Friday, April 21, 2006

a very sad story

I have a sad story to tell.

It was two nights ago.

Just as it was actually getting dark.

Suddenly, there was a scream.

And then the sound of a struggle.

And then another scream.

And more struggling.

And one more scream. One that died off into silence.

I was out the back door but whatever was gone on was now over. It was now perfectly quiet.

Just a beautiful spring evening.

But the fight, Actually the assault, sounded like it had happening just outside of the house.

Maybe around back. Somewhere out in the forest.

But not that far away.

I stood there. Looking into the dark and not seeing anything.

The dogs, our two Great Pyrenees guardian dogs, Andorra and Twain had started barking. This is a breed of dog that is supposed to instinctively want to defend against just such an event, They are supposed to be out there right away defending against assaults in the dark.

But so much for breeding. You could tell they both were pretty clueless. They had no idea where the screaming had come from. At first they would look in one direction and then another.

And now, whatever had happened, it was over. The attack had happened and the victim was either out there in the dark hiding from her assailant.

Or she was dead.

I thought about getting the flashlight and looking around but what was the use? The forest by now was night-time dark, and deep and there wasn't a clue as to which direction to look.

So I didn't. I turned and went back into the house.

"What happened?" Wenonah asked. She was waiting by the door. "Did you see anything?"

I told her what I found out. Nothing.

"What could it have been?"

"I don't know."

And dinner was ready. Wenonah has this idea that we need to be on a diet so it was broccoli and chicken. And a salad with hardly any oil.

"Do you think it was a chicken? It sounded way to big for that."

"Or maybe the peacock?"

"Maybe it wasn't one of ours. Maybe it was something wild. The whippoorwills have just come back. Maybe a fox caught a whippoorwill while it was singing along the powerline?"

From there we went on to speculate on which predator.

"Not a possum, or a skunk. They aren't much for a fight like that."

"And I don't think a raccoon could have given that much of a fight."

"And only a fox if it was something on the ground. I don't think a fox could tangle with one of the peafowl anyway. That would have been a much longer fight."

"Maybe a wild dog. It could be a dog from one of those new houses being built up on top of the ridge, over in Prince William County?"

"I think Andorra and Twain would have known if there was a dog around. They would have gone into high alert. They would be barking still."

"Bob cat?"

"Coyote. People say they've seen coyotes in the area."

The next morning I walked down the road to let the chickens out of the chicken tractor.

Every evening, as the sun goes down the chickens stop their scratching in the pasture and come back to the chicken tractor and climb inside.

And fly up on their roosts for the night.

And every evening, just as its getting dark, I walk down the road and close them up for the night.

So, here I am in the morning. the morning after the assault. and I stepped over the electric fence around the chicken pasture and opened the henhouse door.

And quickly jumped back as the mad rush begins.

Chickens flying out the door, making a mad rush to be the early bird.

I stood there and watched for a minute or two. It's always a trip to watch those hens rush out for their day's work. Chickens are definitely the archetypal 'early bird.'

Unlike me, they are the type that is up and at it in the morning whether they've had their coffee of not. I actually know some people like that too.

And after watching them for a little longer I slowly turned and started looking.

Looking until I found what I had expected to find.

A trail of feathers.

You could see where the chicken had first been grabbed right under the house.

One of the chickens had decided that she didn't want to go in last night.

That it was a nice night for staying out.

More feathers where whatever it was that had done the attacking had dragged his victim under the fence.

And on the other side of the fence the victim must have made a break for it. The ground was all torn up. A struggle and more feathers.

And then a trail back into the bushes, through the briars, over to where a hole had been cut, or I guess I should say gnawed, through the plastic anti-deer fence.

And then more feathers, another struggle.

And that was the end of the trail. No more fighting.

Somebody got themselves a chicken dinner.

And the gene police had thrown someone out of the pool.

And speaking of chickens the USDA, in the likely event that Avian flu comes to our country, is forming plans to kill all of the small flocks of pastured chickens in the entire country.

At the same time they intend to kill all of the organic and small chicken flocks (with their diverse genetic pool).

The USDA plans on giving the corporate chicken factories a free ride (even though there is overwhelming proof that the spread of avian flu through Asia and into Europe and Africa is largely fueled by the practices of the corporate chicken industry).

The USDA's arguments for killing off the genetically diverse, pastured flocks of chickens while not touching the caged, often genetically engineered chickens owned by the corporate 'food manufacturers' are patently bogus and do not hold up to any close examination what-so-ever.

The people making this policy over at the USDA should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

But then what do you expect?

Over the weekend I'm going to put up on our blog a critique of what the USDA plans to do and why and then show why their arguments and reasoning wouldn't keep a fox out of a henhouse let alone a virus.

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