tragedies, are always the hardest to tell…because they aren’t fiction, are
they? They involve real people and
loss. Sometimes when I retell the
of my sister, Experience, I can pretend it is just that, a story…made up by
some writer bent on tearing at the heart of readers, but then it hits me and it
all falls apart. Sometimes, I can
it to the end, and for you I will try, but other times…well other times it is
too much. My little sister
after a long lost relative rediscovered when my mom paid for one of those
online, family tree searches. Experience, was our
great-great-great…something. A year
later my sister was born and the name gained a presence for the coming century.
father and mother
were fifth generation farmers and followed the rule that children are born and
raised for the purpose of having built in laborers when the time called…whether
you were a boy or girl didn’t matter.
This past June I had turned fourteen and two days later was in town
getting my farmer’s driving permit so I could help more.
You grow up fast on a farm.
the hay on field,
just behind the house, turned ready; Dad told me I would bale it this
year. I was both excited and
afraid. I had driven many a tractor
the years but the giant one used to pull the baler was a different beast all
sister and I, just
over seven years apart, were closer than most would expect with such an age
gap. I guess when your nearest neighbor
is three miles down a gravel road, your choice of playmates, come summer, is
limited. She and I came to an early
understanding that I was older and therefore very cool. We also had a
shared love of rabbits. When
chores we were able to spend time with them.
Bonnet, one of the females, had just had babies and Experience loved to
hold and cuddle them. It was when
was the happiest. There are few things more joyous than to watch a little girl,
giggle while rolling in the grass with a baby bunny clutched to her chest…
looking up from time to time to just tell me she loved me. It’s odd looking back, about what I remember.
Maybe it’s just guilt. That day…the day of the accident, I remember
explaining to Experience how that, often times, when rabbits are frightened
they will freeze perfectly still…like a statue, until the danger passes. We both practiced, standing as immobile as
possible. Well, until the silence
interupted with a little squeaker of a fart seeping out from the bottom of
Experience’s overalls. We
both just lost
it, laughing so hard my cheeks cramped.
It was so insignificant at the time…so unimportant...
dad had cut the
hay a few days prior and raked it into rows that morning before coming to find
me at the rabbit hutch with Experience.
He took me to the barn and began going over everything I would need to
know in order to bale. I was very
hesitant at first telling him that I just wasn’t ready.
But he just kept telling me, I
could do it, and slowly I began to
believe. To make sure, he rode the
15 minutes with me in the field to make sure I had it. I was very nervous but acted brave telling him it was no
big deal and I that indeed, “had it…no problem.”
With that assurance, he stated that he needed
to run to town and expected it done by the time he returned.
I am not sure if he really had to go to town
or if he just said so in order to give me the independence needed to grow as a
person. You try harder when Daddy
there to run to for help. There
sense of self-reliance that all farmers pride themselves on and my father was
ingraining this into his offspring as if it were a genetic code.
the next hours
I was in charge. There was a sense
power and when I had finished I could not describe my sense of pride as I
looked back over the field at the lines of giant round bales.
I had done exactly what Dad had asked and he
was right, I could do it. When I pulled the tractor into the barn
and walked back toward the house I was met by Mom. She wasn’t panicked but I could tell she was
your seen your
she was playing
with the rabbits the last time I saw her…did you check the hutch?”
already did. One of the babies is
gone but I can’t find
her anywhere…can you help
I did. We looked everywhere a six
year old might
hide, play or sleep. With each passing minute…hour…the uncertainty and fear
elevated. Neighbors were called,
sheriff, friends, and family…all making their way to find Experience.
was 2am and everyone
had gone home hours before in hopes of starting again at first light.
Mom and Dad were sitting at the kitchen table
and I was drifting off in Experience’s bed.
That is when the screaming began; a high-pitched cry of a baby that
chilled the body to bone. By the
had shook off sleep and sprinted to the kitchen, I heard the screen door slam
shut and saw the hiccupped dancing of a flashlight across the lawn,
silhouetting both my parents. I
out after them focusing on the light, not sure quite where I was running.
I caught up, I
realized, deep in my mind, I knew what was making that sound, I had heard it
before…though at the time I would not have been able to tell you.
Together, we stumbled toward the sound, lost
as to what was making the horrid cry, convincing ourselves it was Experience
crying out for help.