“I’m not interested in talking about pig poop,” Charlie said.
“What kind of poop do you like talking about? Kind of weird that you’d have favorite poops.”
Charlie would have closed his eyes in frustration, but that wouldn’t be safe while pedaling a bike.
“Hey,” he said. “Do you hear that?”
Amy tilted her head. About ten seconds later, she said, “Hear what?”
“Silence,” Charlie said. “That’s one of my favorite things. Let’s listen for it again. For a lot longer.”
Amy laughed. “I like you. Maybe this is going to turn out way better that I thought. I didn’t want to move here, you know. I wished my mom and dad would have stayed together. Mom says we have to make the best of it. The guesthouse is nice. And I liked holding that puppy. Must be great to help animals. Except for when you can’t. It makes me so sad that the puppy is with a mean woman who might give it to a shelter. How do you feel about that, Charlie?”
“Remember, my mom says that all we can ever do is our best to help.”
“And if it isn’t good enough?”
“All we can ever do is our best to help.”
Amy rode in silence for a while. Charlie was just getting back into thinking about the doghouse when she spoke again.
“So,” Amy said, popping another bubble. “Did you step in the pig poop or not?”
Charlie is an 11-year-old only child whose mother is a vet, with their clinic being located at their ranch. Charlie is her assistant. He is very organized and well-planned in all of his projects, including his visits with her to neighboring ranches. He is very matter-of-fact in his approach to people and animals, just like his mom must be. Her saying, when things get tough is, “All we can ever do is our best to help,” and that is how Charlie deals with life.
Then along comes Amy, talkative, sensitive and almost always positive. She wants to know everything that there is to know, sooner than later, and she is driving Charlie crazy with her constant talk and questions. Amy soon becomes as involved with the vet practice as Charlie, and Charlie resents it. There are definite differences in how she deals with animals and their owners. People who take their pets or farm animals to Charlie’s mom are anxious and worried, but they respond to Amy rather than Charlie because of her softer approach. But, while standing in the background more often than not, Charlie begins to watch Amy and her kind ways. He sees that by caring about the owners and how they feel, as much as she cares about the animals, Amy is able to make a positive difference in the situation. She is able to calm the owners and let them know that they are cared for, too. Charlie soon gets over his jealousy, and he finds that he actually likes Amy a lot.
Children, especially those with no other siblings, often have trouble sharing or allowing others into their family dynamics. Since Charlie’s dad is busy on the ranch, Charlie is called to help his veterinarian mom. It is difficult for Charlie to allow Amy into their circle, basically because he has always had all of the attention and now has to learn to share. But Charlie finds that sharing his environment with Amy has all sorts of benefits, including sharing some of his talent in woodworking.
There are ample reasons to use Pasture Bedtime in the classroom setting. Health curriculums in various grades teach acceptance of new classmates or siblings and encourage sharing and kindness. The title, an intriguing play on words, is a form of foreshadowing. It could be used as a fun check on comprehension in a younger crowd or as a lesson in foreshadowing in an older classroom. It foretells a most unusual event happens in a pasture when Charlie’s mom gets a call that a farmer’s cow is in a tree.
Use Pasture Bedtime for curriculum enhancement, or just read it for the fun of an enjoyable read.
Elaine Fuhr, a retired elementary and middle-school teacher, lives in Alberta.