Killing With Kindness

July 15, 2009

Citygirlfriend, Cgf, came down to the farm Friday night.  Weekends on the farm can range from sublime, (check out Ulla’s picture and post at “Goldilocks finds Manhattan”), to sordid, (check out Bob’s post at “Stonybrook Farm”).  My “Fourth of July” weekend was alive.

Cgf and her Ex have an arrangement where they alternate staying with the boys, (we will call them Shepherd and Gameboy).  Shepherd is seven and loves animals.  Gameboy is four and loves sports.

Because the parent’s shuttle between homes and the kids stay put, the kids have more stability in their lives than they would otherwise.  Ex and I get along well.

After an egg and hamburger breakfast Saturday morning, I left Cgf to writing and reading and did my chores, taking care of all my birds and animals.  I had related to Cgf how important chores are to me, especially chores with animals. 

Cgf thought Shepherd might benefit from chores and she implemented a chore list for him.  There is a poster on the wall of their home with many pictures, each showing Shepherd doing a chore.  He checks off each chore every day after he completes it.  Most of his chores involve taking care of his pets.  He is really happy doing his chores, just like me.

After chores, I talked with Dad about our day.  We didn’t want to do much because it was the “Fourth”, and we had afternoon plans.  I wanted help fixing a fence.  Dad wanted help picking cherries.  We compromised and did both.

Cgf called me on my cell as I was finishing picking cherries.  She wanted to know when I would be back.  I asked her to hold on.  I would be back in ten minutes and we could run the hill.

Cgf is the first girlfriend that can keep up with me physically.  We hike and run.  A huge hill leads up to my driveway.  We like to do hill repeats.

We warmed up and then did a couple of hill repeats, finishing by running to my parent’s house.  Mom had invited us for coffee.  So we sweated, visited, and had coffee and coffeecake.

My parents were going to a birthday party.  We were going to a “pig roast”.  A former high-school shopteacher of mine was having a retirement party.  He advertised in the local paper.  His P.S. in the ad., “P.S. If you need an invite, stay the hell away”, made me want to find time to attend.

We parked in a horse pasture near a large tent.  Cgf was amazed to see a whole hog being carved and rows of well-behaved Amish children sitting silently at picnic tables, happily eating.  Cgf was amused to meet a woman who had been my date to the “homecoming dance” more than twenty years ago.  After a meal and well-wishes for the man of honor, I drove Cgf home.

We had started a project with Shepherd three weeks earlier.  I borrowed an incubator from a friend and set up Shepherd with 18 eggs.  He had to monitor the temperature and humidity and turn the eggs morning and night.

Cgf helped Shepherd throughout the entire project.  She seriously doubted a successful outcome, though.  Watching Shepherd turn the eggs morning and night with no visible change was too much for her faith to overcome.

“I have to tell you.  I don’t think any of those eggs are going to hatch,” she said. 

Cgf prepared Shepherd for total failure.  I, however, remained optimistic and planned to set up a chick brooder in their garage for all the chicks that would hatch.

The chicks were due to hatch Sunday, but there is always variance in nature and I anticipated someone starting on Saturday.

After a quick hello to Ex and the boys, Cgf, Shepherd, and I raced down to the basement to look at the eggs.  All was still in the incubator.

“See, I told you,” Cgf said. 

Cgf and Shepherd left the room and I shut the door.  Quiet, I wanted to look again.  And I heard chirping and a little pecking noise.

“Shepherd, you might want to come back down here,” I yelled.  Shepherd and Cgf came back into the room.

“Now there’s nothing to see.  But if you are quiet you might hear something,” I said.

They put their ears down close to the incubator and quieted themselves for a moment.  And then they couldn’t be quiet any longer as Cgf called for Gameboy and Shepherd called for his Dad to come and listen.

Everyone was smiling.

Fifteen chicks struggled out of their shells over the next 24 hours.  After allowing the chicks to dry off in the 100 degree heat of the incubator, Shepherd and Cgf moved twelve chicks over to the brooder I had set up in the garage.

Two of the chicks died almost immediately after hatching.  One of the chicks was weak and struggling to walk.  Shepherd instinctively knew he didn’t want to put the weak chick with his healthy chicks.  Cgf called and asked me what to do. 

“Shepherd is right.  You need to put the chick down,” I said.

“Put the chick down?  Put the chick down!  Put the chick down?” Cgf tends to repeat herself when stimulated.

“Shepherd wants to put the chick out in the yard,” Cgf said.

“No,” I said.  “That’s just shirking his responsibility.  He needs to take care of this.”

“I’ll call you back,” Cgf said.

“Shepherd understands the chick needs to be put down.  But he can’t do it,” Cgf said.

“Can you do it?” I asked.  “Because I can drive up there if you need me to.”

“I think I can,” Cgf answered.  “What do I need to do?”

“You need to smash the head or break the neck.”

“What?  What!  What?” Cgf exclaimed.

“The best way is to smash the brain so that suffering is stopped,” I said.  “You could put the chick between pieces of cardboard and step on it so you don’t have to look at it.  Do you want me to come up there?”

“No, no, I can do it,” Cgf said.

As Cgf was preparing to euthanize the chick, the housekeeper, (Lilly), came and asked what she was doing.

“No, you can’t kill this chick,” Lilly said with tears streaming down her face.  That made Cgf cry and the job was put on hold.

Lilly called her husband to ask what should be done.  Lilly’s husband just happened to be a former owner in a chicken hatchery in Peru.  Lilly’s husband told her to bring the chick to him and he would kill it.

That answer didn’t suit Lilly so she called “Animal Rescue Services”.

“Yes, we can come and pick up the chick.  But it will take us a little while.  You should feed it a sugar solution now,” the dispatcher from “Animal Rescue Services” told Lilly.

Lilly prepared a sugar solution and fed it to the chick as instructed.  The chick promptly fell into a diabetic coma and died.