This morning, I was with Emily, an awesome friend of mine. We were at the park with our fantastic playgroup and having a lovely time.
In the midst of supervising our young ones loving the playground, Emily suddenly turned to me and said, “Hey, I saw your post about pests last night!”
“Oh really?” I looked over and smiled.
“Yeah–but I couldn’t get past the picture of the baby mice. Once I saw that, I was like, “Whoah! I’m done!” and I couldn’t read anymore… I’m really squeamish,” she explained.
My smile froze.
“Are you serious?” I asked, staring at her in disbelief.
Baby mice make people squeamish?
The thought swirled around in my head, trying desperately to attach to something and be understood.
“Oh yeah,” she answered, “But it was no big deal, I just thought you’d think it was funny.”
But my brain was still swirling.
Seriously?? Baby mice make people squeamish?
Overhearing part of our conversation, another friend asked, “What happened?”
“Oh,” I replied, “I posted a picture of some baby mice we found in our garage.”
She looked at me blankly.
“You know,” I explained, “Baby mice… They’re little and red… And hairless. And their eyes are sealed shut.”
Her eyes widened and her mouth formed a perfect circle.
“I’ve never seen that before, but it sounds awful,” she said with a shudder and then chased after her son.
I stared after her.
She’s never seen that? She’s never seen a baby rodent before?… And it sounds awful?!
Then I scratched my head.
“Huh, no way…”
You see, I grew up surrounded by animals on our beautiful 3-acre parcel of land in the shadow of the wondrous Sierra Nevada Mountains.
In this picture, you see Cimarron. A wonderful stud llama we owned as part of a small herd of llamas we had in my later childhood.
Cimarron was great. He loved grain and he loved to be scratched at the base of his neck. And if I dug in just right, his neck stretched and his lips curled out in sheer reflexive joy. Like a dog kicking if you scratch its sweet spot.
In addition to raising llamas, we owned goats, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, gerbils, peacocks, a cockatiel and a pony. And part of raising these animals was being involved in everything with them. Their births, their injuries, their disappearances and their deaths. We lived it all as naturally as it came.
But now, looking back. I’m beginning to realize how different that may be from the experiences of others. And how things that happened on our little farm, while part of daily life for us, would make other people stare in disbelief.
Like the morning one of my brothers went out to milk the goats. And one of them was missing. So he hiked out into the pasture and found the poor girl dead. She ate more clover than was good for her and it bloated and killed her. Well, he told my Mom as she was loading the rest of us kids into the van to take us to school.
“Okay,” she said, “Let’s load her into the back of the van and we’ll take her to the dump after we drop off the younger kids.”
So I got a ride to school that morning. With a dead, bloated goat’s legs sticking up behind the back seat. Poor girl.
Then there was the afternoon when one of our llamas was giving birth. But all that came out was one little hoof and the rest got stuck. The poor mother paced around and around as the little hoof became more and more limp. We couldn’t afford a vet and my dad was still at work. So my Mom turned to the only man in the house.
“Son,” she said to the brother just above me, “You need to go help her.”
My brother stared at my Mom like she’d sprouted wings and started roosting.
“Are you serious?” he asked, already knowing the answer.
My mother nodded gravely and my brother sighed.
Then he rolled up his sleeves and walked out to the pasture. He was inexperienced at birthing llamas, but he was strong. And he yanked that little leg poking out with all his might until POP! Out came a sweet, soaking wet little baby llama.
And that’s what we did.
When a goat got cut on a fence, my dad laid her out on the grass and stitched her up. When a mama hamster went missing, my sisters and I nursed the newborn, red-hairless-eyes-sealed-shut babies through the night with goat’s milk and eye droppers. When the whole neighborhood gathered around to watch the visiting stud breed our llamas, I took pictures and sent them to my brothers on their missions. (Okay, so that may have been a bit much… But I was only 10 years old–you gotta cut me some slack!)
As a kid, I didn’t think much of it. But once I became an adult and moved away from Nevada, I started to think that maybe, just maybe, not everyone’s been bucked off a chubby pony… or milked a gentle, smelly goat… or rescued a litter of newborn kittens from their house’s crawl space.
So, if my picture of our baby field mice grossed you out, I am so sorry! It honestly never occurred to me that it could.
And you know what?… I am so glad I didn’t post a picture of their poor, deceased mother. In our trap.
(Whoah, whoah! Okay, so I didn’t really take a picture of that… I thought about it, but I didn’t. See? I must be learning!) :):)