I shall begin with the broilers, which were, from the onset doomed. They are adorable little puffs of down at first, but rapidly become gawky, ugly, half pin feather, half down, noisy little devils, with the table manners that would turn Henry the VIII’s stomach. They can not tell the difference between the dining room and bathroom, and manage as if planned to spill their water at least a dozen times a day, and soak the woodchips, which of course should remain dry. They eat and peep and poop with constant regularity and quickly grow to the point where they can manage without heat lamps and constant overseeing and are set out with the layers to make their own way; to eat and peep and poop away each day, growing larger and larger until the time arrives when the chicken spirit rises to that big hen house in the sky and they meet their end at the hand of grass shears. Ah yes, grass shears! This is a new technique developed by Boss. It is tricky but accomplishes the job. You must not frighten the chicken, but approach cautiously, talking gently and reassuringly to the doomed critter, and then with one quick squeeze of the shears, remove the head from body then quickly catch the nerve spurred run-away body before it loses itself in the gravel pit nearby. It’s a hard day’s work, the killing and the cleaning. I can remember sitting pulling feathers for hours and hours, not too many days before Christmas. I detested it! The smell of a dead chicken can nauseate even the strongest of stomachs, but again sheer will power wins out, and we get them in the freezer. I would not eat chicken for a while afterwards for my stomach has a memory, and that had to be dispelled before I would enjoy eating chicken.
I shall leave the chickens and go on to the geese. Like the chickens, they are cute when they are very young, pass through an ugly stage, but become beautiful birds in a very short period of time. My deterioration is shown here, as I found myself becoming attached to these white birds. We spoke a different tongue, for they were Chinese, but we got along pretty well using sign language.
I have not mentioned that Boss, because of his real job, spent weeks at a time away from home. It was during such a period that a crisis occurred. We had acquired four geese but only two were ours. Boss, being a generous, amiable sort of guy, had volunteered to raise two geese for a friend. That is commendable, but he didn’t stay around to perform his side of the bargain, and flew away leaving me with the goslings. It was a period in my life that will forever be stamped on my memory.
One day, on a regular inspection trip to the barn, I noticed that one of the goslings did not look well at all, and I immediately began worrying, pacing and panicking. I asked a fellow who I knew could tell me whether or not the little thing was sick, and he agreed that there was definitely something wrong.
Now what was I going to do? I wondered. These things were my responsibility. Immediately, I labeled the sick chick as one of the two belonging to the other guy. I hardened myself to the situation. I had to be strong. This would be a test of my ability to cope. Bearing this in mind, I immediately began to cry!
Through my tears, and my intermittent thoughts that this might justify as a reason for divorce, I managed to rig a box, in the house, of course, with a light bulb for heat, and brought the ailing, almost lifeless gosling into the house. I fed it pabulum, and held it, and hoped it would be alright, but alas, the following morning I found it dead. I was really saddened by this, but reality beat its way to my brain.
“Now what are you going to do?” the little voice in my head said.
I couldn’t very well tell the other fellow that one of his geese had died. I mean, how did I know which was which. The only thing to do was to replace the dead gosling. I called the place where we had gotten the geese originally, explained my predicament, and with much sympathy, the lady suggested the possibility that the gosling had gotten into the medicated chicken feed, and that’s what did it in.
That was not an impossibility. The way Boss had set up the barn, there was every chance that the medicated feed had been scattered around and the gosling had dined his last day on food that eventually did him in. I said previously that chickens were messy birds, and they throw their feed all over, then, scratch it all around. Since there were no signs on the medicated feed saying, “Don’t eat me, silly goose!” and that even if there were signs the geese couldn’t have read them anyway, remember, they were Chinese, the end result was the demise of the gosling. There was just a piece of cardboard separating the chickens from the geese, and although it kept the birds apart, it did not keep the feed contained, and some must have been pushed under the cardboard. May I say that I did some ranting and raving when Boss came home, referring to his shoddy methods of separating the birds. Of course the whole thing had been my fault!
The geese were purchased for a reason. They were not there simply to grace the farm with their beauty. They were, as the Boss explained, to weed the strawberry patch. They would weed the garden? How wonderful thought I. Marvelous! A Godsend no less! Well ……, they did weed……, for a while.
A pen was built and placed in the strawberry garden. This was going to be terrific. All we would have to do was move the pen every day or so and the geese would do all the work. Well, it sounded good, in theory. In practice, the idea stunk, to put it bluntly. Our geese were not ordinary geese. I had made pets of them, and before they grew to full size the children had played with them, and so in their pen, in the garden, they paced back and forth on the side closest to the house, tramping on berries, waiting for somebody to come out and play. When they heard the girl’s voices they would join in with their honking. They even had names, Tim and Tom. Original, don’t you think?
As for their weeding, they would weed, most certainly, if I was in the patch with them, and it got so they would eat the weeds only if I picked them, and fed them. Tim and Tom, my buddies! There we were, the three of us, up to our beaks in weeds, me pulling and the geese eating.
Thanksgiving approached, and with it the thought of roast goose for thanksgiving dinner and that thought made the children and I suffer such agony. No way were we going to munch on Tom’s leg or Tim’s wing. The alternative was to sell our pets so someone else could eat them.
The tears that fell the night we delivered Tim and Tom to the new owner, would fill a bathtub twice over. The girls went through a box of Kleenex, with some help from me, I must admit. Poor Tim (sob, sob), poor Tom, (sob, sob), oh dear! That was it! No more geese, ever! And I stuck to my guns until the next year when we got two more. I made the same mistake with them. I loved them, and these two were really mine. They would even listen to me, sometimes, and follow me. I was the only one who wasn’t afraid of them when they got bigger. I had to hold them when they needed their wings clipped, so they couldn’t fly out of the pen. But we sold them too, in the end, to people across the road. They tried to come back once. I guess they missed me. I glanced out the window to see them heading across the road. I flung myself out the door, acting like a crazy person, yelling, “Get off the road you stupid bird, you’ll get killed!” I finally got them back where they belonged by carrying them. I had to hold them once more while their wings were clipped. It’s kind of strange when I think of it. There I was worrying about them getting killed, when in a short time they would be beheaded anyhow. This was further proof that I was undeniably going bonkers.