Learning the price of flirting with danger
As a young parent, I thought a lot about the idea of raising free-range kids and the skill of balancing adventure with danger.
Our family farm was not a working farm, but large enough to be far away from neighbors and decently out in the countryside. I grew up in a big family, toward the bottom, and life was largely a matter of* catch and kill your own.*
We had a beloved family dog called Jedda, and to this day I feel responsible for her strange demise.
When we bought the farm, it came with a caretaker and a grouchy dog called Charlie. Charlie was not friendly and never entered the farmhouse. Charlie and Jedda tolerated each other like distant friends stuck at a bad summer camp.
Weekends often consisted of myself and several siblings being dropped off at the farm, to be collected a few days later. This sounds a bit uncaring, but we loved it. Jedda was always with us, and the farm was full of things to do.
A train line cut through the middle of the farm, and if the weather was right, we used to sit right beside the train tracks late at night and watch the sparks fly from the wheels as the trains sped past. The exhilaration was addictive and drowned out the sense of danger.
One night after returning from our light show, Charlie came scratching at the door of the farmhouse. He timidly entered and sat by the fire - an act which surprised us all
The next morning, Jedda was nowhere to be found. The longer we looked, the more ominous Charlie's behavior from the night before seemed.
It was a brutally cold morning after that stunning clear night, and as I crunched over the frosted grass I began to clearly make out the remains of our beloved Jedda beside the tracks. It was now so very clear why Charlie had sought our solace.
The image stays with me to this day, as does the sadness and guilt about my role in her demise. We reveled in our sense of freedom and adventure but also learned an indelible truth about consequences and loss.