It Comes In
by Mike Connelly, Klamath Basin rancher posted to
It was the first Sunday of last year, and it was
cold enough to see crystals floating in the air,
sparkling off the sunlight slanting low. Thereís
nothing like a new snow, and then a bright bluebird
sky early the morning after.
The horses wanted extra, and didnít want to wait
until I broke the ice on the troughs. The mother
cows had a while yet before they calved, but they
were eating for two for sure.
As we drove out the road to the feed barn, the
little black-headed junco birds were, as usual,
flitting around the fencelines, poking around for
whatever it is that keeps them alive all winter
long. The boy was trying to count them, but he kept
having to start over because they never stayed still
long enough. His nose made a print on the window,
where it fogged from the steam of his breath.
Itís a bigger deal than it sounds like that the boy
was out there that morning. A few months before, he
and his sister had found a litter of kittens under
the big willow next to the feed barn. They never saw
the mama cat, so they watched the kittens pretty
closely, checking their bellies to see if they had
eaten, and giving them names, of course.
Three days after they found the kittens, I was
working alone by the house. I heard the boyís voice
far away, calling for me. I couldnít tell at first
where it was coming from. Then I saw him running as
fast as he could on the road that goes to the
feedbarn. Iíd never seen him run like that before.
It was an awful long way for a little guy like that
He and his sister had gone out to check on the
kittens, but coyotes had attacked them in the night.
They were torn into little pieces, and there was
blood scattered all around. There were bloody pieces
everywhere, and right in the middle was the mama
cat, contorted and dead, but clean and whole. The
coyotes had killed her, just to get her out of the
way. The boy was crying out loud. His sister just
sat on the ground, silent, petting the mama catís
From that day on, they wouldnít go out to the barn
to feed. They didnít make a big deal out of it. They
just looked at me in a way that I could tell the
scene was being replayed, and then they would just
shake their heads.
When I heard the news about the waves in Asia, I
thought of my kids and the kittens again. At first
it struck as odd, and I wasnít sure what the
connection was. But then I realized that the
connection came down to a single word, which had
come out of my mouth both times: Why?
I thought the same thing when the planes crashed
into the towers in 2001, but that was different.
With that we had a very bad person to blame, and we
were able to say to ourselves, ďThere are evil
people in the world, and they must be stopped. We
are good people, and we are the ones to stop them.Ē
By telling ourselves this, we were able to do
something meaningful with our grief. We could change
what seemed like utter senselessness into a clear,
if disturbing, purpose.
But itís hard for me to make any sense of kittens
torn to bloody bits, or of two little kids that
cared for them being the ones to find them. Just
like itís hard for me to make sense of piles of
infant corpses piled in a muddy city ditch, or the
look on the face of a father, hanging onto the top
of a tree, watching as his wife and his child are
ripped out of his arms and sucked down under the
By now itís well over 100,000 dead. You think about
that. Think about the time someone very close to you
died. Think of the loneliness and desolation, the
regret and desperation. Now multiply that by
100,000, and put all that suffering in one place.
Count up every single person who lives in this
county, multiply that by two Ė and them kill them
all. What kind of sense are you going to make of
There is no sense to be made. Some of us canít help
but be bitter, asking what kind of God would allow
such things to happen. Some of us can make ourselves
feel better by believing itís part of a plan that we
just arenít meant to understand.
There are even some psychopaths who respond by
blaming the victims. I heard a TV preacher actually
imply that the tsunami had something to do with the
fact that the people killed were not Christians. Iím
not ashamed to admit that I smiled as I imagined
that preacher, waking up one day in hell.
As we watched the faces and heard the voices of the
victims, I kept looking over at our children. They
had the same look on their faces as when I asked
them to go to the feedbarn, the same as when they
were watching the two towers fall. You could feel
their innocence fading, and all I could do was wish
there was a way to make it all go away.
You can wish all you want that the world would be
perfect, and that even the bad things will someday,
somehow make sense. But for now we can only stay
close to each other, and look toward the day when
the child will say, ďYes Iíll go with you.Ē On his
way back out to the feedbarn, counting the birds
that just never seem to sit still.