Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day #288 Grandma's Chickens

I think I’m finally brave enough to share my chicken story with you. Please don’t laugh at me.

When I was little, maybe five years old, my grandmother, who was a Mississippi farm wife, told me to go down to the chicken coop and gather her a mess of eggs.

The coop was a ghastly, ammonia-saturated hellhole, very different from the houses of chickens who are raised with love and tender care. There wasn’t anything tender about Grandma. She raised chickens for their eggs and, on Sundays mostly, for their meat. I can remember her wringing their necks, an activity that generally sent me scurrying to hide in the woodshed with the kittens of whatever barn cat happened to be feeding the gene pool at the time.

The coop was raised off the ground two or three steps. Inside the creaky door were rows of nesting boxes in a series of tiers. The only tier I could reach was the bottom one, but Grandma had said there were plenty of eggs close down.

Did I tell you my grandmother was seventeen and a half feet tall? When she went in the chicken coop, all she had to do was glare down on those hens, push them aside, grab their eggs, and leave.

I was less than four feet tall, which put my head BELOW the level of those mama hens on their nests. I reached up to try to put my hand under the first hen. PECK! I withdrew my hand and tried again. PECK! SQUAWK! This time she left blood on my wrist.

“Grandma! I couldn’t get any eggs. The hens wouldn’t let me.”

Muttering under her breath about soft city girls, Grandma set aside the biscuits she was working on, strode down to the coop with me in tow, and said, “This is how you do it.” One swipe and the hen moved aside, squawking a bit, but somehow not coming up with that bloodthirsty attitude she’d had with me. 

I may be 5’7” now, but when I think of chickens, I still see that hooded eye and that rapacious beak coming down from above. Chickens are at least seven feet tall, I know in my heart of hearts, and they’re just waiting for me to try something sneaky. I hate to be cowardly, but I know when I’ve met my match.

BEEattitude for Day # 288:
       Blessed are those who recognize their own courage, like beekeepers who willingly open hives filled with thousands of us bees. We have stingers, and that makes beekeepers brave.

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AggiePete said...

I absolutely loved your chicken story! Reminded me of my dear mother who has been gone from me 17 years now. When we lived in New Orleans one Easter my Dad surprised my twin sister & I with 2 dozen multi-color baby chicks. We loved those little chicks and then much later one day we came back from mass and mother had a 'fried chicken spread' on the table! We were sure anxious to eat until we found out 'who' they were!!!

Fran Stewart said...

Oh, Petie, how sad!

I'm not against eating animals, but I'm opposed to their inhumane treatment. When we kill for food, we should kill cleanly and quickly. That's why the only meat I eat is from an organic farmer where their animals are slaughtered in a facility that uses a design based on ones by Dr. Temple Grandin. Did you ever see the movie about her?

AggiePete said...

No, I've never seen it but will. And I'm so in agreement with you as far as if they must go, do it quickly. I've become so very soft hearted as I've aged - it pains me for anything to have to die. I will definitely check into the movie. Thanks.