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Friday, July 30, 2010

Dani, you make me LOL

My children are hilarious! Every time I talk to them, they make me laugh. A few days ago when I told Danielle my Chicken Moving Story (see the next post), she sketched out the mental picture which formed in her head and emailed it to me.
When I opened it, I laughed so hard I cried.

Dani's narration reads:
"When all resuscitation attempts failed,
the Shumway children cleverly disguised
the chickens as what they hoped could be
described as 'nonchalant'."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chicken Moving Day 1978

In my last post I mentioned a move onto Main Street from our 'farm' when I was a teenager. That was a pretty tough time for me, but looking back it sure created some memorable moments. One of those memories was the moving of the 50 or so chickens we still owned. There were times in my childhood that we had hundreds of chickens, but a few years before the move we stopped ordering new day-old chicks every spring and had been weeding out the older hens which weren’t laying well.

My Dad built a small coop and chicken run at the end of the long L-shaped lot and had assigned Jim and I to take a gunnysack each to transport the hens. He informed us that we were to put two chickens in each bag and carry them from the old coop to the new making as many trips as necessary. Jim and I started this task and had made a couple of trips back and forth with two hens in each sack. We figured how many trips it was going to take us to move the rest of the chickens and decided that we’d get done quicker if we put more chickens in each bag each trip. So the next trip we put three chickens in each bag and when we arrived we dumped them out and ran back for the next load. Being 13 and 16 years old and knowing everything, we decided that if it speeded up to carry three in each bag, we could hurry it up even more if we carried five each trip. When we got back to the old coop and started stuffing birds into bags, it suddenly became a contest to see who could get the most chickens in a gunnysack and carried to the new place. Let me say, a gunnysack with five or six plump hens in it was heavy and so instead of carrying those bags, it became more of ‘drag’ race. Back we ran for the next installment of chicken stuffing. There were about 20 chickens left strutting around that old coop and we chased and wrestled seven or eight of them into the bags and then realized if we just stuffed in a couple more to each sack it would be mission accomplished!

The gunnysacks were stretched so full of feathered bodies and were so heavy, we could hardly heave, push and pull them across the ground the few blocks to the new place. It took us longer to haul these birds and when we finally arrived our arms ached and our hearts pounded with the exertion. We tried to dump the loads of hens out, but they were so wedged and squished in, it really took some hard shaking to unload those sacks. As those last chickens fell out of the bag, they were as flaccid and limp as if they were dead. Jim and I realized we had asphyxiated more than a third of our flock. We were patting those chickens and trying to figure out if mouth to bill resuscitation would work when we heard the familiar sound of the back screen door slamming and peeked out and realized Dad was heading down to the chicken coop to check on our progress. “Oh, no!” I whispered, “What are we going to do??!” We were panicked because we knew that our Dad would find no humor in the smothering of 20 good laying hens. We were picking up the little heads on floppy necks and shaking them hoping they would somehow revive and save our backsides from the skinning we deserved.

It seemed like a movie with the camera cutting between Jim and I and our pile of lifeless chickens and to my Dad who was distractedly moseying down the path making his way to the coop. Just as he reached the door, those poor hens started to come to and were drunkenly getting to their feet, some of them staggering badly.

Dad asked us how it was going and we tried to act nonchalant as we picked up our gunnysacks and told him we had just finished. He commented that we had done that job much faster than he had expected we could and we told him some story about how we had run back and forth to make such good time. He just smiled and wandered back up to the house. Jim and I felt as wilted as those hens had been minutes before when we realized what a bullet we had dodged. We leaned against the wall of the coop for awhile and watched the chickens exploring their new home before we found the strength to make our way back to the house.

Theoretically, we learned something about doing the job right and not trying to take shortcuts, but in reality we probably just learned that we could cut corners if we were really lucky.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cows Aren't As Dumb as You Think

Everyone thinks cows are stupid, but since I was 16 I’ve known they were much brighter than people give them credit for being.

Every hot July day I think of my sixteenth summer when I discovered that cows had at least some intelligence. Our family had moved onto Main Street earlier that year to an old home with a large lot that ran behind Morris Mercantile. (I will Blog about that move some other time, there was some adventure involved in that.) My Mom planted a large garden in the lot behind the store and that July we had quite a few watermelons ripening on their vines. My brothers and I kept asking Mom if we could pick a watermelon and see if it was ripe yet and day after day she kept telling us they weren’t ready. We must have about pestered her to death with our appeals to eat watermelon from the garden. The Merc had a great variety of junk food and candy to purchase, but at our house you wouldn’t find treats in the cupboards. The best cereal we ever had was Raisin Bran, we usually had soaked whole wheat or Zoom for breakfast. We rarely had ice cream and never popsicles in the freezer. Cookies or other treats sitting around for snacking was unheard of in my Mother’s very healthy house. That made the ripening watermelons even more appealing to us three kids.

Finally one day in July or perhaps it was August, my Mom announced that the next day we could pick a watermelon and eat it. We went to beds that night dreaming about deep red, juicy watermelon flesh dripping with refreshing sweetness. I pictured us sitting under the trees in our yard enjoying the best summer treat known to mankind.

The next day as we got started with our chores (we still had a chicken coop full of chickens—that is part of the moving story I will share another time), suddenly a wail of anguish shattered the quiet morning air. Jim came running in shaking with anger. He was trying to tell us something, but could only gesture and jabber unintelligibly. He got us to follow him out to the garden where our beautiful watermelon patch was now nothing but a few teeth-marked rinds and hoof prints smashing the vines and leaves of the plants into juicy mud. The neighbor’s cows had pushed over the fence to get to our watermelons on the exact day they were ripe enough to eat. Those cows had been on the other side of the fence from our garden for months without making any attempt to break through, but somehow they knew when the watermelons would be at their most deliciousness and waited until the very day they were deemed to be ripe to break in and steal them. There has to be some intelligence involved to be that devious, that mean, that conniving.

I only lived in that house for a couple of years before going away to college, but I never looked at those cows on the other side of the fence in the same way. I always thought they were listening and learning and devising more dastardly schemes to make our lives miserable.

Years after college and living away from Hinckley I considered that it was very odd that you could live on Main Street and still have cows (very devious, watermelon eating cows) for neighbors.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Shades of Pink

About half of this day I spent working in my yard. I found joy and peace as I planted three new Hydranga bushes, pulled lots of weeds, trimmed and edged the lawn, swept out the garage, and watered, watered, watered.

The Hollyhocks are starting to bloom and I always marvel at how many shades of pink there are in this little corner of my yard. Hollyhocks remind me of my Mom. I remember when she planted some in our yard in Hinckly. She found a sheltered spot where the wind wouldn't blow them over and we planted seeds. I remember how they grew taller than me and sprouted blooms starting at the bottom of the spikes and going up. My Mom told me how when she was a little girl she used to pick Hollyhock blooms in her mother's garden and pretend they were dolls dressed in fancy ball gowns. Isn't if funny how you picture your parents as children living in a black and white world? I always did until my Mom told me that story.