Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Best Fred Story Ever Told

Today as I was slogging thru The White Death as even more flakes fell from the sky, I started thinking about the dearly departed Fred the Rooster and all the adventures and misadventures we'd been thru together. Those tales of glory will be sung around campfires long after we've all gone to be with the ancestors.

There was the time Fred and I first tangoed, much to the delight of The Big Man and Titan who stood there and watched, slack jawed and buggy eyed. Or when we both charged the dread gander.... me, swinging my shepherd hook like a pole axe and Fred flying like a Romulan Warbird on a collision course while OD held his ground.  We eventually won the day but many feathers were shed that day.

So I dug around and I found The Best Fred Story Ever Told.

This was from several years ago – shortly after I arrived at The Good Land and we lived at the old farm. My sister, The Mommy, had sent her two youngest children down for a visit. At the time they were 10 and 11 years old. Honestly I couldn't believe it when The Mommy drove away. But before she left she told me sternly not to let anything happen to her girls. What could happen? Right? Right.

And so our tale begins.  As always, names have been changed to protect the innocent - or guilty in this case.

At that time we only had a small flock of chickens. Fred, a younger man at the time, was the only rooster of our little flock which included 6 laying hens of different varieties. Fred's job was to protect the flock and to keep them all together. He did a great job. However, sometimes he would get aggressive and had gone after both of us. Now sure, he was just a chicken but it was a little scary when he lept up, talons out, flapping and screaming. So I started to carry a stick, a broom, or something to show that I was the 'boss chicken.' From time to time we gave him a smack to keep him in line. The Bible calls it the 'rod of discipline' but we just called it the 'beatin' stick.'

I also figured out to take a little liberty with the 'speak softly and carry a big stick' thing and I started to say that I 'swear loudly and have my brontosaurus sized dog, Titan, standing right beside me.' Fred wasn't so cocky with Titan around.

So my nieces, Shay and Sissy, were supposed to be with me for the entire week of their spring break. Shay, the youngest, was so excited about the chickens – it was the only thing that she talked about since we first got them.  This was going to be her first foray into being a chicken-woman. Her joy was truly overflowing as she rushed right out to the barn to see them. For the first day or so it was great - she got the eggs, helped me feed them, was eager to get up early and let them out etc etc.

Now Shay is a beautiful, angelic child. She is an artist.  She is mature, articulate, and well versed in the culinary arts. Most of the time I forget how young she is and half the time I'm ready to give her the keys and tell her to go and get some beer for us.

Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who has worse luck with animals than Shay. I swear, animals hate her - all of them.  She must have some kind of weird aura that sets all living creatures off. I honestly thought that our kitten was over her "hissing" phase until Shay went to pick her up.. yikes! And yes, the dogs knocked her down. Seriously, there is one guy who has worse luck with animals and that has to be a mailman who goes straight to his route after being in a bacon-eating contest, uniform still dripping with bacon grease and his pockets full of leftover bacon. THAT guy has worse luck than lovely Shay.

Shay is also stubborn and has a sassy mouth, which The Big Man cannot stand. And she doesn't listen. And thinks she knows best.

Every day I said to her “Shay, where is your chicken beatin' stick? You have to have a beatin' stick if you're going to be around the chickens” and “Keep an eye on Fred - don't mess with the hens with him around.” She never listened.

Well, after three days of her asking if she could pick up one of the hens (with Fred strutting around right there) I finally said, “If you can get ahold of one of those hens, go right ahead.”

And I went about my business. The chickens were out chickenin' around in the garden and Sissy, the good child, had her beatin' stick. What could happen, right?

Five minutes. I was out of the garden FIVE minutes when I heard that piercing, horrible, little girl scream. You know the one, high pitched foretelling of doom - that scream.

Now, it would be a sin if I told you that I ran as fast as I could to the scene of the crime. But I did mosey kinda fast.

And here came Shay, beautiful blond hair flying behind her, mouth and eyes wide open, doing that little girl-hands-straight-out-in-front of her run. It was kind of funny but I kept it together as she ran into my arms.

“Oh, honey! What happened?” (as if we all didn't know...)

And since she was just on the brink of hysterically crying...I played it cool and offered, “Now settle down, honey.  Its OK, now show me, are you hurt?”

Well Shay had been down in the creek all day and she was all scratched up from being in the brambles so she couldn't EXACTLY tell which scratch came from Fred but it was one of them...

A slight giggle started to bubble up....I bit my lip.

“Oh, that's awful. Here, let me hug you. There there, better? Now its OK to be upset.. but it is just a chicken so lets cowboy up. Why don't you go and get cleaned up and I'll put the chickens away.”

And I want the record to show that she left me DRY EYED and calm.

I went to find Sissy, the most rational and dependable of all The Mommy's children. She was still at her post, with her beatin' stick in hand. I was laughing a little to myself because Shay was such a sight... flying around the barn like that...

But I didn't actually fall to the ground shrieking with laugher until Sissy, just on the edge of being a teenager, with her little girl voice but her grown up eyes said, “Well, you had to see that one coming.”

“Yes, yes, Sissy, well said.”  And I sent her off to help her sister as I rounded up the chickens. Titan for his part, hot stepped that Fred directly into the chicken house.  I went back to the house waiting for the phone call.

Predictably, 20 minutes later The Mommy called. She would be there in the morning and demanded to know what I was going to do with that killer rooster.  She was understandably caught up in the emotion of the events seeing as how Shay CALLED HER HYSTERICALLY SCREAMING that she had been mauled. Traitor.

I calmly told The Mommy that there were two sides of every story. She informed me that her husband, the cop, was bringing his fire arm and would “handle it” when they arrived the next day. I packed up the children.

The Mommy arrived at first light. She flicked work to rescue her children from the dangers of farm living. However, she had a problem calling into work - apparently “My child was attacked and mauled by a rooster” isn't exactly a believable story.  And honestly no one at her job could talk to her to find out the story because they were all laughing so hard. They passed the phone around and eventually had to just hang up on her. Really. She even called back 20 minutes later and they STILL were laughing so hard they couldn't speak.

The Big Man, who isn't loud like the rest of us, didn't really have much to say about it. Altho he was really sick of Shay's sassy mouth said only that perhaps Fred had earned himself a place of honor and there would be no “handling it.” And that was the end of that.

I was a little nervous tho. I figured the story would grow into “And Auntie sat around and drank margaritas and threw us into the pen with the chickens and we were nearly killed!”... I was expecting Johnsonville's crack CSI team to come out.. you know, CSI –  the Chicken Scene Investigators.

But that didn't happen. The family departed and while I can't be certain I thought that I saw The Big Man and Fred out there “high fivin' it” and may have heard something about how they “took care of that.”

However, there was another time when the we were expecting the CSI team to come and investigate us... but that, well that is another story entirely.

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