September 29

Beyond the Barbed Wire

I was killing time under the shade tree, pulling sharp ranch ‘pokies’ off my wide legged pants, the ones that are super stretchy with deep pockets to hold my camera. Luckily, my fingertips are somewhat calloused and I have a lot of experience in extracting cockle burrs from my clothing.

While I was doing this, taking pictures and waiting for the well driller to show up, I noticed someone watching me from across the fence at Settler’s Ridge . If you can call a red-headed cow a someone, anyway.

It seemed she was as fascinated by me, as I was of her. I’m no expert on cows and didn’t look that closely. It may have been a bull.

I’ve thought about that four-legged creature with the auburn bouffant hair-do quite a lot this week. I’ve written, read and talked about bullies. It’s interesting that this colorful cow was off on its own, standing near me…on the fence.

I wondered if she was content to be different or was also, like me, looking for a gap in the five wire or another way out, a way to run free.

Yesterday, sitting in my car, we were talking about a glue incident, this girl and I. We were talking about the way we are sometimes brave and stand up for what’s right and the times we fall short to fit in.

I confessed that once, walking home from school, I let a group of girls convince me to do something mean to a girl who only knew hard days. A life of every day, going to school and being the target of harsh treatment and name-calling.

The truth is, she was the stinky, smelly girl. More than once, she came to school with bugs in her hair. Usually, I didn’t just look the other way. I stepped up and stepped in. I helped.


But that day, a bad day, walking home from elementary school, I joined in. I took a dab of glue, put it on a leaf and casually stuck it on the top of her head while pretending to ‘help’. The other girls laughed.

I still see that day, and still feel that guilt.

With her slow, broken speech, the kind we sometimes mimic, I still hear her say, “Hey, th-at’s-not-fun-ny.” More than anything, I remember the hurt look of betrayal in her eyes, behind the coke bottle lenses that were sometimes knocked off her head, How could you?

That’s a day I would do-over. A wrong I would right. I’ve often wondered where she is and how her life turned out. I’ve prayed for forgiveness, but that it not be forgotten. It’s helpful sometimes to see the ways that we’ve hurt.

I confessed this terrible day to a girl who wanted to do what she could to make a difference, so she asked everyone to bring pet supplies instead of presents to her birthday party. Then she donated it all to our local shelter.

Sometimes we stand on the fence, afraid to look or be different, secretly wishing we could grow a pair and stand up a little taller, away from the crowd.

Some of us long to break through the barbed wire barriers that keep us contained, like cattle. We search for an open field to run or a trough that quenches the thirst in the heat of the day.

That’s no bull.

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