“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012

The problem with roosters…

…is what to do with them.

For years we have had chickens and that means invariably, we have ended up now and then, by a mistake of sorting sexes at the hatchery, with a rooster. There are a lot of reasons that we don’t need a rooster- two are that they don’t lay eggs and the hens don’t need them to lay eggs.

There are also reasons we don’t want a rooster- they rip up the hens in an endless passion for mating, they crow all day and all night (no, they don’t only crow at daybreak!), but worst of all, they attack almost everything that moves, including us farmers.

And roosters have no ethics or mercy when it comes to attacking. They need no reason except that they see you. There are no rules of engagement. They don’t give you a warning, or a chance to move away. Roosters don’t negotiate. They lack a Quaker gene.

And then it is how they attack. They wait till your head is turned. You can be ten feet away, or a hundred feet away –but if your head is turned, or worse yet if your back is turned, they seize the opportunity of surprise. With wings flapping they jump up from the ground, lean back in the air, and strike with the sharp, hooked spurs that have grown out long from the back of their legs. The spurs cut like knives. A really aggressive rooster can send its victim to the emergency room for stitches.

Over the years we have dealt with the problems of having a rooster in different ways.

For a time there was a young man who we were put in touch with who used the roosters for breeding (at least that’s what he said he did with them). Whenever we needed to unburden ourselves of a rooster, we’d get in touch with this young man through a series of contacts and he would pull up in his car and somehow catch the rooster and take it with him. At some point, the web of shadowy contacts dissipated and we never able to get word to him again.

At that point, we turned to Craigslist  to advertise that we had a rooster to give away, free to a good home. We would get replies from Craigslist from all kinds of persons, but then no one ever showed up to claim their feathered bargain.

A few years ago a friend of a friend had a friend who wanted one of our roosters because they liked to hear them crow. We asked if they knew what a rooster was all about and word came back to us that “yes they did” and this was not their first rooster. So we gave our rooster to our friend who passed it to the friend who passed it to their friend – transaction complete. Just recently we were told that the rooster met its end. Apparently the rooster became so increasingly aggressive that the people were scared to leave their house, so in a moment of bravery fueled by frustration they literally shot their way out…

Last year, I bought a small, chain link dog kennel and that is where we keep our current rooster. In this way, he has his own space and he can’t get to us or to anyone else. Once a week we allow him conjugal visits with the hens. It’s not a bad life. I also got an incubator so that I could breed him and hatch chicks. I assumed that my chances of getting another rooster this way were probably the same as if I bought sexed chicks. So far, of the five chicks that I’ve hatched, two have turned out to be roosters.

I can’t put these two with the current rooster as they will fight, and so now I am back to the original problem of what to do with the roosters.

Can’t re-home them, Craigslist doesn’t work, and we can’t keep them…

… so this time we are setting the oven to 375.

Friday, August 3, 2012

August 3, 2012

Maybe this isn’t such a bad deal. He doesn’t ride me too much which is good cause I ache in my joints. If you listen, you can hear me creak as I walk. I remember all those days I was at some camp and was saddled and bridled for the entire day.  See my nose? The hair is permanently rubbed off from wearing a tight bridle for so long. It never came off. This aint the worst it could be.

But anyhow, being the bigger horse at these camps I had to carry the bigger people. Then I was leased to a fat kids camp. One of those camps where they say they give rich fat kids exercise and healthy food – I was the one who got the exercise while some Big Mac sucking kid bounced his blubber on my back, and then as for food….well, I was lucky to get any grain – mostly I just got some moldy hay.

That was when I was getting older, and my knees began to hurt. Sometimes I hurt so much I couldn’t lift my feet high enough and I would trip, falling to my knees and the kid on me would panic and yell. If I could have, I’d a bucked him off just to get a bit of relief, but I didn’t have it in my back legs either.

I coulda been a race horse. I just wasn’t as fast as my dad, Whitey’s Fella. Dad was fast. He won a lot of money in his time.  (He also had a lot of kids, which I cant, cuse I got my nuts whacked off.) I was compared to him, but I just wasn’t as fast. I was fast, but a few tenths of a second behind meant I was slow. Its amazing that a matter of one or maybe two tenths of a second determined my fate. Most people don’t even think in seconds. I was judged by them. I was judged by tenths of a second. But I was fast. Still am. Even at 25 years old and with arthritis in my knees I am faster than Zipps and Patrick – hell, I was faster than that dork Jake who used to live here and torment me - a thoroughbred that bullied me to no end. He liked to come up on my blind side – yes I am blind in my left eye – and bite my butt and try to chase me. I could out run that dork even if I was trottin’! I’d be waitin at the other end of the field waiting for him to get there. He too, was supposed to be a racehorse. Whatta slow putz. He couldn’t out run one a the chickens round here. But that’s not important. Ya see, being fast isn’t fast enough in the racing biz. I got auctioned off. I never saw Saratoga again.

Instead I saw trails. I don’t even know where I was, or where I’ve been.  I don’t really remember. But I saw a lot of miles of trails. Being a trail horse wasn’t so bad – people were nice, and at the end of the ride most people would sneak me a treat – a carrot or peppermint. Some people were jerks though. They had seen too many westerns and would yank the reins and kick me thinking that’s want horses needed. Dumb farts. Sometimes I’d get so mad! Then I would – and I am not sayin I am proud of myself for it – veer a bit off the trail and walk under a low branch…that knocked the John Wayne right out of em. Hell, all us trail horses did it.

One time, I forget where I was, but I was in a paddock, a man came and shouted at us. None of us knew what he wanted. Then he’d hit us, and I mean hit us. I still shudder about being hit. If I only knew what he wanted I‘d done it – so would have the others. To this day I still get flashbacks of those beatings and even sometimes I snap at people – I can’t help it. It’s a reaction I can’t always control. It just comes over me. Sometimes I snap at people who are good to me. It’s like a defense mechanism…I can’t shake what that man did to us. Its not like I can go to a shrink. They don’t have shrinks for horses – there’s this lady named Temple Gradin, but I just gotta deal with it. At least I don’t snap as much theses days. No one hits me here so I don’t have that trigger. But sometimes I just snap. It’s a tick in my brain, like an instinct I shouldn’t have. I can’t help it. We all have our ghosts. This man is mine. I wish that’d never happened.

I oughta get back to what I was sayin. My knees would just give sometimes. Or I would trip. Trails aren’t smooth – there’s all kinda things in the way . Like logs, rocks, puddles, and whatever. Things that the fat kid on my back couldn’t walk over. But I had to. And lets face it, I wasn’t getting any younger. I couldn’t keep up as well. My eye was losing sight, and my breathing was getting a bit shallower…my nasal passage had collapsed a bit. I was just getting older, that’s all. Couldn’t help that. No one can.

I guess I wasn’t worth much after that. No one wanted me. So I went to auction. Its not the kind you are thinking of, where people are bidding and fighting over the horses. That was the kind of auction I had been at when I was young. But this was different. These people were haggling to get the price lower. Ya see, it costs the buyer all kinds of money to truck a guy like me – and about twenty others at a time – way down to Mexico. Something about profit margins. Its also why they like guys like me. I’m sorta big, and in Mexico they pay by the pound…so I was worth the cost, cause I would bring a profit at the plant.

But some lady took me. She had a petting farm, more or less, and thought I could pull a cart and look cute or something like that. She also thought if she didn’t buy me, I’d go to Mexico. She didn’t want horses to go to Mexico. She didn’t know about my knees or my brain snaps – how could she? But she bought me and took me to her farm. It wasn’t a very pretty place, but she was nice enough to me. She fed me. She put me together with a little horse named Hershey who didn’t tease me. But in the end, I wasn’t what she wanted. She fed me, but didn’t take the best care of me. She figured she’d sell me and let that person pay a vet. She sold me.

And now I am here. Like said it aint such a bad deal for an old guy like me. They fixed me as best they could – got rid of my infections, my feet problems, even got my teeth looked at. They give me stuff for my knees, and asprin when I get stiff ! All that stuff. They don’t ride me all day either. Just every now and then. In fact they sorta let me roam around. I free range like those dumb chickens that are always in my way! Friggin chickens! Do you know how hard it is for me not to step on those pecking feather dusters? They are always under my feet, catching grasshoppers and stuff. I gotta side step every where! Its like walking on eggs! Get it? Chickens! walking on eggs! That’s a good one! (I still got my sense of humor!) But if that’s the worst thing I gotta worry about then its ok. I am kinda fond of those damn birds though, which is why I dont step on em.

I mean I get my own field where Pat and Zip cant sneak up on my blind side and bite me. And I get to wander in and out of the stable as I please. Sometimes they leave the hay out and I nose thru it- I get the good stuff and then Pat and Zip get the stuff I don’t like! I can deal with that! And then I get itched almost anytime I want. I just walk up to those guys cleanin the stables – yeah, I get room service- I just bump em a bit, and they get my brush and start massaging my hot spots. I make these funny faces and they like that! So I make more funny faces and since that entertains them they keep brushing me. I got em wrapped around my hoof. These people are so easy to train. Ya know, I got em so well trained that if I sorta gurgle at them, they go get me a treat! imagine that! and I get Gatorade when its hot, a blanket when its cold, and then I get this rock that I can lick for salt. And my own feed bowl. I never had my own feed bowl before.

I can be happy here for a long, long, time. Sometimes I hear them say I am retired. Sometimes I hear them say I am spoiled. Oh well, here they come, I gotta gurgle a bit…I hope they got peppermint today. Or one of those orange gumdrop slices, or ginger snaps… think I will walk over and see what they got….