[lit-ideas] Sunday Wotsit

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 12:00:00 -0700

When a chicken gets seriously ill and begins to lose weight you can do one of 
three things: execute her for not producing, treat the whole flock with 
antibiotics, separate her from the rest until she recovers or dies.  The first 
option for us was too much like the gulag.  We're not hard hearted farmers, 
more along the lines of the liberal dilletante.  The second option seemed like 
that thing we've been hearing so much about, the over-use of antibiotics in 
farming.  But the third option was not without risk; chickens are like the 
medieval villagers in "The Return of Martin Guerre"; a traveler returning is 
likely to receive a mixed welcome and may eventually be killed.  
Wennslydale prospered in the bathtub where she had first been introduced to 
life in these here hills.  Antibiotic in the drinking water seemed to do the 
trick.  Of course there wasn't much for her to do--no television, books, nurses 
coming by to check her vitals.  I did take her some flowers to eat.  She seemed 
generally stoic about her lot.  
To ease her back I allowed the three most dominant hens to "escape," leaving 
two companionable ones to be the first greeters in the outside run.  There was 
plenty of food for all, so it was a busy and scratchy meeting.  
"How was your holiday?"  
"Ooooh, fine, fine.  The room was little pink for my liking, but you'll 
remember it."
"You went somewhere familiar?"
"Yes, yes.  That place with the bright lights.  Where we started."
"Las Vegas?  Ooooooh, very nice."
"Very nice."
"Yeeees, yes, very nice."
So that went well.  And the following morning I was careful to scatter food all 
around, hoping that those who wanted to assert their position in the pecking 
order would be too busy sprinting to think about fighting.  Given multiple 
scatters of grain, chickens will think that the next pile is bound to be better 
and rush from one to the next.  
Quite unlike humans. 
"Ooooooh, this is nice.  But look, she's eating over there."
"Better stuff."
"Hurry up, better stuff."
"Actually," (head sideways and then back up), "I think the food was better over 
there.  Much more flavor."
"Over here?"
"No there."
"Oooooh, don't know about that."
"Don't know about that."
"Let's try here."
Later I left them outside in the run while I went to the library.  When I 
returned Wennslydale had blood on her chest and was lying on the ground at a 
strange angle.  All around the dirt was scuffed.  "Dinosaurs," I thought.  
"Bloody, viscious dinosaurs."  
Whatever happened was forgiven by evening.  When I locked them in for the night 
there they were, all in a row, snuggled together for warmth, roosting.  
"Ooooooh."  That quiet noise.
"Yes," agreed Wennslydale, "ooooh."

David Ritchie,
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