Several people have called asking me to write about people being cruel to the ducks at the White Oak Pond and several other locations. One lady says young boys bring their dogs to the White Oak Pond and she has seen the dogs kill several baby ducks.
One of the early signs of a budding serial killer is cruelty to animals. Whether or not one goes that far, I have never seen an animal abuser who was fit for human companionship. Cruelty is cruelty. It matters not which sentient creature it is unleashed on.
Sometimes it is unintentional imitation of adult behavior. When I was around 10 years old, some buddies and I made “flips” out of Y-shaped limbs. Fancy ones are available today as slingshots. So imitating our parents, we went bird hunting. The problem was our birds were our native songbirds.
It was during the nesting and baby-raising time of the year and my mother sat us down on the porch and told us a story about a Mama Bird who was killed by a boy with a slingshot. She had four little babies in her nest and they sat there for days, slowly dying of starvation. She told it so well I could almost hear their final gasps as they wondered what happened to their mother who had loved them and fed them faithfully.
I never shot at another bird. When we develop the power to feel with other creatures, it is a blessed day of deliverance from cruelty.
If there is anything cuter than a baby rabbit, it must be a baby duck. I feed the ducks at the Chickamauga Boat Dock and the last time I was there the baby ducks were everywhere. How anyone could turn a dog loose on them baffles me at the very core of my being.
Those ducks are part of my emotional therapy and they have been for many years. Some days I sit and write all day long. My bottom and my brain get numb. I grab some bread, crackers or popcorn and walk over to the boat dock area 3 blocks from my home and feed the ducks and other waterfowl. It never fails to rejuvenate me. It is a time of sweet fellowship with some wonderful life forms.
That boat dock area was one of the first places my parents let me ride to on my bicycle when I was a small boy. I started feeding the ducks there at an early age. Mother would make me a sack lunch and I’d dine in succulent splendor at one of the TVA picnic tables. Later I got permission to take a fishing rod and fish a while in that beautiful area next to the dam. I found a big flat rock that no adult fished from because it was only accessible by scaling a steep bank. It was no problem at all for me to shinny down that bank and toss in a line.
I guess my major question here is: do we teach our children to just stalk and kill animals or do we teach them that we are all a part of the beautiful quilt of life? When you’ve had a one-legged Cardinal as a close personal friend for five years of you life, that question answers itself. When you’ve had a dog or cat that seemed to be a part of your own flesh and mind, you understand these things.
When you are cruel to anything, the main thing you kill is your own soul. It is only through your soul that you are able to tune in to the most uplifting and profound pieces of this gorgeous quilt of life. Every time you kill even a tiny piece of your soul, it is like cutting out the tongue with which you taste life, the inner eye which beholds the glory, and the arms with which you embrace the essence of all things.
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