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Friday, July 29, 2005

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

My Viking

Have you ever been really proud of your children but had to scold them anyway?

That was the case the other day.

Had two young Marines in my squad performed an equivalent act I would have put them in for a medal and bought numerous rounds of beer.

Instead, I had to admonish my girl’s behavior.

I did too, but I could not help but tell them just how proud I was of their courage in the face of the enemy.

It started with the purchase of two baby turkeys - sold to my wife by an evil feed store owner with whom I thought I was friends.

Anybody that would sell your wife a baby turkey probably is not your friend.

So, one day I come home and Carson, age 4, and Ruby, age 7, have 2, cute baby turkeys.

Turkeys, for the record, are like sheep - they are born looking for a way to kill themselves.

It did not take long. Ruby’s turkey Annie, (named after her favorite aunt) and Carson’s turkey, Angel, (named after who knows what) soon departed to visit a neighboring dog. Only Angel came home.

A week or so later we happened to be in Abilene and ended up buying two more turkey chicks and two guinea chicks from another evil feed store owner.

Total count at this point: three turkey chicks and two guineas.

It was about this time that a neighboring family of skunks discovered the new Kentucky Fried Turkey stand in the neighborhood.

One Thursday morning Ruby and Carson went to let the chicks out to discover that Stockings (Carson’s new turkey) was missing.

That was a bad day.

Improvements were made to the defensive perimeter but dad did not have time to break out the traps that night.

The next morning a guinea was found, head removed, as polecats will do so as to lick out the blood. The guinea had been too big to drag through the hole the polecat was infiltrating through, but at least we found the hole.

By this point the girls were beside themselves, and ready to slaughter some skunks.

That afternoon dad got his traps out, made sure they were operating, and staked them out ready to set and bait when the chickens and kids and dogs were put up for the night.

About 9 p.m. I sent the girls out to check on the turkeys. It was too early for polecats but…

A four-year-old’s screeching propelled me out the back door. Carson was sprinting under full military power, and screaming, “Skunk. Skunk. Skunk.”

I wheeled back into the house to fetch my shotgun.

As I rounded the corner of the porch I was greeted with a vision that conflicting emotions of pride and horror through my brain.

Ruby was in the improvised turkey coop, which is about four feet high, five feet wide and about 15 feet long. She was wielding a stick two-handed like a Viking princess and landing solid blows on one very agitated skunk - her chicks huddled behind her.

Viking princess number two, aka Carson, was spearing the polecat with a stick through the fence.

There was no safe shot but at that point the skunk decided prudence was the better part of valor and made for his escape hatch taking numerous swats and jabs as he did.

I never got a shot off.

So here is the story I got from the girls: Mr. Polecat was already in the coop and pouncing on turkey chicks when they got there.

Ruby sent Carson to get me and then grabbed her stick, entered the coop, and fought her way past the skunk in that cooped up space to place herself between it and the chicks. How she did not get bitten or sprayed I do not know. Maybe the best defense is a good offense and that little girl was on the offensive.

Carson then arrived after notifying me and joined the fray with her own weapon, and had the foresight not to enter the coop and block its escape

As the story developed I alternated between feeling sick about how either girl could have been bitten by an animal that often carries rabies, and feeling inordinately proud of my very brave girls.

It took guts to do what they did.

No shrinking violets are these two. Men will be required to court them and I pity the weak of heart and body that try.

No father could be more proud.

It was a dicey discussion that followed.

How do you tell two small girls that you are immensely proud of their actions but that those same actions were foolhardy and dangerous?

I settled on the truth, which seems to always work and just told them. I think they understood.

Then we got about setting our traps.

By the end of the weekend the score was Skunks 0, Briggs family 4.

In a society that worships the virtues of helpless victim hood, especially for girls, I am extremely proud that mom and I are raising two compassionate girls that are also stalwart and courageous.

Now if we can leaven that with a little common sense.

Guest Column

Lance Armstrong's Heroism Is a Moral Inspiration

By Andrew Bernstein

When Lance Armstrong rode through Paris on Sunday, crowning his unprecedented seventh consecutive victory in the grueling Tour de France, he put an exclamation mark on what is more than merely an extraordinary athletic career.

By this time, the entire world knows Armstrong's story--his remarkable recovery from what was feared to be terminal cancer, his exhausting training program, his legendary endurance, his dauntless determination, his unequalled dominance of cycling’s premier event. Millions around the world properly celebrate him and his lofty accomplishments.

But what explains the enormous interest in Armstrong's success--or that of any other sports hero? Why do sports fans set such a strong personal stake in the victories of their heroes? After all, little of any practical significance depends on such victories; a seventh Armstrong win won't get his fans a raise or help send their children to college. Why do sports have such an enormous, enduring appeal in human life?

The answer lies in a rarely recognized aspect of sports: their moral significance. What athletic victories provide is a rare and crucial moral value: the sight of human achievement.

Athletic competitions are staged with the goal of achieving victory. By their very nature, they seek and honor champions, i.e., those select few who, in a given field, outdistance their brothers and sisters. The result of this policy is that sports reward exceptional achievement, not equality; they glorify the elite, not the ordinary; they celebrate towering heroes, not "the little guy."

Sports do not seek to "level the playing field" in an attempt to give a less-talented competitor a better chance of defeating a superior rival. Properly, there are no penalties imposed on a champion for being superior to his foes. Lance Armstrong, for example, is not required to heft a twenty pound weight up the steep ascents of the Pyrenees. Michael Jordan was not banned from springing skyward. The PGA does not require Tiger Woods to use an inferior brand of clubs. The only equality permitted is that every competitor gets the same opportunity to showcase his talents and determination.

With artificial handicaps or advantages eliminated, sports provide an undiluted example of the pursuit of excellence. In an era when the anti-hero is dominant in intellectual culture, sports provide the purest arena in which to pursue, observe and appreciate human aspiration, achievement and greatness. The reality of an athlete striving to hone his skills to the utmost--enduring pain, overcoming injury, testing his mettle against the world's best--provides a noble vision of man's potential.

Those of us who, physically, cannot cycle 2,000 miles or run the 100 meters in 9 seconds can still aspire to significant achievements. The vision of Armstrong's magnificent abilities and dauntless determination engenders in the best of us the questions: What might I accomplish in my field and in my life if I embodied the same degree of dedication? How high might I go in my own life-promoting endeavors if I put into them the identical indefatigable qualities of spirit that Armstrong does?

The motto of the Modern Olympic Games is: Citius, Altius, Fortius--Swifter, Higher, Stronger. Lance Armstrong embodies these principles perfectly. A great athlete like Armstrong is inspiring, because he reminds us how much is possible to a human being. He is living proof that an individual can reach great attainments and that profuse exertion in pursuit of a daunting goal need not be fruitless.

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