Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dressing Mrs. Davis

I'm a moron, and my animals pay for that. Today I let Annie out into the garden, after carefully shutting all guineas and chickens in the chicken yard. She's been really good lately, coming when called (even when pursuing a gopher) and passing right by chickens on our walks. I felt guilty that she spent most of her time inside, instead of out sniffing country smells and doing farm-dog things. Never mind that she comes from a long line of badger killers, and has personally terminated squirrels, kittens, mice, guineas, songbirds and more. Moron, like I said. Maybe she hypnotizes me with her sincere brown eyes.

So she's in the garden, running round and round after gopher scent. I'd forgotten that the cleanout door from chicken house to garden had come loose. Annie found it and was busily mauling guineas when I came back from starting the truck. One bird, blinking solemnly, was hanging by the neck from the bird netting over the chicken yard; three others were tangled in the stuff. One was on her back on the ground.

I yell obscenities while pawing at the gate latch, burst in, unhook Mrs. Davis from the evil toothy jaws, haul Annie off by the scruff, boost the hanging bird free with an elbow as we get out of there. I hustle to put Annie inside and get back out there and help everybody – and the fucking door latch is stuck. I pound on the door and after an eternity C. hears me and lets us in. I dump Annie and we go to the chicken yard to assess the slaughter.

I am such a moron.

Mrs. Davis is the worst, with tears on breast and thigh, and feathers ripped off down one side. She's sitting, stunned and bleeding. The bird on her back has a couple of puncture wounds on her wing and side, and some missing feathers. Everybody else seems OK. Angry and upset, but OK. The two chickens have gotten the hell out of Dodge. Chickens are pretty smart.

So that's how we end up in the bathroom, putting stitches in a polka-dot fowl. It's pretty horrible. C.'s hands are shaky as she pushes the big curved needle through guinea skin, which is surprisingly tough. I hold her on my lap, keeping her head tucked under my flannel shirt. I can't help but see childhood chicken dinners in Mrs. Davis's drumstick, her thigh muscles showing through the gash in her goose-pimply skin. We baste her with betadine, rub antibiotic ointment into her skin, close the gaping holes. C. says she has sewn up birds before – Thanksgiving turkeys, to keep the stuffing in. This is a little different.

I don't eat chicken any more.

She's our oldest guinea, the only one left of the first four – Mrs. Davis and her three daughters, the giant Connies. She's a royal purple, dusty purple with a polka-dot undercoat, and our only exotic guinea. She's a good bird, steady and industrious, but not over bright. She's often left buckWHEATing plaintively on the far side of a fence while the flock moves on. I hope she gets a chance to do more of that.

Several hours later, Mrs. Davis is still alive, sharing a darkened cage on the washer with victim No. 2. The electric heater is on and the room is toasty. If we can keep her from getting chilled or shocky or infected, she'll might make it. Injured birds are delicate, though.

I'm really sorry. I'm not speaking to Annie, but we all know who is responsible. That moron over there in my recliner.

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