Monday to Friday, I get to make my children breakfast and see them off to school.
We wait at the end of the driveway for the big yellow schoolbus.
So happens the gal driving the bus is part of a big local farming family. Missus took prom photos for them some years back.
That’s what it’s like in the country. Circumstances delightfully “repurpose” inhabitants as needed.
She waves as she pulls away.
The kids waste no time waiting for the bus. They climb snow banks and barns.
Right until I spot yellow approaching a quarter mile up the street. Then they re-assemble, don backpacks, ready to embark.
But on this day, Charlie finds a wounded Cottontail recovering from what must have been a harrowing night.
There’s blood on the rabbit’s ear as it sits immobilized by an old stove. Coyotes are all around us, lurking, occasionally at any hour of the day.
We hear their yapping most nights, often just outside our bedroom window. They are big and healthy lately, perhaps bolstered by a peak rabbit year.
We find their scat all over, and sometimes what little is left of their kills in the mornings.
For this lucky bunny, last night was no kill, just scat.
This is the day…
Last year the fox killed a dozen of our workers, including Little Dude.
As we gathered corpses and shored up defences, the boy found chicken tracks leading into the forest. The two children and I followed them through the brush, a little snow still on the ground helping us find our way.
The Ancient Forest beside us has numerous old structures left standing from previous tenants who had constructed a great paint ball battle ground. It was to these that little not-yet-named Sir Omelette had fled. Reaching the end of the tracks, the three of us puzzled at how they seemed to disappear, and we stopped and looked around. There, on a board nailed across two trees about four feet up, stood this little chicken, just a few inches high himself at the time, pacing back and forth, making worried sounds.
I grabbed him and handed him off to daughter, and she tucked him safely into the crook of her arm and jacket while cooing reassurances to the escapee.
Back in the chicken pen, he was released to grow up some more, ample food, protected, and that is what he did. By late spring, he looked increasingly like his old man, and crowed a hoarse rooster call each morning soon after.
Alas, while rebuilding the flock on behalf of the company, Sir Omelette sired two sons. One was a virtual twin, the other a mix with a red hen that daughter called Fire Feather. That she is reading the Warrior Cats series no doubt influenced her and equally without a doubt, Fire Feather is an entirely appropriate name.
The problem became three roosters. I have tried that before; it is too hard on the hens. I am convinced Granny, one of my favourite chickens over the years, was weakened by a pair of juvenile roosters After she died, I killed them both. I also culled Sir Omelette’s lookalike son last week, something that the children and I debated over breakfast for most of the month. Daughter has no loyalty to the Little Dude looks and prefers the fiery looking rust colours of Fire Feather.
The problem is soon after, Fire Feather and Sir Omelette suddenly became mortal enemies. Sir Omelette realized two of the younger hens were aligned with his son, and without his son’s brother there, it was the time to strike.
Only Fire Feather fought back. Both birds were covered in dirt and circled each other menacingly each time they got close. In just a day, Sir Omelette was blinded in one eye, blood visible on his little rooster face.
The boy suggested we quarantine Sir Omelette in his own yard, splitting the flock between the roosters. I asked him how that would work, who would build a box for him, that sort of thing. He reassured me, “I will dad, I’m a big boy now.” He had my ear. And there is a penned off area at the back where we sometimes had put a new chicken for a few days until the others get used to them. It has an old doghouse converted into chicken coop we use for such occasions.
I sent daughter out to let the chickens out by herself this morning. I could see through the window as she walked among them examining the results. She came back in and told me it looked like Sir Omelette was blind in both eyes. I suspected she was exaggerating but the problem was no less severe. She reported that Sir Omelette was likely beyond repair. “Do you mean I should put him down, Charlie?” I asked. She nodded, then suggested I find some sleeping medication and feed that to him until he just goes to sleep.
I put the kids on the school bus and Remington the dog and I went out to have a look. Sure enough, Sir Omelette was staggering around the pen, attempting to fight Fire Feather, mistaking hens for roosters while lurching to and fro. I snatched him up in my arms and he was gone in moments.
It’s not my favourite thing to do, that is for sure. I liked that rooster; I liked him a lot for the ordeal he had suffered and the bond we had in rescuing him.
Roosters are remarkable animals. Like adult human males, they contribute only a tiny amount of DNA to new chicks. While women are the burdened but precious creators of life, we men are the expendable males but powerful defenders of life. It is the rooster we hear when a fox or coyote comes near. I’ll know his alarm all the way to my office at the front of the house. It is the rooster whose loud calling brings attention to the Cooper’s Hawk who might be sitting in a tree overlooking the flock.
When I feed the birds, the rooster eats last. First, he will pick up pieces of bread and put them back down to show the hens where the food is, making a short “tuk-tuk-tuk” noise while he is at it. Once the hens have all had a chance at the treat, then he will take some himself.
There may be lessons learned in all of this. I am not sure. I had three crowing roosters a week ago, now I have one.
He was a fine bird, and I am hoping it gave his life purpose to serve here at Rooster Acres.
For a man, dying for a cause is honourable, while killing for a cause is sometimes necessary.
Goodbye Sir Omelette.
Three Blessings Exercise
It is a recommendation of mine that we do an After-Action Review of the day’s activities each night so that we can learn from our experiences and determine how to do better the next day.
You are either driven in life by your past or pulled forward by a compelling future.
This tells us we don’t want to get stuck punishing ourselves when things don’t go as planned in an never-ending game of retrospective second-guessing.
If only I did this, what if I did that, I should have done this and how could I have missed that? This is not very useful, especially just before bed.
What I like to do is focus squarely on what went right instead of what went wrong. This is in none of our temperaments for most of us are biased towards negativity, some more than others.
The good news is the nervous system (including your brain) is trained by experience.
You might arrive with an inborn temperament which leans towards doom and gloom but with practice, you can retrain your brain to focus on more positive things and therefore, relieve suffering.
The exercise the positive psychologists recommend is this:
Tonight, and every night for the next week just before you go to sleep, think of three things that went well that day and WHY they went well.
Doesn’t have to be big things.
Could be that you were glad there was Greek yoghurt left in the fridge to which you could add a teaspoon of organic granola and enjoy an evening snack under 125 calories.
It might be that you took a short cut home and saw a beautiful tree or shaved 15 minutes off your commute.
It could even be something like larger like you stood up to someone or handled a personal interaction that had the potential to go off the rails with finesse instead.
Answer at least one of these questions.
– Why did this good thing happen?
– What does it mean to me?
– How can I have more of this in my life?
Try that for seven days and let us know how it goes. If it works out well for you, why not adopt it as an end of day ritual on a permanent basis.
I’ve been doing it more or less for a few years. I also find it helps me focus on what is important the next day.
(Greek yoghurt is an occasional treat and not a mainstay of my diet, for example)
This exercise is what lifted my depression a few years ago when I was stuck in a job and desperate to get out, while my obligations to family had me feeling trapped.
A simple daily nudge in the right direction made all the difference and soon my whole model of the world shifted from gloom to BOOM!
I had developed critical optimism.
I began to follow what made me happy rather than tolerate what made me sad.
And here we are.
Invictus! true and free…
Christopher K Wallace
I remember it was about fifteen years ago that Holmes bought me a birthday present. It was an odd occasion frankly, as this was the first time that had happened.
As CEO (chicken executive officer) here at Rooster Acres, I am called upon to solve problems complex and mundane.
If exercising the brain promotes intellectual health, I won’t need any fancy pants training regimen—the usual: sleep, exercise, diet, plus trying to keep up with my children should do it.
The kids themselves are rabid learners. The way they take to anything new on their tablets reminds me of how the company head of security, Cocker Spaniel Remington Cabela, gobbles chicken tossed her way when I eat supper. You could say they set upon learning “like a dog on a bone,” as the old saying goes.
This morning, I converted game CDA music files to MP3 and loaded them onto a memory stick. I had skipped that lesson, so I did it on the fly. Now I have a desktop file just for the boy.
Last night, we loaded the files onto a stick but found out his chromebook wouldn’t play them.
The kid slept, holding the stick in his hands so as not to lose it. He has his own memory stick now: oh, the joy.
Before conducting this sensitive transfer, we stood in my office, him on my step stool, me beside him, and recited Invictus together.
I thank whatever Gods may be for my unconquerable soul…
This is the day…
Often, I wonder how my life might have unfolded without some of the women I’ve been blessed with knowing along my journey. To be sure, the opposite sex and I have had some bumps along the road but overall, my existence has been immensely enriched by their influence.
I could write a book about how, despite myself, the enduring feminine around me has helped me become a better man. That’s an interesting reverie, to imagine for each of them a chapter… about the things I could not see but were then revealed under the canny sorcery of the divine goddess. The problem with that daydream is that the book would be rather lengthy, and it may never end…
It has not ended, nor should it ever. No. Not at all.
It was long ago that I accepted we are not the same, and this has been the secret to my success. For by admitting we are different, the possibility of scorn is eliminated only to be replaced by awe. At least for me. I’m incapable of contempt for the oppositive sex as a group but reserve it for individuals of either gender. Like I said, I’m on a path to betterment… a long and winding road.
I suppose I have my four sisters to thank for that, especially my eldest sibling, my big sister.
Separated by three boys in a row coming after her of the nine charges under my mother’s care, she became Little Mother. This structural survival strategy adapted in aid of my mother’s ten pregnancies in twelve years overwhelm… probably cost sis a good part of a normal childhood.
Yet, unburdened by her mother’s more rigid shoulds, big sister could intuit revelatory answers unfettered by ultimate responsibility. She spoke truths to us as she saw them, her long-established authority clear, and I was often surprised by both her wisdom and her independence.
What she saw was not what I saw. No, not at all.
And so, it has been throughout my adult life as it was in my early years. With a long history of appreciation for the female confidant, it was surprising that one of them suggested I have a daughter so that I might understand women more.
I thought I knew enough about women. Apparently, I was wrong. How odd.
Almost eleven years ago along came Charlotte. I call her Charlie. The use of this diminutive was probably inevitable but the way I remember it a young gal whom I told about her arrival suggested it, saying, “Call her Charlie,” to which I replied, “I will,” and it stuck. I wished that young lady a happy birthday last week and she has grown from gangly teen to mature woman. I wonder if she remembers telling me that?
To be sure, I’ve been surrounded by feminine cheerleaders throughout adult life, most of them encouraging, all of them holding out the promise that I might be more. I’d reclaimed my masculine core by the time Charlie came along but here was this little one telling me in so many words and by her actions that my efforts oft-fell short, that it was still not enough. Oh no. How could this be?
The first really significant time was when I gave her an unopened box holding an extra toilet seat I had laying around the garage from a repair. I sent her off with a “gift” to open with her mother. She was delighted, such a big box in her delicate little hands, excitement on her face and in her step.
That she returned later forlornly to confront me caught me off-guard. “Why did you give me a potty-seat, daddy? I thought you were giving me a nice present and instead it was a potty-seat. No one wants a potty-seat daddy, that’s not a good present for a little girl…”
I was stopped in my tracks. I remember thinking, this must be what Miko had in mind, the audaciously prescient roommate who told me to have a daughter for my own good a few years prior.
In the circumstances that day in the garage, I sat Little Charlie down on the weightlifting bench beside me and apologized for my insensitivity. I told her I was playing a joke but could see how that was completely wrong-headed.
I’m sure I attempted redress with some sort of concessionary promise. Whatever it was I offered to make her whole I remember she accepted it with grace and forgave me.
Whew, dodged a bullet on that one. She was four.
I remember four. It was not like that for me. No. Not at all.
I’ve been a little in awe of her extra powers and have magnified my appreciation for the depth and scope of women even more than I had up to then since. I see it in missus every day too.
If I go somewhere with my woman and encounter other humans and speak of my experiences she will listen. At some point, a version of “Now do you want to know what was really going on?” will ensue, and she will tell me all manner of subtleties that went right by me.
Some of what I missed will no doubt be because I don’t particularly care to know that much about the social undercurrents swirling around me. Even more of what I miss leaves me scratching my head… a little slack-jawed for my ineptitude and limited or non-existent awareness.
Thus, it was that I arrived this week at my front window, mouse in hand.
Charlie has caught mice before. I remember last summer she had one in a cage and would reach in to pet the critter’s furry back. I sat there willing to let her find her own way. That day the mouse had at first let her have her way but then, in a flash was up her arm and with a three-foot spring off her and onto me and then the grass, disappeared. It was Mouse Parkour before our very eyes.
The look on her face held amazement for a moment then gave way to acceptance. I venture to say that she quickly became “philosophical” about that mouse’s tenure in her cage, one that has been host to red squirrels, chipmunks, voles, and a variety of short-term visiting mice.
I do not find it inconvenient to change directions on the lawnmower in summer when I cut a swath and see a mouse low to the ground zig zagging away as if it was being attacked by an enemy arial machine-gunner laying down deadly-fire in a line to the destruction of all below.
I don’t mind aiding and abetting its escape. No. Not at all.
You see mice are plentiful here. There’s no eradication program under way, no campaign to rid ourselves of their existence among us. We will set a few traps in the house come November and catch them at will. I’ve long since boarded up possible entry to my pantry cupboards.
Sometimes I find remnants of oiled sunflower seeds I put outside in feeders for our many flighted visitors, on the steps inside going down into the basement. I marvel how some little critter carried those fifty feet and then negotiated entry and then brought the meal up onto dry wood to feast.
But this one I found running away after a pass with the snowblower over two feet of snow. There it was scurrying to and fro while my son watched. I told him to catch it and he froze. It could have been it was minus 29C at the time, it might have been fear. I went after the little runner and to my surprise, soon had it gripped and well-protected in my big leather mitt.
I knew she was in the living room, so I appeared at her window in surprise. She was enchanted I thought, and so left the mouse on the sill and went back to work.
She later explained to me what happened in response to these pictures her ma took. “The mouse just stayed there, daddy. It was climbing the screen looking for where to go.”
So whilst I was snow blowing the rest of the driveway, she donned boots and jacket and heavy mitts. She pulled that mouse off the window and examined it carefully, petting it for posterity she told me.
“I put it in the cedar tree, daddy,” she told me.
“Oh, right there eh Charlie? I think that’s a good idea,” I answered.
There’s a bit of a well under that wide cedar and the mouse will have access to the ground and maybe some seeds to nibble on. She would have thought of that my little girl. There is no getting around her sensitivities, and these are far more precious than gold in so many ways.
“That little mouse just wants to live, daddy,” she replied with certainty.
“Yes, you are right,” I replied, oblivious to the obvious, taken with this simple truth.
Compared to today, our grandparents grew up and lived in times of far greater calamity. It’s worth comparing and keeping in mind.
Some little boys may hunt for curiousity or for conquest. Some don’t. My little guy is happy to let wildlife go its way.
My little girl hunts for care giving. She pets bees, you see.
She has a natural curiousity about all living things.
Maybe it was because of the time we walked the two hundred acres and a dragon fly alighted in her hair at the far end, just perfectly, like she was wearing a barrette.
Then, it was happy to hitch a ride with her all the way back home, never moving from the safety of her head until we were in the backyard with the pond in sight. Clearly, a highlight of her short life.
Daughter picks up spiders, you see. Snakes too, almost daily.
Last week, I saw she had my trap out over in the hedges baited with grass and pine cones, trying to catch a rabbit.
But, it’s the squirrels she’s been after most. A three year quest.
A few days ago, her chance finally came. She heard noises in the garage and suspected squirrel. I was summoned.
Women do that with me. If I’m not working for her ma, she’s putting me to work herself. I wonder where she got it?
Red Green said women like a man who is handy. No kidding…
Under daughter’s direction, I put on my welding gloves (in case) and went looking for the critter, confirming her suspicions while she bounced around delighted. “You might be right, Charlie,” I told her, as I removed another box to look inside..
Sure enough, a baby squirrel had fallen out of the insulation in the rafters, through the plastic vapour barrier and into our stored Halloween decorations high up on a shelf.
Illegal alien rules applied; detention was in order, she said. Well, she didn’t actually use those exact words but there was no doubt a version of “finders keepers” was in force.
Soon, I was also affixing a floor to her old beat up cage, and helping her find a way to attach a water supply. Into her fort the captive went, its cell made as luxurious as she could.
She named it Chocolate Chip. How perfect.
She knew about my friend Lynn, who had a rescued squirrel she named Nico, for over a decade. It had dropped out of the trees as she walked by and became her pet, She cried when it died.
After holding her caught squirrel for a few days, Charlie resisted all efforts, by her ma, urging she release the critter. Ma is her hero in many ways, a good mother and great model for love.
Yesterday, I had a chance to focus on the squirrel issue with daughter while I was in the yard doing a bunch of things.
I asked her how she was doing with her pet. She told me all about her adventure. I listened.
Finally, once she told me everything she had to tell me, I asked her, “Do you love that little squirrel Charlie?”
“I sure do, daddy,” she answered.
Over the last few days I’d mentioned that squirrels live in trees, their natural habitat. Squirrels and trees belong together.
We don’t see squirrels in a field. Nope. Always a tree to live in… with other squirrels, I mentioned casually.
So, I continued, “Charlie, if you really love that little squirrel, could you love it enough to let it go live in trees with other squirrels, with its family?”
She said no, not a chance.
I told her about sitting in front of the garden two days ago, in my old wooden seat where I like to sit, and hearing its mother above in the cherry tree, loudly scolding me.
The cherry tree is connected to the pine tree at the back of the garage where the breach into my rafters had obviously occurred.
“It’s up to you Charlie, you do what you think is right. I trust your judgment.” I was determined to say no more.
She looked pensive, and I could see the resistance on her face. Three years, that’s how long it took her to catch a squirrel, no small accomplishment.
I left it at that…
An hour or so later, this:
She brought Chocolate Chip to me. She had the watchful eye and familiarity of a caregiver with her little charge. She let me take her picture.
First, she stroked the little squirrel’s head, like a mom fixing a child’s hair before sending them off on the bus for the first day of school. Then, she confidently strode over to the pine.. and released it. Straining for a moment as she watched the critter scamper home up the trunk.
The dog joined in watching the critter climb high into the branches. Encouragement I told her it was, helping Chocolate Chip go home.
Then I hugged her and told her she did good.
We talked afterwards. She was philosophical, saying to me: “At least I got to know what it feels like to be a mom.”
Indeed, a glimpse of the Hero’s Journey.
Just like her ma.
Little girls: they teach men about love.
Stay powerful, never give up
©CKWallace, June 2020, all rights reserved