Life is messy. The view from the highroad is more scenic, but there are always detours, and I find myself on bumpy roads more than I’d like.
One part of doing right is being kind to Mother Nature’s critters. A good example is when I wrote recently about relocating the chicken snake caught in the nest of the henhouse, instead of hacking his head off with a hoe.
Oftentimes doing the right thing isn’t cut-and-dried. This past week I caught an opossum (possum for short) in my chicken pen. It had already killed and eaten one of my new baby chicks. He came back the next night for a second course but I caught it in my humane trap.
At first, the equation seemed simple in this case - an eye for an eye. The possum ate my baby chicks, now it must pay for that life with its own life. After all, it is my responsibility to do the right thing by my chickens and keep them safe.
While standing looking through the wire cage at the vicious critter, and mustering the courage to carry out the retribution, three tiny possums no bigger than mice, came from somewhere underneath. They nestled on their mother’s back as if it were a lounge chair and gazed at me curiously. The simple equation became more complicated for me.
My ethical compass swung northward, so I loaded the wire trap with the mama and three babies into my truck. The plan was to find a suitable place to relocate them.
After driving about five miles from the house, I came upon a secluded pond with lots of open space. Steering to the side of the road, I stepped out, gravel crunching under my boots. Out of the corner of my eye, a mama duck with a dozen small ducklings the size of my baby chicks came swimming toward shore. Behind them were gentle V-shaped waves in their wake.
Watching the tiny critters for a moment was all it took to realize letting the possums go there was not the right thing to do either. Soon they’d be having duck for dinner.
After about 15 miles of asphalt, I came upon a bridge over a large creek. There were no houses for miles, and the area had been used from time to time as an illegal dump. Before giving it too much thought, I freed the family from the cage. Tumbling from their wiry
jail, they cursed as scampered toward the river. Only Mother Nature knows what scathing labels they hissed on me.
Driving home, the circumstances surrounding the episode wandered through the maze of my mind trying to find a path to true north. Did I do the right thing? It’s hard to say. Environmentalists might argue that changing the habitat of the possums at such a vulnerable time in their development was cruel.
Many people think I’m goofy for giving this kind of thing a second thought. Why not just blast the whole family with a shotgun and bury the carcasses in a shallow grave?
But for me, life is indeed messy at times, and doing the right thing is not always easy.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org