~:: A Sad Little Story ::~

Some of you aren’t going to understand this.

The last year has been just kinda hard. I shake my head at myself for writing that, knowing the kinds of things many of you have been dealing with. Mine has just been a niggling, if chronic, back and neck thing – just enough to pull the stuffing out of me and leave me sort of droopy and spiritless. But, you know, life is what it is. And plenty of dear things have happened, and I’ve read a lot of books instead of doing things.

It’s better now. Except sometimes. But again – it’s little. I’m little. It’s little.

I think I’m just tired.

A couple of weeks ago, we acquired a chicken. A dirty, scruffy buff Orphington (I think. What do I know?) who looked like the bottom of somebody’s pecking order. She had apparently escaped from the pompous black and white rooster (famous now, in that neighborhood around the barn, for obnoxiousness) down the way.

One morning, the barn was just us and the horses.

Next morning, there was this chicken.

She followed us around, discussing things at our backs. Scratched in the dust and old hay. Really commented on just about everything. Like I do.

I told G about her, and when he met her, he was charmed.  He took a number ten can full of oats and wheat and – of all things – beans from an old bean soup mix we’d never been brave enough to use. And she was very pleased. She’d eat out of his hand, never touching his skin, but getting every grain out of there—commenting, sometimes under her breath, but always cheerfully.  She had no use for the beans.

We talked about keeping her, but I thought someone might be missing her.  And I didn’t want chicken poop all over the barn (wouldn’t have been a big difference, and, in fact, wasn’t), so I went to a couple of neighbors, trying to find her real home. Never did find it. Which didn’t bother me, truth to tell.

Yesterday, she was charmingly broody, finding places in the scrap hay and settling down into them happily, vibrating and  commenting and squinching around till she had almost a nest. And she climbed the hay stack, looking back at me over her shoulder and explaining something.

I threw her three handfuls of G’s famous homemade feed. There are beans all over everything now.

This morning, she did not meet me the second I opened the barn door. Plenty of disgusted horses; I was late. I woke at an appallingly late hour, heavy and hurting more than I would have expected to at this point in things. They were hungry. I was late.

The barn felt very empty. Nobody commenting. Nobody pointedly scratching in the dirt.

Good, I was thinking. She went back home. But there was part of me that didn’t really mean the “good” part.

I set about my work, shaking out the horse bins, setting them in order. “You need water,” I told the horses, and started it running, went into Sophie’s place to shake out her horse-food-bowl. Looked down at the trough.

The chicken had drowned in it.

Her feathers were bright orange. Much more beautiful now. The dust had been hiding her color.

I had wondered about that trough, worrying about her drinking there. But for once in my life – no, it’s not the only time, and so, I suppose is representative of something – had not insisted on helments and seat belts and handwashing and not giving out personal information over the net.  On being home at a reasonable hour and eating right and wearing safety glasses when you solder.

Some of you are thinking, it was only a chicken.

You are the ones who I said wouldn’t understand; and that’s okay. Lucky you. One less in your list of hostages to fate.

After all my years of living, and I do not yet count as old among many (shrinking) circles, I have come to the peaceful and certain belief that animals have souls. They were not sent here to fight themselves like we are.  But they are who they are, and do what they do, and often have opinions of their own.  And are loved of God. And live forever somewhere else.

Just because we don’t understand somebody else’s comments doesn’t mean they weren’t meaningful.

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14 Responses to ~:: A Sad Little Story ::~

  1. Heidi says:

    Hard. Hard. Hard. I get it. And I’m sorry.

  2. Guy Randle says:

    I will miss her–grumbling and bumbling around the barn.

  3. Donna says:

    I am so sorry. To have shared even just a few days with her and then lose that…so sad. But, I’m glad you got to know her, even briefly…and she you. sigh

    • K says:

      yes. I’m glad of that. and I was worried about this summer – no hutch and raccoons and cats. i won’t have to worry now – i guess. thanks,d.

  4. wsw says:

    I understand. A sad story absolutely. And not so little. Chickens are surprisingly endearing.

    And niggling physical ailments have a way of clouding everything. I know. Reading is a wonderful tonic, isn’t it? Only it doesn’t actually FIX the niggling, but the distraction is welcome.

  5. Marilyn says:

    Whenever we see some poor little heap of fur at the side of the road, Sam tells me how it’s just sleeping or pretending or it’s someone’s lost coat or something. It’s not like he really fools me but it makes me feel better anyway, because otherwise it’s just too sad for me. And I didn’t even KNOW those animals. Someone I KNEW would be infinitely worse.

    When I was young and our cat died, I can still remember telling my friend about it and I was kind of laughing–not because I meant to. It was just so strange. My friend wouldn’t believe me for awhile because of it. It was this strange place between feeling really sad and knowing it wasn’t really something I “should” be sad about, or seeing the kind of absurdity of it, this moment of announcing “my cat died!”… And he had been sick…

    When my dad died, I felt almost more awkward about making _other_ people feel uncomfortable when they found out. It was strange, again, at the moment of announcement—unreal, sort of—but the emotions themselves were more straightforward for me. Sad, and justly so. Happy for him, and justly so. It was a bit unexpected but not totally, so it wasn’t a “hard” time in the way a sudden or unwanted death would be.

    I don’t know if any of that made sense. I’m sorry about your poor chicken friend. I would have been sad too, and am. :(

    • K says:

      Many people do think that the loss of animal isn’t that big a deal, or shouldn’t be. That the sorrow should be less. They evidently haven’t read Gerard Manley Hopkins. The sadness comes because a spot of true light in your life has winked out and you are, for a time, a little less for it. Because something that loved you and formed part of the fabric of your life, affecting your movements, loving you without price — a gift of beauty, of humor, a focus of work and pleasure both and love – is simply gone. Why would that not be worth sorrow? We falter in our stride. And in some ways have to start over again.

      What you wrote, as always, makes big sense. somehow, having someone else know and share it makes it a little lighter. Perhaps that is selfish. But I am selfish, so I don’t mind that.

      I can stand almost anything, I think, when I realize that I’m not in an empty boat. But still, I wouldn’t wish heaviness of heart on anyone.

  6. Murphy Randle says:

    It’s a sad story. :(
    But you did get to be friends for a time, and that’s great!

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