McGregor Says: Survival of the Fittest

Jim McGregor learned a lot of life lessons living on the farm.

A friend of mine was discussing a conversation he had with his busy young granddaughter when he happened to remark to her that it sounded like she was “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” “Grandpa, don’t be silly, a chicken couldn’t run around if you cut its head off,” she replied.

Now, as a grandpa, do you just leave it at that or do proceed to tell this little girl that when you pick the chicken up by the legs, put its head on a block and stretch its neck and chop off its head with a hatchet, when you drop it on the ground it will flop around in all different directions with no purpose or idea where it’s going, literally, like chicken with its head cut off.

For farm kids of my generation this was a normal part of farm life.

Chicken did not come in a cardboard tub marked KFC.

The next step was to dip it in a tub of boiling water, pull off the feathers, scorch off the pin feathers, clean the innards and pop in the oven with some potatoes, onions and carrots.

Before the animal rights folks start writing cruelty letters, we were never cruel to our farm animals. They were a source of food and we raised them in good conditions.

As children we were taught the life cycle of all creatures. We saw puppies and kittens and calves being born. We watched pets die and we buried them in the back yard with tears running down our faces.

I wonder how many 14 year old boys today go out to the dark barn in the early morning, prop up a three legged stool beside a cow and fill a milk pail.

Then look after the intake and discharge of that animal, wash their hands and face and behind their ears and ride their bike to school?

How about setting a bowl of green beans down in front of a teenage girl and direct her to “Tip and tail these then blanche them so we can freeze them.” She would probably look at you as if you had two noses.

Before I was a teenager, I could bait a hook and clean a fish. My sisters could sit down at a sewing machine and make a dress from a store bought dress pattern. We learned to be self  sufficient and I have concerns about those coming behind us.

We just watched over thirty people die in a terrible blizzard in the eastern US.

Turn off people’s electricity for a few days and without any survival skills, life becomes very fragile. I for one appreciate the lifestyle I had growing up and remember the protests from my children when I tried to introduce even some of that wisdom into their upbringing.

The other kids didn’t have to do it so why should they and because we wanted a better life for our kids we too often capitulated and let them go the easier, softer way.

We shielded them from the harshness of life and death and head chopping and knuckle skinning work.

Scholars will tell us that this all part of evolution.

Each generation takes only what it needs from the last and moves on, evolving as it goes.

I just hope the tough life lessons they are learning on X-box and Playstation are enough for survival.

At least that’s what McGregor says.

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