We have been, and continue to be, blessed to not just interact with but to actually get to know many beings here on The Quarry Farm. We meet lots of people, learning each time how many are interested in the world around them and how we all can be better stewards of that world. Just about every visit, tour and workshop results in one of us responding to a question with, ” I can’t answer that,” prompting us to find out more about something.
People are great. We can exchange ideas pretty freely. But the beings that remind us most how much we have to learn in this life are the animals. They can readily communicate with each other—even the trees and plants talk—but it’s up to them to learn how to deal with humans.
Over the years, the farm animal sanctuary residents have dealt with us. They come and they go with the end of life. Johnny the Canade Goose who taught us how inquisitive and intelligent these birds are. Audrey the red hen that taught us that even a hot wire slice through a chick’s beak and a fall from a truck along I-75 couldn’t stop her from seeking a cuddle. Smart, determined Gertie the pot-bellied pig who taught us that pigs are cleaner than dogs, cats, and most humans (no they don’t like to live in swill.) Mister Bill the giant goat who absolutely did not like to be told ‘no’ but forgave you for saying it as long as you scritched between his horns. I’m going to stop naming these names because the tears are coming.
Some of them have barely tolerated us, forging kind of a love/hate relationship with us because they haven’t had a choice, what with humans being the most ruthless predator (dang those opposable thumbs that can latch a gate and turn a key.) Two residents come immediately to mind: Bernie the Rooster that attacked me and my red windbreaker and the red lawnmower, and Jacques the Canada Goose who could run across four acres before you could put a fence between you and his bony, flightless wings and bill.
I wouldn’t trade the knowing of either of them for the world.
This morning, when Beatrice’s Belly Rub Girl offered Sean the Virginia Opossum his dried cranberries, greens plus a peanut butter sandwich for winter sustenance, Sean didn’t wake up. Just last Friday, Sean met the entire second grade class at Kalida Elementary School. Sean was always great with people. He didn’t hiss or growl or show his 50 teeth like most Virgina Opossums do to defend themselves from the two-legged predators that could very well mean to eat him. He tolerated all of us quite well, so he was one of our go-to wildlife ambassadors for offsite classroom visits.
The second graders thought Sean was “adorable.” They couldn’t understand how anyone would go out of their way to hurt his kind. They asked if they could see him walk. He was more interested in sitting, even though he was born with no eyes and had every reason to be afraid of squirrely limbs and echoes in the halls of school.
They asked how old he was. “He’s almost three,” I told them. How long would he live, they wanted to know. “Two to three years,” I said. How old is he in people years? “Very, very old.”
So it wasn’t a huge surprise that Sean fell asleep last night and didn’t wake up. He isn’t the first Virginia Opossum to have served The Quarry Farm as an ambassador of his kind to those who might wish him harm, but he was the one who immediately convinced them that Virginia Opossums have every right to live, under our porches and wherever their nomadic ways take them, in peace.