Today the farm adults all went on an escapade to visit a local winery. We were not there to imbibe, but rather to talk shop about collaborative workshop opportunities, but either way, leaving the kids at home went without saying. We were joking and laughing about farm mishaps when, as if conjured by our conversation, my phone rang. Our 12-year old son was on the other end, his voice broken by a poor connection, a lot of wind, and not a small amount of panic. This is what I was able to make out:
"PIG IS OUT! muffle muffle WOLVES IN THE FIELD! muffle muffle BLOSSOM IS NOT MOVING!"
I asked him to repeat several parts of it, got very little more information out of him (not helped by the static and dropped connection), and finally came to the conclusion that coyotes (we don't have true wolves here, but the coyotes are sure scary) had ripped into our pig, she was bleeding out on the yard, and that my children may or may not be in the midst of the pack, in extreme danger.
Wait, I thought. There are responsible adults at the house, and our son might be young, but if there were coyotes in the yard eating our pig, he would not be outside with them. He's smart enough to go inside for events of that terror magnitude.
Slow down, I told him. Take a breath. Start again. I asked him some pointed questions, determined that the "wolves" might really be a lone coyote who had already disappeared back into the woods, that the smaller children were with their aunt in the house, and that Blossom was happily eating grass, but wouldn't go back into her pen. But Colin was still shaken and clearly out of his league, or so he believed. I instructed him to hang up and call our neighbor, who - as a hunter, rural problem-solver, and father of six - is well versed in crisis, and went back to my meeting.
We talked for about five minutes, and then the texts started coming in from their aunt, as well as our son. The pig had been put away, but was back out again. The neighbor was tracking the coyote into the woods. The kids had somehow decided it was rabid. The ducks were scattered, the pig was in their pen...now in her own pen...now out again. In short, the situation was in chaos. The last message we received was: "Colin is holding down the pig. We will wait for you to get here."
We adjourned our meeting and went home, where we found our son quite literally holding down the pig:
Blossom was happy, and by then, so was Colin. He had overcome his panic by making a decision that stopped the problem. As we later heard him tell it, Blossom kept running off toward the end of the barn (open fields, the road, no way to corral her), so he decided to jump on her. He ran alongside her, talking to her until she slowed down, then draped himself across her back. For some reason, this calmed her down, and she spent the next 45 minutes grazing and carrying him around while we were driving home from our meeting.
My point here is not whether or not it's a good idea to jump on a 250 pound pig (either for her safety or Colin's) in order to calm her down, but that the whole shenanigan was a great lesson for Colin in how to deal with a crisis. When he called me, he was in a panic. He had seen a coyote, but allowed his imagination to blow that alarm into a much larger scenario. That Blossom was also out (coincidentally - the electric fence was not plugged in and she's not a dummy) fueled his panic. He did what any kid would do - he called his parents. He has not been trained in panic mitigation, any more than any other kid who has not yet had to manage a tough situation on his own. But the fact that his parents were too far away to help offered him an excellent practicing ground for this important milestone: he was forced to "be the adult" and solve the problem on his own. His aunt and uncle were there, but they are not familiar with the animals, so Colin had to draw on his knowledge of their behavior and make a decision about whether he could trust his judgment - in this case, riding the pig - as a solution. Where before he had stood amid the chaos and waited for his parents to solve it from 20 miles away, he now took the risk and acted, sink or swim.
It also offered us an opportunity to talk to him about how to best use his resources, and what those resources were, in order of priority. Whom to call, how to assess level of danger, and when to act/not act were played out in virtually against the backdrop of a very real experience. It's so powerful when we can look at a situation critically after the fact, when we can debrief. What better way to prepare him for life experiences with other people, for societal scenarios that might trigger a fight-flight-or-freeze response, than in the context of saving his animal from potential danger?
In reality, the situation was never that critical. Our neighbor was at the house within two minutes of the call, and the coyote was long gone. Blossom would not have gone too far from her house and new friend, Zuzu. But it offered Colin the chance to test his mettle, and for that, I'll call it a good day's work. :)
Ray is part of the Ray and Randi duo, who actually don't live on the farm. They have a micro-homestead in Gilmanton, but are VERY active over at IFP and are guest bloggers for them.
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