My husband and I love a good road trip. We read good books, and adventures pop from the pages as the miles go by, enhanced by the occasional mocha.
We recently shared a two-hour road trip to a historic hotel in the mountains. Along the way, I read aloud from an antique book, now out of print. The Trail Led North, by Martha Ferguson McKeown, tells the tale of her Uncle Mont Hawthorne’s adventures.
Born in 1865, Uncle Mont made his way north in 1898 with a horde of able-bodied men who had managed to leave home for the Yukon gold rush. ‘Gold fever’ induced many otherwise sensible men to frantically throw together an ‘outfit’ to take along to provide for their needs in the wilderness. The burning fever to ‘strike it rich’ fed the mad imperative to elbow one’s way through in search of the best stakes. Along the way, it was ‘every man for himself’. The greed for gold—combined with the sheer amount of work needed to merely survive—could convert a formerly warm-hearted, collaborative man to one who just couldn’t spare the time for such things.
As I read along about Uncle Mont, I couldn’t help pondering how people treat each other, or how they treat their animals. I do believe a person’s true nature comes out in the way he relates to animals who are at his mercy.
I was appalled at a tale that Uncle Mont related of unloading freight. A barge crew unloaded the would-be miners’ outfits on the beach to be sorted out and seen to as could be done. One man brought a couple of goats to help him pack his load up the Chilkoot trail. He tied the goats under the dock while he walked up-town to see where he might ‘land’ for the night. Completely unprepared, this gold-miner-in-the-making remarked that the next time he happened by the dock, he could see just the goats’ tails sticking up above the water. I am still haunted by the vivid image I carry in my head of the poor goats who endured conditions in the cargo hold as the steamer traveled north, only to be dumped unceremoniously on the beach and tied to the timbers that would become their waterloo.
Isn’t it amazing how we humans can be transformed from respectful, industrious family members to the ‘every man for himself’ mantra? Other humans, as well as animals, are sometimes tossed aside as so much baggage, to be shed in favor of moving forward toward the indefinable, unrelenting imperative of success. Are the me or women successful who run all over their ‘fellow travelers’ in an attempt to obtain a golden prize?
Do animals have it over on us when it comes to ‘soul’?
At times I have been humbled as I have seen animals that appear to have more heart than their human counterparts. Special-needs humans also seem at times to demonstrate a higher level of emotional understanding—a purer heart-connection with those around who matter to them.
I feel challenged, and grateful, for the opportunity to learn from our ‘fellow travelers’ when I see the example of love and caring that they pour out for their fellow beings.