November 2010
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Chicken-hearted

By Jude Schuenemeyer

This fall, with great anticipation, our girls began school at Battle Rock Charter School in McElmo Canyon. At the end of their first week of school I had a special dinner waiting for them when they got home. There was local lettuce and local sprouts, tomatoes and eggplant from our farm, and baked potatoes from my parents garden. And there were beautiful steaks waiting to be thrown on the grill.

That afternoon, as the girls came skipping off of the bus, all was set for a family celebration. As Cecilia set forth with basket in hand to collect the eggs I began to grill the meat.

That morning when I fed the chickens I noticed that one of the black hens was brooding in an unusual spot near their yard gate. Now not being a chickenologist I spared it few thoughts. Either the chicken would still be there, dead or alive when we got home, or it will have moved or been moved by what ever felt like eating it.

It was with no great surprise that I heard Cecilia shouting from the coup that a chicken was dead.

I have all due respect for (most) all living things but I was not going to sacrifice a perfectly good dead cow to the unattended grill for the sake of a not too useful dead hen.

I acknowledged the fact that the chicken was dead. I quickly went over to the coup and assured Cecilia that she could pass by the chicken without fear of hexing or any other type of paranormal dead chicken experience. I remained dutifully at this post until Cecilia recovered the eggs and exited the questionable environment. 

In the mean time, Gillian Rose, alerted to the poultry fatal emerged at the coup.  As Cecilia passed through the gate Gillian bent over to over to examine the dead bird. Her head tilted this way and that so as to absorb all of the deadness that this chicken had to offer.

I left Gillian there to contemplate the flies buzzing over the lifeless eyes and I returned to the grill.

I was aware that there was in fact some risk in leaving a child unattended with a dead bird. I am sure that pandemic outbreaks of mad chicken disease result from just such a mixing of children and dead poultry. I honestly considered the risk to be quite small.

Every parent has moments were good judgment lapses. Sometimes you just forget to pick up the kid from where ever they are at. Or there are occasions when the advice that you give them lacks basic common sense. For example, once Cecilia came running back from the coup yelling "Skunk!".

"Skunk?"

Gillian perked her head above her current project.

" Skunk Gillian. Go get it!"

Which led to her immediate, yet fortunately, tardy pursuit.

But I did not believe for an instant that this situation with that dead bird constituted any such occurrence.

So back to the grill I went.

A few minutes later the house erupted as Addie let out a full volume 'the Sleeping Ute just woke up!!' kind of scream.

Gillian Rose, natural born farm girl, had just entered the kitchen proudly holding the dead chicken by its legs high above her head, so that Addie, vegetarian since birth, could get a good look at it.

The resulting startle of a five year old girl entering the kitchen holding a dead chicken upside down was predictable to anyone but Gillian Rose.

Equally shocked by her mother's reaction Gillian flung the chicken out side of the kitchen door and began to scream herself blue.

A short time later, with child consoled and laughter abated, we sat as a family eating a dinner celebrating our life on the farm

 


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