth in that, but not for very many of us. The majority of those of us who are lucky enough to be able to roll into a grocery store and pick up food that no longer resembles the animal it came from, have never killed anything larger than a spider. So when we do, we feel it. It’s an adrenaline rush that leaves you feeling a little shaky and sick – add to that sadness if this is an animal you raised. It’s something to keep in mind when your newly minted fantasy hero makes his first kill. As he watches his victim fall to the ground where there will be blood and jerking and the sound of gurgling or screaming, your hero will be feeling it.