Monday, November 8, 2010

Silence of the Dogs

  Sometimes as parents we do things that our children don't understand: make them go to bed, make them stay home, you can't watch that show and no, you can’t have that pop right now. Sometimes situations are completely out of our control.
  “Okay, I am going to count to three and pull this string and you hold on. That tooth will be out in just a second. One, two…” said my dad the frugal Oral surgeon.
  “Ouch!” I screamed.
  “Three, there it’s out,” he laughed holding the bloody tooth.
  We do things like pull teeth or pull the bandage off. We know it is going to hurt, but we also in some deep place, remember when our parents found it amusing doing the same things to us.
  Take when I we around ten years old, dad took us out of state on yet another cross country trip. Being a frugal family, we took the camper, 400 plus miles to Jackpot, Nevada. Yes, Jackpot was the name of the town. It is just south of twin falls Idaho. A place made famous by Evel Knievel back in the seventies and his attempt to jump the Snake River. The last time, I was through there you could still see the ramp that was built for the event, forty years later.
  We had just started south from twin falls on this narrow highway. The sky was blue and the grass along the side of the road was nice and green. The area teamed with life, I remember there were a lot of prairie dogs.
  I road above the cab of the truck in the over head sleeper in the camper, it was a comfortable ride with the pillows stacked just right.  I know it is dangerous now, but this was the seventies and seatbelts were just being installed into cars, and not just as a fancy option.
  I looked over the hood and watched the little fury creatures run across the road and every once in a while, I heard a thump. Soon it came to me that my father was killing those poor little desert dwellers. At one Point, it sounded like popcorn below in the under carriage of the camper.
  I screamed for him to stop. The tears ran down my face like little rivers. I watched as one after another died at my dad’s hand. I climbed down and stuck my head into the cab of the truck through the little window that links the truck and camper.
  “Daddy! Stop killing prairie dogs.”
  "Get back up there and stop crying or you will stay in the camper all the time we are in Jackpot."
  He could have told me that the wind was blowing so hard that he couldn’t swerve out of the way. He could have told me that the cars behind us were to close and it was too dangerous to slam on the brakes. He could have told me anything. But go back up into the sleeper and watch the carnage.
  I feared my punishment and I did what any child of my age would have done. I betrayed my animal rights belief and started to root for my father. I secretly became a closet conservationist that day.
  In my dad's defense, he could have told me anything at that point and I wouldn't have believed him. The truth was if he would have slowed down he would have killed just as many. It was mating season and the prairie dogs weren’t thinking straight.
  It wasn't until a few years later that he admitted he didn't like kill those prairie dogs, but he did love it when I rooted for him. He also related a similar story about his uncle and him back in Carey, Idaho. So I guess, that’s my point, if I have one to make. We react the way our parents taught us to react to the Band-Aid, the loose tooth, and sexually aroused prairie dog.
  One day my son will pull off a Band-Aid and remember me doing the same for him in some circle of Life kind of way.

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