Memories of beasts gone by

I WAS AWAKE before 6 this morning and listening to the chickens.

I have a history with chickens.

The poultry next door are the most recent. Around 6 or so, they begin to wake up and converse. It’s not the rooster, which has a distinctive morning call. No, it’s the hens, which also explains the constant chatter from their apple tree roost.

I was born in Atlanta, but I’ve hardly ever lived there. My parents and my sister lived in Atlanta for decades, but not me. When I was about six months old, we left Atlanta and headed to my maternal grandparents’ 500-acre farm in Southwest Georgia between the towns of Sylvester and Albany.

In later decades my parents and my sister returned to Atlanta, but I never went back except to visit. It’s a beautiful city, especially in the Fall.

Among the Herefords, rabbits and cats on the farm (we never messed with pigs and there was just one dog. I’ll get to him later) there were chickens, about 2,000 of them at one time.

The chickens were my father’s doing. He intended to make a living off chickens while becoming a famous writer. Neither of those notions panned out.

One dark summer night in Georgia, a large chunk of those 2,000 chickens was stolen. I remember Sheriff Andy and Deputy Fife standing in the kitchen the following morning. We never did get those chickens back.

New ImageDuring those chicken days, my father would give me baby chicks that he figured were not going to survive.  You read that right. My father gave me dying chicks as pets, and they did. Die, that is.

But I played nursemaid with each for a few days, keeping them in shoeboxes. They didn’t look ill to me when I got them. But they always died.

On that farm, we raised rabbits for profit, but my sister and I had one rabbit we considered a pet. We named him Rusty due to his color. One afternoon at dinner, as we were finishing up, it came out that we had just eaten Rusty.

I’ve written about some of these events, years ago, so it may sound familiar.

There was a dog on the farm too. He was named Pepper. He was a frisky, middle-sized dog of unknown mongrel heritage, and the only (almost) dog my sister and I ever were allowed to have.

Pepper was still there when we left the farm after six years. We then saw him only during our frequent visits up from Florida.

For First Grade I went to a Catholic school in Albany, even though we were not Catholics. Between First and Second grades, we abandoned farm life — chickens, cats*, Pepper, rabbits, Herefords — and moved to Jacksonville, Florida.

I never lived in proximity to poultry again. Till now.

The neighbors’ apple tree in which they roost abuts the property wall, and the chickens on occasion jump down to our yard and walk around. I’m not fond of this because chickens are nasty animals, and then there’s the poop.

But their visits are short, and they’re capable of the brief flight back to the apple tree, back to their own home where they belong.

Especially when I shoo them!

And every morning they greet dawn with chatter, reminding me that I once lived with their ancestors, thousands of the bloody things.

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* Sometimes there were up to 25 cats!

Why blacks riot

GREAT VIDEO addresses one of the main challenges of multicultural America today: the black underclass.

And that class’s tendency to run amok in the streets. It’s not because of  police brutality or racism.

Guts wuz robbed!

GutsGUTS THE DOG was stolen from outside my sister-in-law’s business a few days ago. This did not surprise me since he’s a cute and valuable pooch. After his extensive bath and haircut, it became obvious that he is a pure-bred fellow with a pedigree.

But two days after the robbery, he came wandering home with a string around his neck, which he obviously broke to flee his captors. So all is well, but I imagine his return will be temporary because he is still allowed to sit outside unsupervised. It’s like putting a 1,000-peso bill on the sidewalk.

Guts’ return reminded me of my mini-parrot named Tube Steak who likewise returned home after a few days on the lam. Tube Steak had not been stolen. He simply escaped because a cat entered the apartment through an open window, upended Tube Steak’s cage, and the bird hightailed it out that same window.

Tube Steak was quicker than the cat.

This adventure took place years ago between one of my many marriages — I forget which — and I was living solo in the French Quarter of New Orleans in a tiny studio apartment, a section of what is known as Slave Quarters. Please forgive me for the word slave because I know so many of you find it dreadfully offensive.

I promise not to utter it again in this post.

That (word omitted) apartment consisted of one small room, a tiny bathroom and a minuscule kitchen. It was in that kitchen that I left the window open one day while I was toiling at The Times-Picayune — or maybe it was the earlier and now-defunct States-Item. I forget which. The mind wanders.

tube steakI came home that afternoon, found the cage upended and the window open, and put 2 and 2 together. There were no feathers on the floor, so I figured Tube Steak had escaped instead of being devoured. Distraught, I put the cage in the closet and figured I was short one pretty bird.

Less than a week later, on my day off, I was sprawled — with a highball — on the bed, which sat just inside the open door with romantic New Orleans jalousies. It was late afternoon.

Past the door was a small balcony overlooking a lush, enclosed courtyard I shared with neighbors. Perhaps there were some leftover oyster shells out there. I occasionally bought burlap bags of oysters, which I cracked open and ate raw with my friends and Dixie beer.

Tube Steak came walking through the door. Not flying, mind you, but strolling with that attitude of his. Imagine my surprise. I jumped up, pulled the cage from the closet and returned my pal to his proper place.

And that’s all I recall. It’s been a long time. I vaguely remember giving Tube Steak away as a gift to a girlfriend later on, but don’t hold me to that. But I’ll never forget Tube Steak’s return and his jaunty entrance through the open doors with romantic New Orleans jalousies, in from the courtyard. It was a happy homecoming.

Just like the return of Guts from a Mexican cobblestone street.

* * * *

(Two earlier posts on Guts, in proper sequence, can be found here and here.)