Lee Pitts: It’s the Pitts 4-16-12
“Youth is such a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.”
~ George Bernard Shaw
As a childless man I’ve always thought I wanted to spend some time with kids. Then one day I did.
Last week I spent a very important day doing very important things, like collecting bird’s feathers, listening to bees buzz, hugging a sheep, throwing rocks, seeing how close we could get to a squirrel and talking to the dog. I shared communion with nature and my very special 5-year-old nephew, D.J.
D.J. likes to come to the ranch for a visit and every time he does I learn something important. He is from a big city where ecologists and environmentalists live in 20 story condominiums and tell us how to manage what they call “open space,” as if nobody lives there. D.J. comes from the land of manicured lawns where the only Lions, Moose or Elk are in men’s clubs. Or in a zoo. I feel sorry for city kids whose only experience with mud pies is on a dessert plate in a restaurant.
D.J. says he wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up and so in preparation for his latest visit to the ranch someone had given him a jar with a plastic leaf in it that was supposed to be good for catching and studying bugs and other small animals. It had a plastic green leaf in it and was just like the old Mason jars which I used as a kid for the very same purpose, only his probably cost 20 bucks with a percentage of the price going to the Sierra Club because they recommended and endorsed it. I thought it might be neat for us to catch a frog for D.J. to put in his jar and take back to nursery school for show and tell. They had probably never seen a real frog before.
“Hoppy” the frog stayed in his jar overnight but the next day D.J. wanted to turn him loose because “he looked so sad in the jar.” I had to admit he did look a bit downcast and angry. So D.J. turned him loose in the house for my nervous wife to discover later while she was cleaning. Then it was her turn to look angry.
Next we caught a psychotic honeybee and my 5-year-old environmentalist nephew set it free in the enclosed space of the truck cab as we were driving down the road, nearly causing a crash. At five years of age D.J. already knew what most adults will never learn – if you try to manage or tame nature you’ll only end up destroying it.
At lunch D.J.’s food disappeared into his pockets. Later I found him trying to feed his burger to my horse Gentleman, his crust to the birds who roost in the barn rafters, and his french fries to the squirrels.
D. J. doesn’t know yet about global warming, that cows and aerosol cans are supposedly destroying the ozone, or about “disappearing” forests that ecologists write 700 page books about. Although his nursery school teacher had already subjected him to lesson plans about global warming, he only came away with the thought that, “Hey, maybe if it gets hot enough my parents might put in a swimming pool!” Frankly, for D.J. I don’t think global warming can come soon enough.
Since D.J.’s visit I don’t mind it so much when I close the shop door that a little dirt falls in my face from a bird’s nest overhead, or that the deer ate my hedge, or that the raccoons dig for worms in my lawn. I actually took some time yesterday to watch some quail scratch in the dirt and to smile back at the cat.
D.J. doesn’t know yet about all the environmental politics that we as ranchers live with every day, but he has already learned that plants still grow up and roots go down. Bees still buzz, grass still grows and frogs can be hard to catch. (Just ask my wife). Thanks to D.J., and one very special day, I rediscovered what every 5-year-old knows: All is well with nature, it is just us grownups that are out of balance. If we covered the earth with concrete, grass would still grow up through the cracks.