Don’t Let This Happen to You

img_6890On the morning of New Year’s Day, I skied early and long, climbing the hayfield across the road, then looping through the sugar woods, then down again to an old logging track that eventually became a narrower trail, vaguely discernible in the abundance of snow. Eventually I arrived at the backside of a large pond a few miles from here, and there I turned back, as I’d been gone longer than promised already. On the ski home, I came to a place where a deer’s journey had converged with my own, the hoof prints laid over my ski tracks, fresh as could be. How pleasing to think of the animal following my path, if only for a while.

That evening, driving home from picking up a used exterior door, I passed a wild turkey hen flopping desperately at the side of the road. I stopped the car to see what services I could render, but the bird was badly damaged, one wing all but torn from her body. I dropped my booted heel on her head three times in quick succession, waited a minute for her nervous system to quiet, then carried her to the car.

On the remaining short drive home I felt a deep, almost tearful sadness for the bird, one whose roots I could not quite identify at the time, though in hindsight have come to identify as the juxtaposition between these two encounters: the peaceful convergence of the deer’s wanderings and mine, and the stark brutality of the hen’s demise. How fearful she must have felt, there on the frozen shoulder of the road, broken beyond repair, unsure of my intentions. And rightly so, as it turned out.

Perhaps, too, there is something about our current political landscape embodied in my sadness. The evident brutality of it has made me uneasy; I feel almost a little shaky at times. Don’t get me wrong: I recognize that brutality is inherent to our nation’s doctrine of exceptionalism, no matter who holds the reigns. Nonetheless, something is different now. Or maybe it’s not so different; maybe it’s just clearer, more outspoken and, in a tragic way, more honest. Maybe that’s what’s most troubling.

I’d hoped I could coerce the boys into dressing the bird, but they were deep into a long-promised movie when I arrived home, so I laid some newspaper on the floor and got to plucking. The feathers came out easy. They were so, so soft in my hands.

•     •     •

The other big event of New Year’s Day is that my hard drive crashed. Being the fool I am, I did not have much of anything backed up, and much was lost. I say this because the complications of recovering from this event (and honestly, it’s sobering to be reminded of my dependence on this technology) will likely mean fewer posts for a while, and probably some old photos, because much as it pains me to admit, I know at least some of you are here for Penny’s photos as much, if not more so than my words. I mention this also as a reminder to those of you who do not regularly backup your computer: Don’t let this happen to you!





44 thoughts on “Don’t Let This Happen to You”

  1. Too late… My computer also crashed the day before the new year. I’m looking at it now right next to the one that crashed a couple of years ago. It’s as if those precious photos and important documents aren’t really gone because I haven’t quite admitted defeat yet by throwing them away. Someday……

  2. Funny, same day I was a mile from home when a pickup ahead of me swerved to avoid a turkey that had been clipped by another vehicle and was dead or dying–blood all over the road. Lightning calculation performed by instinct–stop, retrieve, take home, pluck, etc.?, or just keep going? I kept going, but then wondered the rest of the way what that decision said about my life.

    Condolences on hard drive. For future, I would say do it on the cloud (assume you’ve heard that from people). I’m less tech savvy than you, but also have stuff I can’t afford to lose. My kids set me up with something called Just Cloud, and that appears to be the answer. (Messing with external hard drives too much for me.) It raises similar questions about one’s life as the turkey, but hey, that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.

    As for “current political landscape”–yeah. What else to say? I guess troubling is the right word. Maybe touches on the most fundamental personal question of all: is the world safe, or not?

    Hmmm. 3 good questions, all connected by your post. Thanks.

    1. Well, I’ve made many decisions that reflect more poorly on me than passing by a dying turkey. If that’s any consolation.

      1. I envy your ability to put her out of her misery. I’d have probably cried, had some sort of nervous breakdown over it. My grandad could do these things, only when necessary- but I’m pretty soft. Consolation in making good use out of her tragedy, though. I wish I could be less emotional at times like those- but I just get too upset, shaking and crying! Maybe there is value to being senitive, too? Maybe it is not always negative, faulty.

        We, too, found deer tracks in the snow last week: they’d nibbled at bushes near the house, we examined the bushes and tracked them a bit (for fun). Magical.

  3. Sounds like plucking went well but following the advice of someone who had at least a half century of turkey hunting under his belt, I skin wild turkeys and roosters.
    Sorry about the hard drive. You might be able to get a computer repair outfit to clone the old hard drive onto a new one. I’ve had that done a couple of times.

  4. Ben, What an excellent piggy picture! I have two pigs: one won’t eat unless she is actually standing in the food bucket. I think it’s a Dominant Pig thing, because the other, smaller pig, never does.

    Also, on the computer front: my blog was taken offline by the hosting company for nearly two weeks and I was reminded, too, of how fragile the web is, in nearly every way. Even my techie son (an IT fixer professional) couldn’t fix it for a long time, and he reminded me that everything online has a great potential for breaking. Good idea to back up frequently all your material.

  5. Stark contrasts vividly shared: joyful ski trek and communing with a deer, critically injured wild turkey compelling the need to euthenize, parallel national political realities, a crashed hard drive, and a pig stamping on her own grapes (to make wine?). Such insightful and honest sharing inspires. THANK YOU BEN ! !

  6. I’ve lost everything to a computer as well. My husband bailed me out and demanded backup… for some reason I still don’t WANT to back anything up. Too much work? Or maybe I secretly want to lose everything? Sorry this happened to you. Heh, the political landscape…there’s a FUN topic. To me, the only difference is that we have a president who is exposing things for what they really are. Obama wasn’t doing that, although it was all still there. Even though it’s pretty scary, I’m slightly grateful to Trump for being so utterly disgusting, so that we can get our heads out of our asses. What was happening before this? Denial. There is no denying anything now (although yes, some still do). It’s not really good right now, but I would say your in about the best place a person could be in this situation. People who have actual sovereignty over their own lives should fare better than those on a life support system of the fucking Empire. Mercury Retrograde ends in 4 days…..btw.

  7. As brutal as those three stomps were, they demonstrate your compassion. Liam found a rabbit in our road, hit by a car and paralyzed, yet obviously still alive. As he was passing by in his car, he saw a man walk by mere feet away from the suffering rabbit and not even pause. Being the suburbanites that we are, Liam took it to the ER vet to be euthanized instead of doing it himself.

  8. Uncertainty is a theme in your blog posts. And rightly so. This is a planet of Uncertainty (as well as Music) and we’d better get used to it! Oh well, we’d better (somehow) accept it. I don’t know that we can but at least we can try.

    Thanks for helping the bird to its next incarnation. Jai shri hari! Thanks for noticing the deer tracks. I like it that you are not oblivious. I like it that you point things out.

  9. Hi Ben!:) I’m a long time reader but have never actually posted. I love your work and would love to give back in a way possible to me. Have you had anyone try to recover your hard drive? If not, send it to us (me and the hubs) and we can try and recover your data. Sometimes not all is lost. It depends on what happened. My email is attached, please feel free to email me if you want to try and get some of your work back. I’ve had 3 die on me in the last decade or two, I know your pain>.< But then again, sometimes it's nice to start from a clean slate so I can understand if you want to leave things lost;) Cheers from Hawaii!
    -Katie and Dustin

  10. So sad about the bird. It would have been worse to leave it to suffer. Sometimes tough choices leave us feeling terrible no matter which way we go.

  11. An external/auxiliary HD always looks like cheap insurance whenever an internal HD goes bad. I don’t keep anything except program file on my internal HD, instead I use flash drives for stuff that I use regularly and do a full backup to an external HD weekly.

    Politicians are all liars, regardless of their political party affiliation. I believe that Hilary Clinton was bent on eviscerating the 2nd Amendment and disarming Americans, which might well have led to a second Civil War. While I worry that we’ve elected a man with childlike emotional control to be POTUS, I’d rather take my chance with Trump than with Clinton or another liberal “I’m smarter than all of you” horse’s ass like BHO.

    1. I don’t always agree with you, Jeff, but I sure appreciate that you take the time to read and comment. Thanks for that.

      1. Well, I don’t always agree with you, Ben, but I sure appreciate that you write this blog so that I can get a vicarious New England fix on a regular basis.

        Regarding this thread, there are three things that I know to be true:

        1. Computer hard drives will fail.
        2. Most people don’t take the time to backup their hard drives even though a 1TB external HD probably holds more data than most people need held and costs around $100.
        3. Honest politicians don’t get or stay elected, ’cause most people would rather hear sweet little lies than the cold hard truth.

        BTW, I didn’t cast a vote for POTUS/VPOTUS in 2016 because I felt that neither candidate was worthy of holding the office. Unlike in several previous elections, I couldn’t find it in myself to vote for the “less bad candidate”, since I viewed both as equally unworthy, just in different ways.

      2. I have an old Maxtor external HD and it’s super easy to make a folder of what I want saved, plug the Maxtor in to the USB port and drag the folder over to the Maxtor icon and let’er buck! Badda bing! Done. C’mon you guys. You can’t make complication the excuse not to back up! Cause it’s not. Sorry. It’s all in your minds like I really need to sweep the floor but omg I just can’t get around to it. (finger waggin’ with luv) 🙂

  12. It is a blessing and a curse to notice and feel so much. The profoundly beautiful and painfully difficult. Sometimes I reach for the temporary off-switch, but can never find it. Glad you were there for the turkey. Poor girl.

    (I’m really intrigued by the kind of skiing you do – you cover some ground! I did a tiny amount of cross country as a kid, but down here we spent more time waiting for snow than actually being out in it; eventually the skies were donated. Adam was on the high school downhill ski team [wonder if you ever crossed paths back then], and we do snowshoe whenever there is enough snow out there, which is nada at the moment. But the way you talk/write about backwoods skiing…)

  13. Hey all, having lost a hard drive myself, can I make a pitch to everyone to back up everyday? It’s one of the easiest things possible, and isn’t there enough loss in life without adding your hard-wrought writing? Condolences, Ben.

  14. I wish you would clarify what you said about how it can be more troubling/tragic as things become clearer and more honest. Maybe I misunderstand. Wouldn’t honesty and truth help alleviate fear and uncertainty?

    1. I think “tragic” was a poor word choice… Maybe it’s more disconcerting/unsettling to realize that what’s troubling/tragic is also what’shonest.

      Does that make better sense?

      1. Tricia may have said it best.. “we have a president(elect) who is exposing things for what they really are.” It’s about time. The part that is both troubling and tragic, is that our nation is so divided.

  15. Hi, Ben! I’ve been reading your blog for about half a year now, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I love your writing and the way you have chosen to live your life with your family. I am in the process of a transition to a life closer to the land, and I get encouragement from your writing here.

    “Or maybe it’s not so different; maybe it’s just clearer, more outspoken and, in a tragic way, more honest.” If I understand what you are saying here, I couldn’t agree more and have been thinking this since election day. Donald Trump is the face of our industrial societal system. He is brutal, but he is the system that provides for those of us who don’t provide the necessities of life for ourselves or communities. Past presidents have perhaps put a prettier face on the same system.

    Thanks for your writing!

    Matt, transitionrewild.blogspot.com

  16. A number of years ago, I found a young rooster on the side of the road who had fallen off of a chicken truck. He was injured but mostly by his previous treatment. I maintain to this day if anyone who eats grocery store chicken saw the state this bird was in, they would never eat it again. I couldn’t either and so brought him home, gave him a bath, treated his wounds and just watched to see what would happen. We had that rooster (named Lucky Bird, for obvious reasons) for about 18 months before he died of an apparent heart attack. Till then, he had enjoyed waddling around (he was HUGE!) eating grass and casting longing glances at the hens. The whole experience felt like a solid middle finger salute to factory farming.
    I am glad to know you were there to ease the hen’s suffering and, even more, that you were disquieted by the experience. One of the philosophies I think you communicate best is your unease with ending the lives of other animals and the hope that it never does become easy. I once would have thought that the only way to handle that unease would be to just not do it but I certainly see the problems inherent in that thinking as well. The older I get, the less black and white life becomes.
    Thank you, also, for the image of the deer tracks converging with those of your skis. I always love to see those upside-down heart prints and ponder where they were headed. Peace!

  17. I don’t know how but your short stories make me feel so human! An escape from concrete city! Thank you! Even the computer crash sounds so wild! Live and love it!

  18. Hey, Ben! Would have dispatched that turkey, too, and felt sad about it as well. And also would have honored her by not letting her go to waste. Political landscape…very,very unsettling and for me quite terrifying. I try to keep my focus elsewhere because if I dwell too hard, I start to fear, in an unhealthy way, for our futures.

  19. I understand your frustration of losing your hard drive. This happened to me about three months ago and although I had a lot backed up, I didn’t have the previous six months backed up, which was just as important. I was mostly frustrated at myself for not backing up my computer more often, but I learned my lesson. Good luck getting back into your groove.
    I love reading your blog.

  20. Thanks for this post. You don’t know me. I meandered here from Sage R’s Facebook page. Anyway, like so many, I share your sense of deep uneasiness as well as the understanding that it comes in part from the outing of the ugliness and, say it, evil that’s been amongst us all this long while.

    Though I’m in an urban hub, grateful to see resistance, I seem to be moving more to self-collection in order to prepare to be sanctuary in ways I don’t yet understand.

    We’re all inevitably sounding boards for each other. Appreciate it.

Leave a Reply to learninglife203 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s