Today’s blog is going to be a bit different; I usually write about some philosophical thought or idea I had from the week that pertains to the classroom, but today, you get a personal essay from me.
This week, I’m asking my students to do something similar, and I am a firm believer in not asking my students to embark on a journey that I would not myself. So this story is my sample…my attempt at asking my students to do the same.
Assignment: take a moment from your life (no matter how small or large) that shaped a part of you, and tell that story in detail, including insight into how the events affected you. 400-500 words.
“The Bird” by Eric Kallenborn
My brother-in-law grew up outside of Fargo, North Dakota. He met my wife’s sister in Alaska during a college internship, and now they are married with a son in Minnesota.
Justin grew up hunting. He has a closet full of guns, and schedules much of his year around hunting/fishing seasons. I do not own guns and schedule much of my year around comic book conventions.
One time just over ten years ago at about 10:30 at night on a weekday I was driving Justin to get a pack of cigarettes, and we were stopped at a red light on 103rd and Cicero. At that time, in the somewhat populated area, there were about 10 cars in the intersection. Not the busiest of intersections at that time, but my brother-in-law was shocked at the amount of traffic on the street. Having driven box trucks for over a year during all hours of the day in downtown Chicago, the thought of 103rd and Cicero at any time or day being a busy intersection was a funny thought, but everything is relative, and compared to a suburb of Fargo, 103rd and Cicero might look like Times Square.
This was one of the first times that a major cultural difference between me and Justin showed itself. There have been a few. But for the most part, we are able to find commonalities in life like our passions for smoked meats, propensity for waaaay too many hobbies, or our love for our pets.
Sometimes, however, the differences are shocking.
This past Easter weekend, during a visit, the family was sitting around the kitchen table discussing a variety of topics when the subject of what our dogs would not eat came up. Our current pup, Tasha, will eat just about anything, while our last pup, Winnie, was a bit more fickle. I asked Justin if there was anything Raven, their pup, wouldn’t eat. He sat back and thought about it for a sec.
“Snipe,” he said.
“What’s that?” I inquired.
“It’s a type of bird.”
Apparently, while out hunting, Justin came across a Snipe. He never tried one before, and being curious to its taste, he shot the bird, brought it home, and cleaned it for a meal.
In the process of cleaning birds, Justin tosses the heart of the kill to Raven, who usually scarfs them up raw. However, after one bite of the Snipe’s raw heart, Raven spit it out. Justin, seeing this, tossed the bird, knowing that if the dog did not like the flavor of the heart, the bird must be inedible.
And that was the end of the story: Raven does not eat Snipe.
For many people out there, this story probably makes perfect sense, especially those of you that hunt. I do not hunt. And I can’t stop thinking about the poor bird that lived its life only to be shot, gutted, have its heart chewed on by a dog, spit out, and body tossed into the trash.
I still think about that bird.
It’s one of the reasons that I’ve started eating less meat. But it also reminds me that this is an immense country with countless cultures within our boarders. We are blessed to be surrounded by individuals that live different lives and think differently than us. It gives us more opportunities to learn, to reflect.
In three years, I might be telling this story as the catalyst to my becoming a vegetarian, but for now, it sits in my brain as an interesting tale of the American experience.
(Note: I’m not happy with the ending. I wrote about three different endings thus far after “I still think about that bird,” and I was not happy with any of them. I hate this one the least. I’m figuring out what it all means in my head, and rushing the ending was not something I wanted to do. I hope to edit this some time in the future, but for now, it’s just to work as a sample for my students, so this will do. Hear that, students…even teachers have a hard time finishing work.)