Posted in Animals

Chicken Chasing—don’t miss out!

I had a weak moment recently and that’s how I ended up with two hens in my backyard. A friend of mine was having a moving sale and I thought I’d check out her deals. I had already picked out a lamp, a rug, a table, and a sack of polyfil when I passed by a large wooden chicken coop with a price tag that was too hard to pass up. I could feel my heart beating like a drum inside my chest. There is something about chickens that just gets me excited, you know?

I have had chickens. I love chickens. I want more chickens. But I’m just not in a place right now where I need chickens, if that makes any sense at all. We’re living back in town and although it’s legal to have a few backyard hens, I’m not properly set up for them. Regardless, I had to have that chicken coop because one day I will have chickens again. If there’s anything that brings me joy, it’s chickens.

Before I could even tell her I wanted the coop, she said, “I’ll throw in 3 of my hens too.” She was moving after all and she wouldn’t be taking them with her.

My heart exploded at that moment, my mind raced all over. I knew better, I did.  I knew better than to agree to 3 chickens. My head was saying no, but my heart was screaming GIVE ME SOME CHICKENS!

And that’s how I ended up with 2 hens in my backyard. Yes, it was supposed to be three but the third one caught wind of the chicken nabbing during the evening abduction and gave us some fits.

I brought those birds home after dusk in a cardboard box and tucked them safely into their new coop. They did fine that night, but the next day they started squalling to beat the band. I went out to check on them because they were so noisy. I carefully lifted the lid of the coop to take just a little peek when the next thing I knew, there was a flap of wings, a flurry of feathers, a caterwauling of clucks and the birds were flying out of the lid, up over my head and were out of the coop and clucking like someone was about to wring their little necks. They clucked and squalled for hours until I knew I couldn’t keep these birds. The noise was bothering me, and I knew if the sweet sound of chickens were bothering me, it would only be a short time until the neighbors complained.

So I called my sister-in-law, who has a few of her own chickens and she agreed to come take them. She arrived with my 6th grade nephew and a plastic tote to gather the birds and carry them to their new home. Well, they weren’t having any of that. We were running around trying to capture them when the next thing we knew, there was a flap of wings, a flurry of feathers, a caterwauling of clucks and one of the birds was flying up over heads, up over the fence, and into the next door neighbor’s back yard—the home of 3 dogs.

I swear I was tempted to just count my losses here, but my nephew wouldn’t hear of it. We left my backyard and rang the door bell of the neighbor to explain our predicament. She graciously let us in her backyard to collect the flyaway. But as for the other one, we decided to let her roost for the night and I would try to capture her in her sleep. So my sister-in-law and nephew headed home to await the call that I had captured the chicken. That call never came. That night she hid under a pile of limbs we had cut down and didn’t even move when I poked her with a stick. I knew she had injured herself in the fray and had crawled under there to die. My plan was to wait until morning and drag her dead body out and dispose of it.

The next morning, sure enough, she was out running around the backyard with our dogs Grace and Ozzie, and she had left me an egg under the limbs. Ah, I thought, what a good little chicken, and this one wasn’t near as noisy as the one sent off.  I was already getting attached.  I tended it that day as best as I could; feeding it watermelon and trying to trick it to go back into the coop. Hopefully it would roost back in the coop and that night I was going to capture it while it slept.

That night, it was nowhere to be found. A white chicken shouldn’t be too hard to spot in the dark, but even with a flashlight, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Not under the limbs, not in the coop, not in the trees, not in hidey holes. Well, I figured I’d just count my losses. She’d probably flown over the fence and was dog food by now. I went to bed.

The next day, there she was running around the backyard with Grace and Ozzie again. Okay, you little houdini, tonight you are out of here! I will not be outsmarted by a chicken!

I watched her all day, I watched her like a hawk. I tracked her every move. I fed her watermelon and tried to trick her into going back in the coop. I talked sweetly to her. All she did was run the other direction. That night I was planning to grabbing her up. Dusk rolled in. I went out for the capture. She was gone again.  Holy macaroni! Now I was starting to get mad. I looked up to the heavens to curse and that’s when I saw her. Up, up, up–way up—in a tree high above my 5’2″ reach, even on my tippy toes.

To heck with it. We’ll just live like this, I conceded. I’d only gotten one egg in 3 days and she wasn’t worth the trouble anymore! It wasn’t 30 minutes later, my sister-in-law and nephew rolled up. They were in the neighborhood doing a little business.  I sent him back there to see if he could get that bird. I was standing in the front yard chatting with Janene when the next thing we knew, there was a flap of wings, a flurry of feathers, a caterwauling of clucks and here she came, up over the fence and landed in the front yard with us.

And that’s when the chicken chase began.

It is one thing to try to catch a chicken in a confined space like a backyard, but let me tell you, it is altogether another thing to try to catch a chicken within a half mile radius.  I can’t be done, folks. Wanna guess how I know???

It began with my nephew Harley trailing her down the street. It was hysterical and I ran inside to get my phone to video it. That’s when she ran down the alley. I knew by the way he was yelling “Call in the reinforcements. Call animal control!” that he clearly needed my help. I grabbed a box and began the chase down the alley. We headed her off this way and that. She was back on the side street, then back up our street, then across the road, then under the bushes of many different homes, then back on our street, then up to the next street. At this point SIL Janene and little EK had joined in the chase. It was Harley in the lead, then me, then EK carrying my phone, then Janene in the rear doubled over laughing with a box in her hand. I’m pretty sure a few extra people got a good giggle as they walked and drove by as well.

We clearly were not going to be able to catch the chicken in an all out run, so I ran to the house and grabbed a couple of blankets.  We were going to try to throw them over her head and tackle her. Throw. Miss. Run. Throw. Miss. Run. That plan failed too. Our next plan was to corner her, surround her and hope for the best.

Darting here, darting there, she zigged, she zagged, she burrowed under plants. I think I even heard her say *beepbeep* when she ran past us a time or two. Finally, I don’t know what happened. But by pure luck or chance, we chased that girl right into our garage. I shut the door and she at least was in a confined space again. It didn’t take long. We squeezed ourselves around the vehicles, bicycles, lawn mowers. Harley got down on his belly and dragged her out, and stuck her in a box. We were tired and we were dripping sweat.

Good bye and good riddance. But honestly? I had more fun chasing that chicken than I’d had in months! Despite the frustration and challenge, I laughed and laughed.

The next day I was sore. Seriously sore. My inner thighs burned, my calves burned. It was a workout, y’all.  As I rubbed my sore muscles, that’s when I got the greatest idea of my life.

Chicken chasing—the next greatest and bestest fitness plan out there.  The benefits are practically endless!
*Burn calories
*Tone muscles
*Increase your heart rate
*Enjoy the great open spaces
*Raise endorphins from hysterical laughter while you and your friends chase chickens

Step aside Tony Little. Move over TaeBo and Salsa dancing. I’ve got a cardio workout for you. It’s going to be a sensation! I just have to find someone to sell this idea to.

The next time you can’t sleep and you’re flipping through late night channels, don’t be surprised if  you see me on an Infomercial promoting my workout plan.
And that’s not all! Because you are one of my faithful blog readers, I’ve got a deal for you!

If you want to be an early bird (get it? early bird?) and not wait for the infomercial, you can go ahead and send me 4 installments of only $29.99 each and reap the benefits today! Don’t wait!!! I know where I can find a chicken to chase!

 

 

 

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Posted in Animals

9 lives-1 life= a heart attack

Today I had a heart attack. It’s only an expression; thank goodness I did not have a literal heart attack. If you’re old enough to remember Sanford and Son you’ll know what I mean when I say  I thought it was “the big one”. My heart was beating so fast and fear had me in its claws so deep that I thought my heart was going to beat plumb out of my chest.

Before I began my tale, I should say this blog post needs to be filed in the “things I find under my hood” category—if only I had such a category. After today, I’m beginning to think I might need to create such a category. Usually the things found under a hood are mechanical in nature and not really worth talking about. Unless you’re me of course. Previously you might remember when I found the Rat Bastard and his nest under my hood with all his special possessions he’d hauled under there. Who knew I’d have 2 of these blog posts in as little as 3 months?!??? Well let’s get on with it, shall we?

About mid morning, I left our house with EK in tow in the back seat. She wanted to visit her Grandy across town.  We were driving along, eating gummy worms, talking about colors that match the seasons and looking for budding fruit trees. Our car was filled with smacking and conversation so I don’t know how long the noise had been happening before I actually heard it. By the time it reached my ears, it was of such magnitude and intensity it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It wasn’t the clankety clank of saddle straps being flapped around put there by a dirty Rat Bastard, but rather it was an ear splitting screech. A SCRAWWWWWLLLLLL. The screams of a mountain lion couldn’t compare to the noise. The sound of a woman being murdered in the woods couldn’t compare.

“What is that noise?” I asked out loud. EK quietened her incessant chatter just a beat or two for us to tune our ears. The sound was so loud. It was terrifying. It was obviously an animal in much distress. Not just any animal but a cat. As loud as it was, it was still a far off muffled sound of pain and agony. But it made no sense to me. Why would I be hearing a cat in distress while driving 30 mph down Duncan street? Then the realization hit me.

It was under the hood. There was a cat under my hood. I had driven at least 7 blocks with a cat under my hood. In the  2.78957856748 seconds it took me to pull over and put the car in park, my mind was a racing mess of scenarios. I popped the hood and stepped out of the car. The screech and the scrawl and the screams were so intensely crazy I was struck with a fear of what I was going to discover. I moved as quickly as I could, but of course when you are in the throes of panic and rushing to rescue something that needs rescuing, it seems to take forever. I put my hand under the hood, desperately searching for the latch that releases the hood. From the left to the right more to the left more to the right.  The whole while fearful of what I am about to discover. Will this by my cat Rocky Muffin? Is this a neighborhood cat? The cat obviously was still alive but in what kind of condition? Will it be mangled? Will it be limbless? Will there be blood spattered all over the roof of the hood of my yellow vehicle? Was I going to be able to stomach what I was about to discover?

I’m not mechanically minded a bit, but I’ve heard the stories of people who get caught up in tractors and lose their legs or those awful stories of kittens that spin around in the motors for a few seconds before there’s a thump and a wump and that’s the end of them.  Let’s just say, I was expecting nothing less.

My heart raced for forever, but I finally managed to find the hood release. I opened the hood to find, yes indeed, my very own Rocky Muffin squeezed between the hood and the black tubes and tangles of the underneath of the hood. Her fur was matted and wet on her back. I reached for her and she began to calm some. I took hold and pulled but couldn’t pull her out. Her foot seemed stuck in something, but after careful observation and a little more tugging, she had just deeply imbedded her claws into something holding on for dear life I assume. If I spring a leak later I’ll know she got a good puncture in some hose or some sort. She had all four limbs and a tail in tact, and the wet fur on her back must’ve been from the sweat and fear that had soaked through her skin. I’m sure I looked a bit odd to the passersby pulling a black cat out from under my hood. One truck began to slow, I’m uncertain as to why. Maybe to help out a damsel in distress or maybe to take a second look to see if his eyes were playing tricks on him.

I put RM in the car and she quietened down, hid under the seat, and rode to Grandy’s house in relieved silence. After depositing EK, I got RM back home where she received special treatment after such a traumatizing experience. She curled up on the bed and bathed and licked every bit of axle grease that may have touched her until she is a fine black sheen again. My teenage niece doesn’t even take baths as long as this cat bathed herself. I guess she found herself deserving of quite the pampering.

I’m not sure how many of her lives Rocky Muffin has squandered thus far, but today she certainly used up one of her nine.

And took a few years of my own along with it! Whew, isn’t life a fun adventure?

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Posted in Animals, Family, life

Remembering Drew Miller

imageWe had to say good-bye to one of the finest dogs there was.

Our Drew Miller.

Our Drewby Dooby Doo.

He was somewhere around 11 years old. Give or take a year. He was named after a preschool classmate of Ashlynn’s. He was her second puppy after her first Drew Miller met an unfortunate end under a car tire. So when asked what to call the new puppy, he was Drew Miller too. Or Drew Miller #2. I guess technically he was Drew Miller #3 if you count the classmate.

He had the manner of a cat, not giving a flip if you pet him or not. or if you liked him or not. He was not a man’s dog. He was not a companion dog. He was a dog’s dog.  Unlike most dogs that eagerly run to greet you, if he was feeling generous he might raise his eyebrows and thump his massive tail no more than four times on the ground in greeting.  That was as good as it got. He wasn’t one to be bought or tricked or persuaded.  Not even with steak.

He was a large fellow, narrow through the hips and broad in the chest. Built like a Marine but with an awkward gait that showed something wasn’t quite right in his hips. He never allowed that to stop him on our outings and he would run as far and as fast as he could before slowing to a crawl and lagging far behind. Tongue lolling. Then when you least expected it, here he’d come blasting past with renewed energy. He was rescued from the humane society and was labeled part border collie, which couldn’t have been the farthest from the truth. Part beaver and part killing machine was more accurate.

 

He was a wood chewer and loved a good stick to chew although fetching one was out of the question. He practically ate our house down to the shingles as a puppy. “You can’t fault him for being a dog,” my dad replied after my complaints

He loved to be outdoors in any weather and often had to be dragged inside with a leash on a frigid night.

imageHe had the heart of a warrior, fighting anything that threatened his territory.  Porcupines, badgers, skunks, possums, and rats. He was proud of his kills and laid beside them until we took notice and patted him on the head. He alerted us to snakes and strangers; yet was gentle around all things important: chickens, cats, and kids. His tail was a weapon in itself if he ever whacked you alongside the thigh on his way to chase a rabbit.image

 

He was a country dog to the core. He lived a good life on many adventures with J-dub and me from the prairies of Texas to the mountains of New Mexico. He spent his golden years running, chasing, and occasionally catching out in the open range. The wind in his face. Untethered. Just being a dog.

He will be missed.

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Posted in Animals, life

The Mystery of the Clankety Clank Under My Hood

 

In the panhandle of Texas the weather is notorious for being unpredictable. Last month, in November, we had four tornadoes come through our area. And over Thanksgiving just a few days after the tornadoes, we had a major ice storm. And today, two weeks before Santa Claus takes flight, it’s predicted to be 72 degrees.  One might say Mother Nature definitely has some mood swings around these parts.

I didn’t drive my little yellow vehicle La-La during Thanksgiving break, the ice storm, or several days afterward. It sat in the nice, warm garage and took a break while I drove a different vehicle that traverses better on our roads. Icy roads that in time turn into slushy roads, that in time turn into muddy roads that go to and from our house.

Now La-La is a good vehicle. She was penned La-La last year by EK after a short stent with the dreaded Tele-Tubbies. La-La being the yellow Tele-Tubby. My vehicle is almost 15 years old, has nearly 200,000 miles on her, and has journeyed with me many miles and memories.

So when I decided to crank her over the other day, I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear a  noise. Something like a clankety clank, GRRRRRR, RAWRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTTTTHTTT. I immediately thought our cat Rocky muffin, who lives mostly in the garage,  was toast. I knew she must’ve gotten under the hood and that was the end of her. But since there wasn’t any blood and guts hitting the windshield I dismissed that idea and replaced it with the possibility of a broken belt (being an under-the-hood expert and all). I checked the clock, noted I was running late, and put her in reverse and left anyway. I’d worry about the broken belt when I found myself on the side of the road, but as long as La La rolls, then roll we shall.

The next time I cranked La-La over, the racket was gone and I didn’t notice it again until the next day when I got out of my car to check the mailbox that sits beside the highway about a mile away from the house. This time she released a long series of clack-clacks.

I arrived home and got out of the car and noticed a leather strap lying on the ground where she had been parked. I thought this had probably come from under my hood, although I’ve never seen brown leather automotive belts (being an under-the-hood expert and all).

Nevertheless, I had a mystery on my hands. The case of the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT noise under the hood. When J-Dub came home, we put our sleuths hats on and popped the hood. What we discovered  wasn’t Rocky Muffin in bits and pieces. Nor was it a broken belt.

It was a rat’s nest.

A literal rat’s nest.

A gigantic, well constructed, literal rat’s nest perching right up on the intake manifold or something (being an under-the-hood expert and all).

 

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After the initial shock and further inspection, I assume this was a pack rat, because of the plethora of packings that had also been carted under my  hood. Namely, lots of leather straps. Leather straps that made the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT noise under the hood. Leather straps that we soon discovered had been chewed right off J-Dub’s saddles that are also stored in the garage. Tie strings, stirrup hobbles,  pretty laces that hold saddle conchos in place. Chewed right off by a sorry no good piece of dirt shyster.

 

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Plus there was at least a cup full of  bird seed and cat food that he’s storing for his long, cold winter. Not to mention a very big stick. Most likely the one he used to fight off the cat Rocky Muffin, who apparently is not doing her job AT ALL. I’ve decided she must have just made peace with this large rat,sat back and watched him as he carried off her salmon flavored kibble.

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Now J-Dub has an expression he uses when talking about any body or anything who is a  sorry no good piece of dirt shyster. Anybody or anything that chews up his saddles.

A Rat Bastard.

In this case, it is very fitting. After discovering his chewed up saddle, J-Dub has declared war against the Rat Bastard.

The Rat Bastard is as good as dead.

We’re still debating what to do about the cat. For now, her salmon flavored rations have been cut until her work performance improves. Living with rats is not acceptable behavior for sure.

The only good news is that the clankety clank, GRRRRR, RAWRRRRRR, clack-clack, PHHHHTHTHTTTTTHTT mystery is solved and La La is purring like a kitten once again.

Posted in Animals, life

Fowl, Reptiles, and Worthless Mammals

Instead of Spring Fever, I have contracted a bad case of Chicken Fever (this is not to be mistaken with Bird Flu). It has been brought on by pictures, videos and reports of friends and family getting some new spring chicks.

If you didn’t know, my flock of fowl came to a bitter end a couple months ago after losing the last 2 to a raccoon. It was heartbreaking.

Today I decided “it’s Easter time, it’s springtime, I’m going to the feed store and picking out some baby chicks”. This was  completely an impulsive idea since our family is in a state of transition and because we’re not exactly set up for a new brood of babies, but I let the impulsivity settle in and I set about preparing for some new chicks. My husband built me a nice mobile chicken coop a few months back that I could use to easily keep them safe and warm, so I decided to get busy. My first order of business was to walk through some high grass and drag it to another part of the yard.

Now friends, I consider myself a brave person for the most part. That is, as long as I keep both feet on the ground. I really don’t care for deep water, and I’d rather not participate in anything that involves jumping from a cliff so I’ll just politely decline. But you know, the everyday things don’t too much bother me. I’m not afraid of spiders or storms or Friday the 13ths. Despite my courage with these things, there is still one thing that will make me scream out loud and pee down my leg a little and that is a snake in the grass. Or one in the road. Or the pasture or even a cage for that matter. They just give me the eebie jeebies. It goes back to Genesis where God says to the serpent “You will crawl on your belly and strike at their heels and they will pee down their legs” or something close to that.

I’ve had my fair share of snake experiences, more than I care to count.  I’ve even had one of those real scary snakes shake their tail at me and I’m telling you what……there is nothing that can make your heart quicken like hearing that sound.  Living in the country in Texas taught me how to differentiate between the “safe” bull snakes and the poisonous rattlers but no matter the kind, I still don’t like them.

We have a big backyard here in New Mexico, full of big trees and unkept grasses. It’s a bit wildernessy and wild with sticks and rocks and a creek that butts up to it. It’s a great place for our three dogs to run and live like dogs.  “Worthless” dogs as my husband would call them, because you see J-Dub believes animals should have a job or serve a purpose (like a horse, a cow, a pack mule, a chicken) and these dogs are nothing more than pets. Mostly he’s joking. Mostly. But it wouldn’t hurt if they could do a little something to earn their keep around here.

Now in this big backyard, just this spring, I have seen no less than FOUR SNAKES!!! FOUR! Granted, they’re nothing like the big bull snakes that hung out with me in Texas, they’re just little old grass snakes, but they’re snakes just the same. They crawl on their bellies and give me the shivers.

The other day, our little dog Ozzie and our middle-sized dog Grace were bothering a snake in the yard and EK and I wanted to spend the day outside without worrying about a snake, so I got a big shot of bravery and decided I would remove the snake from the yard. It was coiled up good so I got a shovel and scooped that little serpent up. I held that shovel out away from my body as far as I could and I fast walked to the fence to chunk it over. But Grace, the cow dog, was too nosey and jumped up to see what I was carrying and the snake slithered off my shovel and into the tall grass. So much for my bravery. Watching that sucker slither off, made me turn and run in the other direction. I’ve had enough of that good deed.

Today after getting my wild new chicken whim,  I attempted to drag the heavy mobile chicken coop to a different part of the yard. I pulled out my back and only managed to get it out of its deep ruts about 1/2 inch when I noticed that Ozzie was interested in something in the grass. He kept sticking his nose in and jumping back a little. Grace ran over, nosey as always, and I called her back just to see what would happen. Ozzie stuck his nose in and out quickly a couple of times before he dove in hard and pulled out a snake and began shaking and biting and I’ll be dadgummed if he didn’t kill that snake right then and there.

His worth just about quadrupled in my book. I think I’ll keep this one around. My little snake killer.

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And I’ll keep this one because he’ll defend his turf and take on anything that dares threaten his people. He’s fought porcupines, raccoons, skunks, and even those fearsome possums–you know, the ones that play dead.

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And this one? She’s still got a lot of earning her keep to do. But she’ll love you to death and is sewn together out of 100% obedience and loyalty. I guess we’ll keep her too.

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Needless to say friends, with the excitement of the morning, I didn’t get a chicken coop moved. Nor did I get any chicks today. I think pulling out my back cured my chicken fever…for a while anyway.

Posted in Animals

The End of my Chicken Ranching Era

It happened yesterday.  The end of an era.  But yesterday was a joyous day of remembering the birth of EK, that I couldn’t allow it to spoil the day, regardless of how sad I felt about it.

I found my last one chicken dead yesterday shortly after dawn. Actually, dead is such a mild word when what I really mean is murdered.  Viciously attacked by a raccoon I am sure.

The chicken herd had been dwindling by about 3-4 chickens a year due to various causes of death.

I had my last two remaining chickens, one yellow and one black and white, for a good long while up until around Thanksgiving.  That’s when I found the yellow one eaten in the yard.  The dogs had been brought inside for the night, so there was no protection for them so I wasn’t sure what had happened to the chicken until the next night when we were awakened by a ruckus.  Drew Miller, AKA Killer, stayed outside and engaged in a terrible brawl with a raccoon.  JDub woke, put on his slippers and witnessed the entire battle royal, attempting to stop it but failing.   Drewby Doo gave that coon a run for his money as the coon did Drew.  Drew has some fresh new scars on his snout to prove it.  We surmised by all this, that the raccoon more than likely killed the yellow chicken while the dogs were inside the night before, then came back for more the next night, only to be caught off guard by the dog.

A couple of months have passed since the death of Sassafras.  In that time Drew and the black and white chicken, Freedom, have become the best of friends.

Freedom and Drew
Freedom and Drew

It was as if Freedom knew Drew, and only Drew had and would save her.  If you’ve been a reader for long, you’ll remember Freedom the chicken.  If not, you can read about her here and here, among others.  I’m not entirely convinced it was Freedom as I never tied a string around her ankle or anything, but in my heart I believe it was.

Two nights ago, I was driving home after dark and I saw the raccoon.  Big as a bulldog crossing the road at the river just a half a block from our house.  He must have forgotten the whoopin’ Drew gave him, and luckily for him Drew was inside for the night.  But unluckily for Freedom.

I cried when I found her.  I cried because she was my favorite.  I cried because she was my last.  I cried because of the savage way her life ended.

I sat with Freedom the day before she died.  I sat in a lawn chair and she jumped up on the arm and I stroked her and she pecked my shirt, making me all kinds of nervous as she always did.

I don’t know when I’ll get more.  I don’t know IF I’ll get more.

They brought me delight, truly they did.

I hope there’s a chicken heaven.  If there is, my girls are there.  May they be ever happy in a land of green grasses and big worms.

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