Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Way Of The Chicken

I'm sure I don't know how to use the semi-colon, but I don't know what else to do with my fragments. Here is another installment on the theme of man vs. nature.


So chickens are fragile creatures.

I was standing outside of the coop not paying much attention as Em introduced the crowd to her brood.

“This one is the banty Emerald. See she's very friendly and loves to perch on top of the-" and that’s when Satch made his move. The coop door swung wide and like a banty rooster he was at their throats. Screaming issued from chicken and owner and onlookers alike. I knew Satch had probably blacked out overcome with instinctual fowl-lust. Beer in one hand and being on the opposite side as the door I could do little but shout feebly to grab Satch. Suffering from a car crash related arm injury Em could not wrest Satch from his targets. When it was all over I found myself dragging Satch by the scruff of the neck staring into his crazed eyes and the thick ring of molted feathers stuck to his slobbery muzzle.

“No blood” I said, hoping that observation meant no lasting damage had been incurred. I took a long pull from my beer. “Bad dog,” I said.

Malk and Nae being chicken enthusiasts themselves stayed with Em as she comforted the worst casualty of the attack. In the dusky drive home I watched the silhouette of Satch’s head extended into the breeze in my side mirror. I’ve always had this delusion that he was a pacifist. I guess I must have known that a mad killer wagged within him. He evidenced himself every time I was forced to pull back on the tether as he attempted to lunge at a cat, squirrel, porcupine, skunk, elk, but these chickens were so defenseless. Their evolutionary track divorced itself from nature as soon as humans decided a basket of wings went nicely with a frothy pint. They lost every notion of survival.

In the evenings from Malk and Nae’s kitchen window you would notice small humps of shadowed feathers lying still in the yard and realize that the chickens hadn't quite made it back to their hen house before the sun went down. You ended up stumbling through the yard retrieving slumbering hens and stowing them safely away from the raccoons and dogs and whatever else threatened a nasty end for an oblivious bird.

A call arrived at my house a day after Em’s party. The banty is fine but the other two are limping around, but look like they might recover. The yellow one can't stand, and she won't eat or drink. I just wanted you to know that I don’t blame Satch.”

“Thanks,” I said, “You know if you need help putting her out of her misery let me know.”

At the time I felt very confident about that offer. Of course I would do it. Unlike Em who had nurtured those chickens for a good three weeks in the shower stall of her trailer, I had no attachment to the animals. I am a scientist, an archaeologist and I know without any delusions the relationship between Homo sapien sapien and Gallus gallus. Then why did I have the irrational delusion that my Canis lupus familiaris would be a contentious objector to his predatory urges?

Driving to work I thought of how I would do it. I ruled out as a viable method the thirty stroke spade routine that Malk employed; definitely too messy. I recalled that my father had killed a number of chickens in his day. For the first decade of my life there was a raggedy rooster pelt above my parent’s bed. It was displayed all black and red feathers spread eagle tacked to the wall. My parents told me that was a mean rooster and too tough to eat.

“You don’t want to use an axe,” he said, “that’s just in the movies and cartoons. What you do is grab the chicken behind the head and spin it around a couple of times like drying a wet towel in order to break the neck.”

Arriving at work I was feeling a little queasy about the whole thing. I’ve never been responsible for personally ending the life of anything larger than a trout, and that was more like murder by neglect leaving it in the bottom of the boat to suffocate, not from my bare hands wringing its squawking neck. I could imagine my heart race and my stomach turn as its wriggling body revolted against my grip from the knowledge built in from ancestor upon ancestor suffering the same fate. This apparently involved me emulating some slap stick kung fu routine. As if unnoticed, my nunchuck had been switched out for a rubber chicken.

I walked though the office door and a note was waiting for me on my desk with a reprieve.

“Good news,” it said. “She hopped around today and drank some water. I think she’s going to pull through!”

“Well, good for her,” I thought and sat down at my desk noticeably relieved.

When I’m out on a run or bike ride, I watch as Satch darts into the vegetation after a grouse, or deer. I pass by the forest road borrow pit and think of the fall when it is filled with the sounds of gunfire and bullets ricocheting off the piles of garbage. I think of my friends who make their annual hunting trips to Montana and come home with a freezer full of deer and elk meat. As I’m running I realize that I don’t think I can be that person; the survivalist who is prepared with his guns and his skill. Fleeting past trees and over logs I feel a lot like that animal on which Satch finds the irresistible urge to pantomime evisceration, and I know that makes me the fragile one. The one whose evolutionary track has gone the way of the chicken.



ikedaattractor said...

Cowboy: Ruth's Grandpa was a butcher, and she tells a story of a visit that he made to her parents farm at the time they were to process the chickens.

His technique for killing them involved popping there heads off with some combination of your dads technique and a well placed thumb behind the skull.

Those that were not killed, eventually came out into the yard to find the heads of there lost friends scattered about. Needless to say, they ran to there cages to avoid whatever horrible supernatural force had separated there loved ones minds from body.

Fat said...

The other day Simon surprised me by leaving a half consumed carcas of a crow in my flower bed. I felt a little bad at first, but then I realized that it was a crow. It should have flown away and not allowed a fat little westie to catch it.