By: Jefferson Weaver
When I was a very little kid, I insisted on visiting the barn across the road from our house. It didn’t matter that the bull had put a man in the hospital a few weeks before; I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with him. I tried (and occasionally succeeded) to ride the old moon-eyed mule and the worn-out mare.
I think I was three when I fled the tyranny of my sister’s babysitting skills for a jaunt down the side of a busy country road to the sweet-potato processing barn where my brother worked; at 13, Becky was too young to take care of me. I went wandering in the cornfield once or twice, regardless of venomous snakes. The water in the ditch was also worth the risk of an encounter with any ill-behaved serpent.
Each of these adventures, as well as others that are long since forgotten, resulted in appropriate corporal punishment from our mother, Miss Lois. As the last of five, none of whom were resistant to temptation, her arm was strong by the time I came along. I am sure I wore out as many switches as I did guardian angels.
Mother and Papa did the best they could with all of us, but even Grandmother, who was not one to spare the switch, readily admitted that children will do things they shouldn’t – and it’s amazing how they can move so quickly.
In recent days, I have been thinking a lot about the fact that kids will be kids. It’s in part due to the uproar over the death of Harambe the Gorilla in Cincinnati. Harambe is being mourned more than many national leaders because a little kid did what little kids do. He got away from his mother, and came close to getting killed. To save his life, zoo officials killed the gorilla.
Hindsight and second guess all you want to, but I’ll tell you plain: any child, regardless of the quality of parenting, is more valuable to me than even the last endangered ape on Earth.
Unlike eight out of 10 people on television, and 97 out of 100 people on social media, I don’t claim to be an expert on primate behavior.
I have seen the gorillas at the state zoo in Asheville, and the National Zoo in Washington City. I’ve enjoyed watching the monkeys at Tregembo Animal Park in Wilmington. I have shaken hands with a very friendly orangutan. I’ve met a few of Pat Faircloth’s super-social monkeys from Little Man’s Zoo and Rescue at Chadbourn. That’s the total of my experience with apes, outside of reading and watching the occasional television program.
It may be oversimplification on my part, but from what pre-scandal references I’ve read, the males are hardwired to protect their family, while the females are hardwired to nurture young primates they find in distress. I don’t care who you are, or what your degrees are in, or if you can speak Gorilla like a native—Harambe was not planning on adopting that child.
Now, one thing I do have a little bit of experience with is tranquilizing critters; it’s a very little bit of experience, but it’s practical experience. I can tell you with full certainty, it doesn’t work like in the movies. The critter doesn’t stop, get a funny little smile on its face, and lay down for a nap. Horses, cattle, and dogs will kick, buck, bite, snap, run, hide, and get defensive when shot with a tranquilizer dart. It stresses the animal to the point some species die. I watched an old, old National Geographic video that showed chimpanzees being darted, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the ape’s control when the dart hit.
Again, I am no expert, but having had the daylights beaten out of me by a horse that had been “tranquilized,” I don’t think that would have helped save the life of the Harambe Kid.
Some biologists have speculated that the wayward young’un was about the size of a chimpanzee, those cute, intelligent, and surprisingly carnivorous great apes who will kill and eat baby gorillas, given the chance. That makes sense, since in my layman’s opinion, Harambe was behaving like the gorillas caught up in a gang fight with some chimps in another National Geographic video. Bash, throw, hit, drag – then throw the body of the interloper away.
I no more blame Harambe for bashing that child around than I do the coyotes who raid our Canada geese, or the possums and coons who try to raid the chicken pens. Nature is nature, and it’s not always pretty. Man has a role to play in nature—God laid it out pretty explicitly in Genesis, when he repeatedly told Adam that humans would have dominion over all the beasts. With that dominion – which gives us the right to properly use what critters we need – also comes the requirement that we be good stewards. Sometimes stewardship means taking extreme measures to protect a species, like the carefully managed programs in reputable zoos that ensure there will always be at least a few examples left of magnificent beasts like gorillas.
But first and foremost comes the stewardship of children, and regardless of whether or not the Harambe Kid’s parents are good, bad or indifferent, the Harambe Kid’s life, like any other child’s life, is precious. If it hurts your feelings, I apologize, but given the choice between saving a mischievous child and the last of an endangered species, the kid wins if I have a say in the argument.
As far as the idiots, malcontents, overgrown teenage drama queens and bunnyhuggers threatening the family of the boy, descrying the zoo staff, and elevating Harambe to a position threatening to eject Jesus Christ from the seat to the right of God Almighty – they need to grow up.
Just for the sake of argument, I did a little social media search on one of those celebrities who hinted (but didn’t outright say) that the child should have been allowed to die, if the zookeepers couldn’t safely tranquilize the gorilla. Naturally, she’s vegan, anti-hunting and also in favor of expanded abortion rights, so by extension, in at least some cases, she values the life of an animal over a child. It bugs me, too, because as an actress, I find her quite funny and talented. Obviously dumber than dirt from the shoulder of a bad road, when it comes to the real world, but she is a funny actress.
To those who half-jokingly say Darwin should have been allowed to play out in Cincinnati, I counter with this: Darwin’s Theory of Survival was once again proven, since the species that evolved was best able to protect the young, and survive.
Like most media-whipped scandals, Harambe and the kid will be forgotten in a few weeks. I have no idea if the parents will or should face charges (as defined by the laws of the state of Ohio, not the court of public opinion). I have no idea if the Harambe Kid will learn a very important lesson from this, or whether he will grow up to be hardworking, a hoodlum or a hero to one person or a nation.
The key is, he was a little kid doing what little kids do.
That’s why grownup humans sometimes have to make hard decisions, because even though animals and children are blessings from God, even the most ill-behaved young’un is always more precious than all the critters who have ever walked the Earth.