The livestock was a combination of pets and market. That is to say that they were, at one time, all pets, and eventually, at some time, they would all wind up in the freezer. They had names and personalities, and they had been good listeners to a loud, little boy in a quiet, small town. And then they were dinner.
We hunted birds at daybreak—doves above the treeline and quail in the brush. We had a dog trained for the fetching of the fallen, straight as an arrow from tail to nose, more cartoon than companion. Open meadows lay littered like battlefields, filled with the hounds and the sounds of the dying.
On Sundays we went to church.
I registered Republican on my 18th birthday. I watched a wall go down and a war build up. I dined in private rooms with family and Congressmen.
At 16 I lost my virginity, at 17 my religion. I marked my calender with angst and milestones.
I wandered from party to party, bed to bed. At 20 I switched to Libertarian because it came with a free t-shirt, and then I moved to Independent once the threads began to show. And then one day, for lack of a better offer, I found myself gazing across memories and into futures, and the shine of the world around me. The “D” on the card stood for Democrat.
I like to think it was the lines that did it—those we drew and the things they said, and as I watched sense and cents get split down the middle I weighed myself heavy upon the tides of change and not the cashing of it.
Maybe it was years in the theater that pushed me, or a lifetime of love and Lennon. Higher education surely took its share of the blame. I read books that should have been burned and talked with people that should have been feared. I worked three jobs to take one class and counted out coins to buy beer and Big Macs.
I lost myself in coffee and poetry. I found myself in women and whiskey. I lived late and died early, and by the dusk of twilight lessons were learned, tones were taught, and fancies all but forgotten.
It was a blur of clear, precise moments and dark, smoky rooms.
The years passed, and will continue to, between bouts of lean and kindness, and the toll they took has only deepened my resolve to look for value not riches, and to spend my time like a thing that greatly matters.
I am older (though not old), slightly less than wise, and sometimes better for it. I don’t eat meat and I don’t go to church. I drink too much coffee and not enough bourbon. I have my own boys to burden with the facts of opinion and the views I hang my hat upon—and I am happy for it.
I can only hope that my wife and I provide the push and the pull they need to consider the big and accept the little. I can only hope that our empathy finds encouragement, and also vice versa, because nothing serves as strong as example. And there is no example like the one that you are living.