The Lesson Of The Vultures
Yesterday, I was on the John Deere, farming my lawn as we do it in Central Ohio. Up the hill, I saw a furry lump lying still, bumped up in the tall grass. As I mowed closer, I could tell it was a raccoon, dead on its side. He was a fatty, too, weighing probably 25 pounds. I was going to have to deal with that but I had around the perimeter to plan.
It’s important to take time to plan in all that we do, especially the older we become. I watched a Killer Mike video where he urged his fellow Atlantiains to, “Plot→Plan→Strategize→Organize→Mobilize.” This is just a goddamn wise thing to say in an age filled with a lack of wisdom in the actions of many humans on Earth right now.
So, I started plotting, planning, and strategizing. Gotta get the raccoon out of the yard. Gotta be antiseptic as possible about it because those fuckers can be diseased and this one didn’t have an apparent cause of death that I was willing to check beyond my visual assessment from a moving tractor. Get the spade shovel. But where was it? Where was the last time I saw it?
15 minutes to find the shovel, which was in the basement for some reason.
Antiseptic as possible, so I grabbed one of our distancing masks, strapped it on, and walked out to greet the dead beast. I wasn’t going to give it a proper burial because, in the country, the cycle of life must play out and he would be a feast for the turkey vultures and hawks that patrol the skies of Ohio like a feeding line in a buffet, which to them it is.
With more effort than I care to admit, I was able to project the animal carcass into the high weeds in the nearby growing field. I left the shovel leaned up against the outside wall because the thought of it made me uncomfortable and I’m prone to petty superstitions, sometimes outright childish ones.
This morning, the turkey vultures found the poor guy and dragged his fat body into the open field and it became a feast for them that lasted hours, like an ancient Viking ritual. I commented about this event so much that my wife asked me to stop and made faces at me when I didn’t remember a couple of times after I agreed to stop.
Plotting and planning through to mobilization is a powerful set of behaviors; it’s what the Founding Fathers did when they were confronted by what they perceived as egregious tyranny. In the latter decades of the 18th Century, on the North American continent, some incredible people came together, all of them deeply flawed and complex, and they made something special happen for the first time in human history. They ended up fighting impossible forces against ridiculous odds and they established a social order based on securing the pursuit of happiness for the greater common good.
The American Founding Fathers put balances in place to equalize corruption with the hope of mitigating a complete sustained failure, but that system rested on respect and dignity, the Common Good. That system relied on We The People passing laws through fairly elected local and regional leaders, each of them dedicated to creating laws in support of the security, safety, and opportunity of the Common Good. Law Enforcement was established to understand and execute these laws, meaning preventing people from breaking them, for the Common Good. And judges were established to understand and interpret these laws with respect to the righteousness of their enforcement, for the Common Good.
America is no more complicated than this until we get to the behaviors our ancestors conducted against humans of darker skin colors. Then it gets complex and it's generally easier to become violent than it is to look at ourselves in the mirror of living history and listen with calm remorse, and then plan corrective actions and evasive strategem.
Walking back inside the house, I thought about what killed that raccoon. I had seen him before, hanging around at night when I shine the high beam flashlight into the darkness to look for coyotes when I take the dogs out before bed, his eyes shining back at me from the tall grass. I had grown used to him being there, a small spark from the joy of an expectation met, his eyes were like full moons in their reflecting luminosity. Humans love our routines in spite of how much we read and watch stories filled with adventure and danger. We crave the safety of the known and push the thrills of chasing to our entertainment. I hadn’t even gotten around to naming him yet and part of me mourned that I never would be able to do it.
Was he shot by some hunter, a farmer near me who finally had enough of his trash cans being tossed? Did he die of disease? Another worry to obsess over that I can never solve but only live in fear when I think about it. Maybe he was just old and ready to turn in his time, choosing my field to do it? That’s the one I went with because it made me feel better, a small and easy honor in his death like reaching for the minimum pursuit of a small happiness, like I was grabbing an object on a low shelf.
The turkey vultures flew away a bit after the afternoon Sun peaked, their bellies full. They would probably return to what they called a nest to sleep for several nights with the security of beasts who only care about their next meal without the fear of what it might cost.