PictureLast good-byes, Teton County Fair (c) cara blessley lowe 2013
The girls know, when they receive them as babies, that the lambs will be sold and killed for food. Baby lambs are called kids, and seeing kids--mere teenagers!--leading their sweet charges up the feed truck plank to the slaughterhouse is an unfortunate irony.

It is a cluster of consoling: of boyfriends and fathers and brothers with their arms and giant ranch-hand hands wrapped around the girls’ shoulders, belt buckles half the diameter as their waists; of sisters and other girls, mascara ribbons streaking their faces, a profusion of tears usually associated with weddings, or war.

As a bystander, you can’t get too sentimental.

These animals are bought, born, loved, raised, sold: the lesson is that earning a living is not without sacrifice, not without a price. This sacrifice means giving up something you love, adore even, and not just letting it go or even giving it away to another family, but leading it to it’s death.

There is a giant banner that sprawls the barn walls hailing the virtues of “Character”, which makes me wonder if I even understand the word. I never had to kill one of my animals when I was a kid.

Perhaps every parent should have to dry the tears of what I’ll call ‘chosen loss’ before the world thrusts it on their kids unawares. 

Might there be a future where 4H takes root in those beleaguered neighborhoods of Chicago and other American cities where children killing children has become common enough to the point of being overlooked by the media and our political leaders?

Might makeshift barns replace sacked-out tenements, children learning compassion--not vengeance--through the heartbreak of loss?