Change of Address

We moved.
That was a thing we did.
And it took a lot of time and thought.
And I thought about and even premeditated trying to disappear for a preposterously long time. That way, when people saw me again and I told them I had moved–again– they’d say, “Oh…when did you move?” And I could tilt my head quite naturally to the side and say, “Oh, like…10 years ago.” And they would say, “OH.”

This is as far as I ever got with the fake conversation with fake people because (1) I got really bored with it. OH is all I could ever end with. (2) No one cares. (3) I couldn’t figure out how to disappear. (4) I don’t tilt my head and when I do it’s because I’ve run into a metal post of some sort.

It’d be one thing if we’d moved to some place far away like Montana, which actually isn’t a state I don’t think and real people don’t actually live there. Or maybe if we’d moved to Nevada, which might exist but probably can’t sustain life. Or Illinois, where we could have slipped in behind the mafia and made a saucy name for ourselves.

But no. We moved right back to where we came from. Within 2 miles of the house all our babies came home to. Within 5 miles of pretty much everyone we ever knew prior to the initial move out to the country. And when was THAT move? 2 years ago.

We only lasted 2 years.

And by the way, I like dangling prepositions. I have an English degree. I’m allowed to let them dangle. It’s called poetic license.

For two years, we happily lived out in the country. Living the farm life. Living off the land.
OK, so that wasn’t quite it.
It looked more like driving farther to the grocery store. Avoiding errands I didn’t absolutely HAVE to run. And living off the fat of the Circle K/Shell Station when the toilet paper ran out. .

We loved our land. We loved our 90-year-old quirky farm house where if you dropped a ball by the front door, it would roll all the way to the back of the house by way of the dining room and kitchen. I adored the sound of the sycamore trees when a breeze blew through. There is nothing like the quiet, shimmery tree music of sycamore leaves. I loved looking out across the pasture as the summer storms rolled in. I loved sitting on the porch in the thunder until it no longer felt safe. You could think there. You could throw a rogue football there and not end up in the neighbor’s yard retrieving it. You could shoot arrows at a bale of hay and not hit anything (even the hay, some days). And there, in that old house, I heard the wind howl for the first time in my life. It howled across the front porch like a restless spirit.

What an adventure it was. There was that one season where we successfully grew vegetables. After that, we very successfully cultivated man-sized weeds. We saw wild pigs and river otters. And our finest work was done in raising an unknown number of chickens. Don’t ask me why I can’t number them. Between the hawks, the raccoons, and a teeny, tiny sliver of human error, counting chicken heads became a bit complicated. Toward the end there, which was back in March, there were 6. I could count to 6 with no problem. And I did. Every night.

One night, back in early March, around 2:30 a.m., Beloved came to my side of the bed and woke me from a deep sleep.
“Mama, I don’t know what’s going on with the chickens, but something is. They are making crazy noises.”
I sat bolt upright in bed. I knew there was something bad wrong, because chickens don’t go crazy in the dark without a predator. Chickens are stupid, scared, quiet, and dare I say even polite, animals after dark.
“OK, sit here,” I told her. “I’ll be back.” At this point, I jumped out of bed and ran to the laundry room where we keep a .22, unloaded and without the barrel attached. It’s so safe to have in the house with kids that it’s basically unusable in an emergency.
Or at all.
Getting it put together and loaded is like rocking the Rubik’s Cube, which I never once did.

It was dark and late and I was groggy. I have no idea what to do with a rifle even when my brain is fully functioning. But if you handicap me with exhaustion and dim lighting, I’m a total waste of space. I have no idea how much time passed while I was trying to prepare for battle. Maybe a week? I don’t know. I could hear my lil chickens going nuts outside the back door and I was fumbling.

When the gun was finally ready, I grabbed a flashlight and headed out into the darkness. For just a moment I glanced down at myself. Gym shorts. Bare feet. What was I thinking here? Still, though, I had to press on. These birds needed their mama. I flashed the beam of the light around the coop and immediately saw what I had already suspected. A raccoon. He had tunneled under the coop and was inside the enclosure, basically wreaking havoc.

Probably at this point, I should have turned right back around and gone to get the husband. He is definitely better than I am at pretty much everything. But at this point, he was a whole lot less awake, so I continued on. Knowing I was clearly out of my league, I should have stopped to regroup and reconsider my plan.

But instead, I put my shaky finger on the trigger and aimed the barrel of that gun at the raccoon that was staring back at me. I fired. It clicked. Just a click. Shoot. What is this, a toy? What’s the deal? Shoot, it’s on safety. How do you get it off safety? Did I load it right? I should not be allowed to even touch this thing. I fired once more on safety, enjoying a pleasant little click. Finally, I got off an actual shot…which did not come within 7 feet of the raccoon, but sent him and the chickens into hysterics anyway. Well, crum. There went my ONE BULLET. Now I have to run back in and reload. At this point, I’m pretty sure I totally knew I was a failure. I had to know that, right? I had to know that no good could come from reloading. All that was going to do was waste more time. It’s like the 10 monkeys jumping on the bed song. At the end, they all fall off the bed. You know from the outset that this is how it will turn out.

I needed a real plan, since my last one clearly did not work. Oh, I know. I’ll go INTO the coop with the gun, the crazed chickens, the predator, and only one bullet. That’s a good shift in judgment. If you can’t shoot a gun and aren’t wearing shoes…AND if the situation is urgent, you should definitely go into an enclosed space with an angry raccoon with only one bullet.

That is exactly what I did. I went in. Our coop is rather large (because, let’s face it, we care about our chickens), so I chose to go in the second door, rather than the first. The second door opens up into the larger chicken run that we added on so they could chillax and have a greater sense of self worth. When I opened that door and slunk through the opening, I stumbled over the carcass of one of the already-dead chickens. Oh, dear. It was obviously Goldilocks. She was an original Snapp bird, and we had had her for almost 2 years. Moment of silence. Now let’s kill us a raccoon. I could see another carcass across the chicken run from me. P2 was dead. Well, truthfully, it might have been P1. We named our Barred rocks P1 and P2 because we knew we’d never be able to tell them apart. It was one of the ps. And they were good layers. Stupid raccoon.

I took aim. I fired. The crack went off in my ear and the raccoon did not move. OK, seriously, is this thing loaded? How could I Have missed him by so much? He didn’t even bother to looked alarmed with that shot.

I needed a new plan. OK, I got one. Go get the husband. Finally, I had a plan that might work. I ran back in and shook my sleeping husband, who would much rather have had the chickens all die than go out in the night to defend them. He doesn’t eat eggs. And he was highly against us naming these creatures. But he loves us and we love chickens, so by the Transitive Theory from 10th grade geometry, he loves chickens.

Well, Plan B worked really, really well. The husband walked out with the gun, loaded it, turned off the safety, and shot it without all the frenzied flopping, and killed the murderous raccoon with a single shot. Yes. One shot. I guess ONE BULLET does work for some people. Just not for me. And while he was grabbing the dead raccoon by the tail and throwing it off into a far field, I was out in the dark side yard trying to catch the 4 remaining chickens that had escaped my chaos and were now running amuck at 3something a.m.

I have no idea how long it took to get the living chickens put away and calmed down. But when we finally got back to our bedroom, there sat Beloved just waiting, wide-eyed, to hear the end result.

The end result was–ultimately–that this raccoon’s cousins and step-brothers came around for the next two weeks and finished the job he had started that night. By the end of spring break, we owned no more chickens. I had to buy my eggs at Publix like the average city slicker.

And with that, I realized– I AM a city slicker.

So we decided to move back.
Over the eggs.

That’s actually not at all true. There were real reasons, none of which had anything to do with chickens or discontent or my bad shooting skills. And none of which bear any impact on anyone reading this.

But it sounds good to blame it on my failures as a chicken farmer.

You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl, right?

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