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It Comes In Waves

by Mike Connelly, Klamath Basin rancher posted to KBC 1/20/05.

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 to run.
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 head.
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 waves.

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 that?
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.
 

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