Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Slaughter .... Part II

I can't believe I am writing this...but I am compelled. Last year we had the Slaughter...

Sunday we attended the 11:30 Mass at St. Catherines (good news-starting on the feast of Christ the King Mass will be at 10:00 AM) . After Mass we changed into hiking gear in the parish hall. We then stopped at the local cemetary to pray the souls in purgatory. Then off to Anderew Jackson State Park as predicted in my last post. While the Crawford trail was ho-hum (1 mile of forest, no challenges, but then again I had the young ones along), the museum and tour was well done. It was obvious the tour guide loves her work, especially with children. They tried on revolutionary war uniforms, shredded cinnamon, watched an authentic 200 year-old loom do its thing, etc. The primitive group campsite was the nicest I have seen. You can fish there (we didn't) too. All in all, a great outing.

We come home, and as I am asking where dogs are (they usually run to the pen gate as soon as we pull up, number 1 son exclaims that Sheba and Lady are out of the pen. I am asking how did they get out, and getting the reply, "The gate is wide open!". [Challenger of the Slaughter fame and Bunny (don't ask) are nowhere to be seen]

Then comes the shout, "The chickens!" I look over to the coop and the door is also wide open, and chicken carcusses are strewn everywhere. Eighteen dead, one alive but barely, and one missing. (Our older 6 chickens and rooster are secure in their coop as are the six chickens in the Chicken Tractor).

While I am sure all 4 dogs participated, I am even more certain that Challenger was the instigator. It was lucky he was absent just then.

The carcusses are stiff and not warm. They are mostly intact, just dead. I am angry, but this is partially my fault (as I will explain later), as well as a general breakdown in cooperation. Since the dog pen gate was wide open and carcusses are stiff and cold, I assume that this happend soon after we left this morning (also, the dogs tend to be very lazy once mid-day heat, it was 80 degrees today, sets in). So the chickens are a total loss-except the one still breathing. It is already getting dark and I have very hungry (soon to be cranky) little children. Immediately a plan suggests itself. I kill the wounded chicken and set two boys to plucking. I start digging graves. Third son puts a movie on for the youngest three. Plucking is not going well and darkness is fast approaching. Change of plans. Two plucking sons removed for grave digging. I get my knife and slit the skin on the chicken and start taking meat off the bird directly.

Meanwhile the missing chicken emerges from the woods. It is skittish, but otherwise seems fine. We lure the chicken with feed and grab her. She has lost a few feathers, but otherwise seems intact. Put her in the pen and we resume our respective chores. Finally chickens are buried (Deep enough to keep away the coyotes? Not sure. Two six feet deep holes each housing 10 or so chickens means they aren't really buried six feet deep. Will find out in the morning), and as much meat as I can salvage off the bird in the now near complete darkness. Make and eat dinner. Finally the two wayward dogs come home. Challenger looks away when I ask him about the chickens. (I didn't even mention the upset boys. They are upset at the dead chickens, missing dogs, and no doubt my anger over it all-especially my threats on Challenger and the others.)

Now what happened? First my blame. The door to the chicken coop in question was originally well-designed and secure. However in recent weeks some sagging had set in so that the latch didn't line up. I was aware of the problem, but we were simply propping a board against the gate to keep it shut-in other words, it would keep the chickens in, but wouldn't keep a determined dog out. I should have fixed the sagging door weeks ago. My fault.

The other blame. I originally assumed that whoever was the last out of the dog pen (the feed house is in the dog pen, so all three boys had gone in and out that morning to fill their respective chores of feeding the dogs, chickens and rabbits.) simply failed to latch the gate. In part this is true; but it appears that sometime in the last day or so the latch was slightly bent so that it did not latch securely. In the morning rush to feed the animals and get ready for Mass, the defect was not noticed. If the dogs, as they are wont to do, tried to shake the gate, it is likely the latch simply released. (We do have a secondary latch and I have been admonishing the boys that I often find it undone. But by itself, it would not have held the dogs anyway.) Thus the dogs got out. Challenger, who is the defacto leader, naturally went to the chicken coop, with I'm sure the others following closely, and was able to get the coop gate open. After that it was party time for the dogs.

I'm afraid my initial reactions did not reflect a good control of temper, but I have calmed down and we have discussed the situation. There clearly was enough blame to go around-it was a general breakdown of carrying out responsibility carefully with attention to details.

I am very upset by the loss. Our plan was to depend heavily on our own chicken and rabbit for meat this winter as well as getting eggs and hatching eggs to perpetuate our flock. When Mrs. Curley returns tonight we will have some things to discuss...I don't think it would be sacriligeous to say: the Lord giveth, the dogs taketh away-blessed be the name of the Lord!

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.

Eternal rest grant to them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

From Bethany, the small holding in Bethune... Oremus pro invicem!

1 comment:

Jeff Culbreath said...

Very sorry to read this, Jim. Wish I was there to share the misery with you (over a bottle of something strong). I've also got one of those chicken house doors that doesn't latch anymore ... think I'll be getting it fixed sooner rather than later after reading this.

Due to the weather lately, out of pity I have moved Jake, our Australian shepherd, from his open-air chain-link kennel to our cozy cinderblock workshop. In the last three days he has chewed up two plastic funnels, a roll of shop rags, and my best work gloves. Jake's turning out to be one expensive pet, but I'll bet Challenger has him beat!