Somewhere in the PETA headquarters across the offices and cubicles adorned with decorative puppy calendars, I imagine, there lies a Wall of Hate. Every organization possesses one or two. The simplest features a single photograph of an ex-girlfriend or work rival, their face painted with graffiti, fake mustaches, and the like; others, ridiculous caricatures punctured with darts, forks and knives, perhaps even gunshots – if you happen to work in Tennessee. The FBI has one, displaying blurry pictures of mass murderers, terrorists, and gangsters; the CIA has one too, though invisible to the naked eye. Even the White House adorns their distinguished offices with printed screen stills of Fox News anchors, wrinkled and faded from Super Soakers and Nerf guns, large speech bubbles that shout “Capitalism is for shmucks!!!”
At PETA, these portraits of animal rights offenders are encased in mahogany frames and frequently polished, allowing no smudge or stain to mar or obscure the faces of these enemies of animal-kind. The inherent effect is a photo mosaic of taxidermists, sushi chefs, furriers, and exotic gourmets that smother crickets in chocolate. Nearly all the department has visited the wall at least once. After a year, the PETA volunteers and managers have memorized nearly all the mug shots, ready at a moment’s notice to spring on them with a can of paint or a club – PETA members are quite sensitive to irony. Somewhere on this collage my face too is entombed, squeezed between Michael Vick and a comical poster of Cruella DeVil. Beneath my hairy chin in large red block letters reads “At Large.”
This week you see, my brother’s, Sean’s, cow escaped their paddock again, and I screamed some very unkind threats to our bovine friends, which no doubt the PETA satellites intercepted and treated me accordingly. The denizens of ‘Old MacDonald’s Farm’ represent the first additions to my own Wall of Hate, unless deep-fried and plopped between a Kaiser roll, no cucumbers though – the second vegetable to appear on the list, wedged between ‘asparagus’ and ‘geriatric drivers.’ The cows or rather heifers in particular with their repeated escape attempts, calling to mind Frogger-esque excursions across the highway and through briar-laden trees, are especially noisome creatures. Yesterday however, Katie and I succeeded in herding the bolting bovine into its cell, where we learned sometime during the night their water trough had run dry.
Quickly giving into her maternal instincts, Katie sought to rectify the situation: “Murph, we need to give them water. It’s not good for them without it.”
Honestly – I freely admit – my conscience momentarily abandoned me here as my mind entertained the thought of simply shrugging my shoulders and walking away. Or at least waiting until the boys came home to fix the problem. I do not consider myself a cruel man, but spending another moment with the walking value meals is akin to cleaning crap from chicken coops and my own personal version of Hell. Yet if the animals managed to escape again for want of water, then that would prolong the ordeal even more.
Katie might feel disappointed in me as well and that I could never allow.
“Sure,” I sighed, searching the ground for the hose. “Though pumping the water through these hoses will be impossible in this weather. Look there . . . ”
Beneath the snow and ice, we saw the raised impression of the hose, snaking its way under the frozen pond, up the hillside, and into the underground pump. Absently I stepped on the coiled tangle trailing into the barn, noticing how stiff and solid it felt as if frozen from the inside out.
“GD, how the hell are we going to get water to these stupid animals?” Katie cursed – or at least as close to cursing as Katie can. She stomped her feet and seemed quite irritated with the heifers, which simply bellowed lazily. That moment, I was quite proud of my little sister.
“It’s okay, Big Mamma,” she cooed after a while. “We’ll figure out something.”
Something in fact proved far more difficult than we originally hoped. Nearly all the hoses were frozen and several pumps only trickled a few brave drops. We thus decided to divide our efforts: Katie would chip away at the pond while Mom and I transported buckets of water from the far side of the house downhill to the barn. Combining our efforts, enough water could be stored away to keep the cows happy and imprisoned for the rest of the day.
Regrettably, wet snow, a fool’s balance, and a pot filled to the brim mix well for comedic effect. As we gingerly edged our way downhill, my feet rebelled against me, sliding out from my legs like a man who had just slipped on a banana peel. Water and bowl flew into the air, landing atop a soon-to-be bruised head as my knees collided with the frozen ground. I then rolled several feet down the hill, wet, sore and in desperate need of a towel. Katie and Mom fell to the ground as I played dead, mourning for my lost dignity. Their giggles painful but expected.
The heifers mooed and chuckled too, and I promised to treat myself a quarter-pounder with cheese later that evening.
Thankfully, my sister’s excavation of the pond had hit paydirt and we spent the next half-hour shoveling water into buckets like kids playing at the seashore. We filled the cow’s trough and promising to mete out some words to the boys, the girls trudged back up to the house and some hot tea. I remained behind to store the shovels and buckets while the animals slurped noisily, ignoring me.
“You better thank that girl,” I said. “If not for her, you’d be roadkill chuck roast. Remember that the next time you make a run for it.”
From politicians to the Care Bears, ‘hatred’ often suffers a bad rap. No criticism accompanies our shared hatred of injustice, cruelty or corruption, but punting puppies is frowned upon. Or ignored: my feelings toward cucumbers. Our hatreds define us as much as our hopes and our dreams, yet we curse those negative feelings or worse pretend they do not exist, allowing them to accumulate and build like the pressure beneath a geyser. And while sometimes dangerous (we cannot always immediately erase our misgivings about people and cucumbers), we might surround ourselves with individuals, who might challenge us to reexamine these base inclinations. Sisters are typically a good place start. They teach us about sympathy, I think. Or at least compel us to do the right thing every once in a while.
So if any PETA-people have stuck around to the end of this post, I humbly offer you my services. Every team needs its rogue agent to keep it honest. A brave new carnivorous world awaits us. Let’s do lunch next Tuesday. Say . . . the local Five Guys? My treat.