I’m not talkin’ about the Disney-fied, cartoon explanation with the sticky-sweet music overlay.
I’m talkin’ about the real circle of life that promises to make your breakfast reappear.
The circle of life that leaves you completely in awe of nature and completely grossed out at the same time.
People in the city panic when they awake to find a dead animal on their front lawn. If it’s small, they may double up an inside-out trash bag and grudgingly pick it up. Stuffing it in the tidy green trash bin and letting the sanitary engineers haul it away, never considering that the plastic encasing the carcass can never decompose. If it’s large? Well they call somebody.
People in the country? They almost never wake up to anything dead still in their yard ’cause dead things tend to run away in the mouths of alive things in the night. But if they do happen to find leftovers in the morning…assuming it’s not too close to the house…they leave it. ‘Cause in the country, the sanitary engineers are not hindered by paved roads.
It’s a frightening thing, to see vultures up close. There is a terrifying grace about them as dozens of them erase flesh from bone. Their size is surprising at first… so is their confidence. Driving up to a family reunion over last night’s roadkill inevitably finds the truck moving to the side while numerous beady eyes glare threats at the driver.
It’s even more frightening to be working among the trees only to look up and see them circling above.
It’s like they know something you don’t.
Our boys have taken a crash course in the circle of life. It seems every country kid has some story about a beloved family pet being whisked away in the jaws of a coyote, or of their dog making the fatal choice to chase a car instead of tennis balls.
Grant went to fill the stock tank a couple of days ago only to be seen running back to the house a moment later. He was visibly shaken and begged Sam to come with him. Sam refused until Grant uttered the words too tempting to pass up.
Dead. Floating. Squirrel.
Sam used to be the squeamish one. Now, the prankster gene from his daddy has overtaken him. Anything that could make Grant beg like a dog at a Thanksgiving table was worth a look.
I watched from high up on the porch as the brothers trudged down to the pasture. Grant stopped at the gate, refusing to go further, while Sam just had to see what all the fuss was about. There was a lot of shouting from Grant and a lot of laughing from Sam. Through the trees, I spied Sam wielding a large stick and the hose. Grant oversaw the filling of the tank from the safety of the gate while Sam seemed to be waiting for something. Eventually I saw the water rising and realization hit.
Sam was waiting for the dead squirrel to float to the top of the tank.
As it did, Sam steadied himself and used the stick to fling the wide-eyed bobber out of the tank and onto the ground. Grant thanked him profusely, and the gleam that came into Sam’s eyes was visible even from my faraway vantage point. He started chasing Grant with the stick, covered in dead squirrel cooties. Grant ran around screaming and shouting. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t find the air to scold him. After a few minutes, Sam tuckered out and they began to discuss burial strategy.
Bury the squirrel or leave it for natures trash men? Ultimately they decided to leave it for the hungry vultures but Sam said a few parting words over the little body. Sam could be heard teasing Grant about “screaming like a girl” as they made their way back to the house. Grant could be heard defending his honor, saying that he “didn’t have to touch dead animals because he could fix things.” Sam nodded, seeming to agree.
Later, as I was making dinner, a strange thought came to me.
What happens to the bones?
The vultures eat everything but the bones. Where do the bones go? That question was later answered when I went to check on the dogs, and both were laying in the yard gnawing on bones.
Only I never gave them any.
Ian gave me his best Hopper arched eyebrow as I walked into the kitchen muttering to myself, “I will never let them lick me again.”