A few months ago, my sister-in-law Kathy decided a brood of hens was needed at our small farm. After developing her plan, she ordered a bunch of hatchings. Preparing for their arrival, we constructed a coop with an outside run in a small portion of the old barn located on the property. Every evening we check on the little tribe of poultry, whose dietary intake is supplemented with leftover greens from Twin Rocks Cafe. The offerings are always well-received by the hungry hoard, and the time required to maintain the chickens is a small price to pay for fresh eggs.
Navajo Folk Art
Just before leaving the trading post one night last week, I went to the cafe to gather leftovers. While doing so, I ran into my nephew Adam. I have been sparring with Adam since he was old enough to take a punch; roughing him up is my way of showing affection. Adam is now 23 years old, stands something over 6 feet tall and is "strong like Bull!" He can easily take whatever nonsense I offer and give it back with change. I began harassing the boy and he wasted no time responding. During the resulting fracas, I felt a disturbing pressure on my rib cage. Attempting to catch my breath, I realized a rib must have come from together to apart. Silly me!
Attempting to save face and not tear-up in public, I grabbed what I had come for, along with a handful of Ibuprofen, and exited the building. Driving home was a blur; I had not suffered a cracked rib since high school wrestling. Despite not having a broken rib for many years, I still remember they hurt a great deal and take a while to heal. By the feel of things, this injury would be no different. I arrived home, painfully made my way from the car to the house and found Laurie and the girls in the kitchen fixing dinner. I sat down slowly at the table, groaning slightly at the inconvenience.
"What's wrong Dad?" asked Alyssa. Laurie turned from her food preparation to carefully eye me. "It feels like I cracked a rib", I said casually. "Oh great, when did that happen?" she asked in a concerned manner. "Somewhere between the time I grabbed Adam and the time he let me go!" I said. Shaking her head sadly, she turned back to her work and, speaking mostly to herself, said, "When will you realize you are too old for that kind of nonsense?" Her, all too true, comment hurt more than the cracked rib.
Hoisting myself out of my chair and ignoring the pain, I said, "I have to go feed the chickens." "Way to be a man, Dad!" quipped McKale, giving Alyssa a high five. When it comes to pain and suffering, I am always telling the girls to, "Toughen up. Be a man!" In this instance I guess I deserve the sarcasm.
As I headed for the door Laurie set down her cooking implements, dusted the flour off her hands and sighed in resignation. "I will go with you", she said. "No need", I commented, "I can do it myself. I'll be fine." "Then take the girls", she said. "No", I replied, "they need to finish their homework." Shutting the door behind me, I moved slowly towards the truck. Laurie has never had much use for horseplay; it makes her nervous. I grew up in a house full of roughhousers. It is a way of life for me; a lesson in tough love. My wife, on the other hand grew up with four sisters and a baby brother. The worse she ever got was a little respectful bickering over a shared sweater. Now what fun is that?
With thoughts of compromise and painkillers weighing heavily on my mind, I gained my seat and drove up the mountain road to provide for the poultry. Upon arrival, I called to the barnyard biddies. They came running to the chicken wire fence in anticipation of fresh lettuce, kale, carrots, cucumbers, melon and their most preferred tomatoes. After tossing the salad into the pen, I went to check water storage. Propping the door latch in an upright position, I entered the coop, bent down to check the dispensers and noticed several hens jockeying for position between me and the door. It was as if they were attempting a chicken run. I was not in the mood to be chasing gumps around the barnyard, so I reached over and forcefully pulled the heavy door closed. As it slammed shut, I distinctly heard the outside latch drop into place.
"Dang", I said out loud. Pushing on the door proved fruitless, I was cooped up in a fowl place. Moving to the center of the pen, I sat down on the roost to consider my options. As I rested on my perch, considering the possibilities of escape, a couple of the hens that had gotten me into this predicament climbed up beside me, as if accepting me into the flock. I shook my head and smiled, recalling the old Hee Haw skit where Grandpa Jones, Roy Clark, Buck Owens, several other cast members and a pack of hounds lay on the porch drinking hooch and singing, "Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me."
Getting up slowly and holding my side, I looked over my containment. The door was rock solid, Craig had built a new wall across the barn, and it was tight. I popped the door a couple of times just to make sure. It didn't budge an inch. I could see through the old walls of the barn, but the wood was thick and well nailed. I checked the chicken wire covering the large window-like opening over the run, but decided I might cause a greater calamity by separating wire from wood, struggling through the opening and crawling across the heavy wire covering the run. I could just see myself entangled in the mesh. Looking over the wire covered ceiling of the coop, I spied a possible exit.
About that time I heard a vehicle drive up outside. I assumed it was the folks who lease the fields and the remainder of the barn. I caught my breath and began to worry about being found with egg on my face. If I were discovered, my folly would be bandied about town unmercifully. The thought of calling for help never even crossed my mind. Ain't pride a funny thing? I heard someone get out of the vehicle, go to the other side of the barn and begin hammering. Because there was a large stack of fresh hay between me and him, I felt safely anonymous. I went to the northeast corner of the cage, wedged myself as far as I could up in the junction , reached above me and pulled at the chicken wire.
Because of my fractured rib, it was all I could do to keep from crying outloud. I finally loosened enough brads to create a small opening between the wire and the superstructure of the building. I made my way up through the grit and grime covered beams of the age-old barn to freedom as the flock marked my progress, cackling back at my grunts, groans and creative language. Dropping back to the floor and re-entering the coop with its gathering of raucous spectators, I refilled water bottles and gravity grain feeders. Bidding the flock a less than fond au revoir, I locked the door behind me, hobbled out to the truck and drove home.
When I arrived at the house and went inside, dinner was being placed on the table. Corn and beans fresh from the garden, hot rolls with homemade raspberry jam, tossed green salad with tomatoes, Green River watermelon and . . . grilled chicken breasts. I cackled crazily at the coincidence while my family gazed at my dirty, ruffled, obviously pained appearance. Laurie, Alyssa and McKale looked me over very much like the chickens at the barn. I am sure they were considering my curious appearance, over-reaction and possibly, an extended furlough to the funny farm. We sat eying each other for a moment before Alyssa perked up and, in an obvious attempt to break an estranged silence, said, "What happened Dad, chickens get your goat?"
With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.
Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post