A Socratic Rancher 11-30-09 | TheFencePost.com
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A Socratic Rancher 11-30-09

J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

A certain person I know has been cynical ever since he found out Santa Claus didn’t exist. He fasts five days over Thanksgiving and won’t buy anything at a retail store from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. He won’t even watch playoff football, which has caused even his good friends to question his citizenship. This same person intentionally forgets other people’s birthdays and denies his own. It’s doubtful he even knows the meaning of an anniversary, based on how much he goes out of his way to avoid celebrating one.

He routinely threatens to move to another country on national holidays, claiming they’re excuses for government freeloaders and potlickers to get a pay check for lying around. When anyone in his circle accomplishes something, anything, he scoffs it off, reminding them that the accomplishments of 99.99 percent of all people on the planet will be forgotten in less than a single generation.

He squeezed out a compliment to me once, by saying: “Yeah, looks like you got away with it.” In his book, success is usually a combination of luck and larceny.

So quick was he to invite argument and confrontation with strangers, we feared someday he might poke the detonators of a real psychopath and end up 6 feet under. When I mentioned this to him in caution, he said only, “I swing at pitches in the dirt.”

If asked what makes him happy, he usually barks that happiness is a waste of time, or a luxury of the lazy.

Perhaps I haven’t painted a clear enough picture of this certain person, so suffice it to say he was a grouchy misanthrope, which accounts for the surprise that is the reason for this story. We invited him to spend Thanksgiving with us at the farm, the first time he’d actually stayed on the farm for more than a brief visit. The morning of Thanksgiving, he ambled into the kitchen, had coffee followed by bacon, scrambled eggs with scallions, and toast. He threatened to leave if the food wasn’t properly cooked for the main meal, a comment we took as his way of thanking us for breakfast. I had chores to do, my wife also, so he announced he needed fresh air, heading out for a walk in the direction of the barnyard.

Just before lunch, I saw him standing outside the chicken house, holding, and contemplating, something in his hand.

“How was your walk?” I asked.

“I saw it happen,” he said, as a smile spread across his face, the likes of which I’d never seen, or even hoped to see.

“You saw what happen?”

“The chicken,” he said mystically. “I saw her lay an egg.”

“That is unusual,” I said. “The hens are pretty much molting. You were lucky to see the one who still had the odd egg in her.” I laughed lightly.

“You don’t seem to understand. I saw the egg being made,” he said. “I saw it from start to finish. The chicken bent over and I saw the whole thing. Before my eyes.”

“That’s great.”

“Yes. It answered the great question, for which I’ll always give thanks …”

“The great question?”

“Which came first.”

“Oh, that great question … so … which did?”

“Feel it,” he said, handing me the egg. “It’s still warm.”


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