Thought for the year: on Moms, Dads, and Cows

The essay below was written by Jim Ed Clayton, executive director of the Children’s Center. It is arresting enough that we reprint it here for all to see and ponder as they consider kids, parents, predators and the unfortunate need for agencies like the Children’s Center. Read it all. It’s an appealing, innocent story, with a steel trap at the end.

One of my favorite boyhood activities was quail hunting. Just me and my setter tromping the fence rows and tree lines around Clay, Alabama. One of my regular spots was my great uncle’s land. His name was Adolphus, but we called him “Uncle Doffus.” He owned the property where Deerfoot Parkway and Old Springville Road now intersect.

He had a pond, a barn, a sawmill, and many acres of hilly pasture – home to the oddest herd of cattle I’ve ever seen. My Dad says that they were only “cows” in the broadest definition of the term. Ignored by Uncle Doffus and left to themselves for many bovine generations, the inbred herd was a peculiar sight. They were the weirdest array of sizes, shapes, and colors. Reminded me of Dr. Suess illustrations.

But I had tremendous respect for them because they were really, really mean – especially if there was a calf to protect. Whenever I crossed their rickety old fence, I always had an exit plan. More than a few times, I raced back over the rusty barbed wire just as an angry cartoonish cow slid to a stop in a cloud of dust and slobber.

Recently, while I was having lunch with Donny Ray and Brother Bud Jones, Donny asked me a question: “What is the biggest challenge for the Children’s Center?”

I didn’t have to ponder it. I answered, “What we need more than anything else are protective parents.” Too often, children are left in the care of adults or older teens who abuse them. It’s the same story over and over: mothers and fathers entrusting their little one to the care of a predator

I wish that child predators were easy to spot – but they aren’t. I wish that friends and family members did not abuse our children – but they do. I wish that new parents could see what we see – the tears of mamas and daddies who cry, “If only I had known.”

I wish more of us had the protective instincts of my uncle’s ugly old cows…for our kids’ sake.