On Being

Wednesday, August 5, 2015



I brought a truckload of ewes to the sales barn last night. This is the second load I've taken this summer. Most were the older ewes I was supposed to cull last year. The idea was to butcher them, 14 or so, but I couldn't do it. I've butchered and processed sheep, but it was the scale of this job, and the fact that these ewes have been on our farm for so many years that made the task so daunting. It was a relief when I realized we could sell them at auction.

A few weeks ago I sat on a plane next to a hunter. We talked about the hunting show he works for, and about my first duck hunt, and then I told him about the 14 ewes I was supposed to butcher, and couldn't. He shook his head and said, I couldn't do that either. 

Last year I confided to a friend that I couldn't quite get to the point of butchering that many ewes, and she said something along the lines of, "That's you, trying to be a girl." But was it, I wondered? She isn't a hunter, isn't a farmer. Things seem so straightforward from the outside, especially when laid out along lines of gender.

The hunter on the plane told me about a time he'd taken down a deer with a shot just off his mark, a shot that meant a long, slow death for the animal. Not wanting to risk spooking the deer into a run, he sat as still as he could, and, he told me, he wept. Actually I think he said he bawled his eyes out. Quietly, of course. 

On the inside, in a deer blind, on a farm, anywhere, really, where one experiences that breadth of life and death, there exists a depth of complexities that stretch and challenge simple ideas of how a man, how a woman should act, react, or simply, be.


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