Through the Fence 12-6-10 |

Through the Fence 12-6-10

“We all suffer for the sins of a few,” I sometimes remind my junior high students. I say this right after the class has lost a treasured privilege because a couple of kids couldn’t keep their voice volume lower than that of a jet engine. They just groan and glare at the perpetrators.

When I was growing up, my parents would threaten to thrash both my sister and me if one of us didn’t admit to some juvenile crime. Usually the warning was sufficient to elicit a confession. When I was growing up, our family took lots of long car trips. Like typical siblings, my sister and I would start squabbling in the back seat. My dad would swipe his huge hand back over the front of the seat. It would flail at both of us blindly. Dad didn’t have the time and energy to determine who started it.

Our son, Landon, used to have a little friend who lived out of town. He was a good kid, but he was insensitive about animal suffering, and was sometimes the cause of it. He used to imitate his dad herding cows with a fiberglass cattle prod. The boy would pretend that he was a cowboy, and his dogs were the cows. Lucky for them, his dogs learned to get out of his way. Once he thought he’d teach a half-grown chicken to fly by tossing it high into the air. His lessons didn’t speed the learning.

A few years ago, he was spending the weekend at our house because his parents were out of town. While the boys were out playing, he told Landon that since they were too little to saddle the horses, that they should ride the show goats. The goats were easy to catch because our kids had raised and fed them in a small pen for months in preparation for the county livestock show. They were also halter-broke and used to being led around the pasture. The boys probably weighed about 50 pounds at the time, which was only about 20 pounds more than the goats weighed. They climbed on the gentle goats and rode them around the pen for a few moments to the great amusement of our daughter Lena, who was about 6 at the time.

Their little rodeo was going great until the dad pulled up in the truck. He hardly had time to jam the gearshift into park before he bailed out of the door yelling, “Get off of those goats this minute!” The boys dropped to the dirt in an instant, and the relieved goats trotted away. “You boys are too heavy. You were hurting them. Didn’t you even think about that?” my husband continued. The remorseful boys hung their heads. “Besides,” he went on, “those animals were expensive to buy, and we’re eating beans and rice just so we can afford to feed them!”

My husband noticed Lena standing smugly over to the side not saying a word. She looked rather cheerful to see her brother getting reprimanded. “And what were you doing this whole time? Why didn’t you tell Mother what they were up to?” he asked her. She said that she didn’t want to be a tattle-tale. He advised her that that was one time when she should have told.

All three kids spent the next two hours picking up rocks, putting them in buckets and hauling them to the back of the property. With so many rocks around here, they were not in danger of finishing the job.

The boys took their sentence in stride, but years later, Lena is rather bitter about hers. I tried to sweep it into a life lesson lecture about guilt by association, and how criminals can be accomplices without actually pulling the trigger. She remains unconvinced and still awaits exoneration.

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