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Realities of farm life help kids mature

Joy’s Reflections: Not every animal makes it, but if you did everything you could, it’s OK.

Joy McClain

February 1, 2024

1 Min Read
Silas and Nolan Planker hold a goat and prepare to insert tubing into its mouth
BROTHERLY LOVE: Silas Planker, 10, preps for tubing into the stomach while his brother, Nolan, 9, holds the goat. Joy McClain

The call came before noon on Christmas Day. My friend hurriedly described ailments of one of their baby boar goats. Her boys, Silas and Nolan, participate in my Farmhand program. Silas knew the hunched-over, shivering goat was in trouble. He checked the belly, and it was hollow.

It is hard enough to find an available veterinarian, let alone on Christmas. I grabbed my bag of supplies and antibiotics and drove over. Until they could get to a vet, I would do what I could.

I showed them how to administer medicine and place a tube into the little goat’s belly so it could benefit from warm nourishment. I put my arm across Silas’ 10-year-old shoulders.

“Don’t feel guilty. You caught it; you are doing what you can,” I said. “That’s all one can do — and sometimes, it isn’t enough and that’s part of it.” The words echoed what my father said to me each time hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I stood over the carcass of an animal.

Silas kept a vigilant and active watch. Sadly, the little goat did not make it. Silas and Nolan are learning about the difficult realities of livestock. Sometimes your 4-H project dies. Sometimes the ones you thought would not make it turn out decent. It’s a learning curve. With each trial comes greater wisdom and, hopefully, more maturity.

Barn lessons tend to remain with you forever. It doesn’t matter how many animals you drag out of the barn. That is never easy. But you remind yourself, “I did what I could — maybe next year.”

I saw it in Silas, and I could not be prouder. He moved on. I saw it in his squared and sure shoulders, and his looking and forging ahead.

About the Author(s)

Joy McClain

Joy McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.

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