Sad and happy

As part of a campaign to encourage Madeline to read, I bought her an out-of-print copy of James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. She has wanted to be a veterinarian for years and has a real gift for communicating with animals, so I thought it would be both interesting and informative.

Last night, I suggested that she read “The Christmas Kitten” with her sister as part of their nightly reading. Midway through, I popped in to ask how the story was and was greeted with watery eyes from both of them, and a quick summary. “It’s good, Mom, the mother cat died but she rescued her kitten so it is sad and happy.” I had forgotten that James Herriot pulls no punches; he relates both the triumphs and tragedies of early veterinary science.

I try to keep this in mind when bad things happen to our flock of chickens. Recently, one of the smaller birds (a Star-Spangled Hamburg that the little girls called Hamburger) was fatally hit by a hawk. There was nothing to be done for the bird. When the girls ran in from the school bus that afternoon, I broke the news to them. “One of the chickens was killed by a hawk today, but if you go very quietly into the garage, you can see the hawk eating it.”

They crept quietly down the stairs until they had a clear view of the red-tailed hawk that was feasting on chicken entrails in the driveway. Their motion finally alerted the raptor and she looked up, exasperated, and flew to a nearby tree to wait until they left her to her meal in peace. “Mom, Mom, it looked at me!”, they shrieked, “The hawk looked at me! That was amazing!”

Then they started to argue over whom exactly the hawk was looking at, but that’s pretty normal, too.

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