Monday, February 21, 2011

Ruth Demarest Godfrey: Cluck, Cluck and Doodle Doo

Photo by Melisdramatic @ Creative Commons
During a trip to New Jersey to visit friends and family, following the death of Harrison, I met a man whom I had previously known slightly.  My status, however, had changed since I knew him before and he was quick to make his move.  Things progressed from casual to eager and soon Ted was planning a visit to my home in Vermont. 
   Here you need a little background on Ted to explain some of his ideas.  He was a city-bred man, who arrived in Vermont with many city-bred ideas about how to live in the country.  He was gentlemanly, handsome, well read and well traveled, always courteous and thoughtful.  I can still envisage him on that first visit, sitting bolt upright in the back seat of my friend’s car, looking all around. “ See all that land around the house!”  he may have been thinking.  I think he started thinking about how to put that extra land to use as soon as he saw it. The idea that I just wanted it to be there, empty, escaped his city-bred consciousness. 
   The arrival was not without its interesting aspects.  My little white Lhasa Apso, seeing the arrival of the car, made haste to return to the house.  However, Dalai had been on a little foray around the edges of the lawn and had apparently come upon something of a very malodorous nature, and she arrived at the steps simultaneously with my guests, completely covered in something very smelly.  After a very quick hello, I grabbed her up and immediately took her into the bathroom, where I gave her a bath.  I did not want to have my fastidious friends making her acquaintance when she was in such a condition.  Coming out of  my bathroom with my very clean little dog, I was greeted with the news that Ted’s clothing was completely saturated with the odor of 711 cologne, it having spilled in his suitcase.  My second post-arrival task was to take all of Ted’s clothing and throw it in the washer.  Only then was I able to issue a polite greeting.
   After that first visit Ted came to see me frequently. When he saw that I had a deck in the back, he decided that would be a wonderful place to put a hot tub.  He had never seen Vermont in mid winter.  I pointed out the impracticalities of a hot tub outside.  He still thought it would be a lot of fun to leap through the snow and into the tub, where a social time could be had by all.  He asked me if I thought my relatives and friends would object to going naked into the tub,  I told him I thought some of them  might not object to the nudity, although I didn’t know any such, but I thought they would all object to plowing through snow naked to get to the tub.  After a discussion of the pros and cons of the idea, Ted abandoned it.
   Another idea that occurred to Ted, by now my husband, was that we should have a cow because they were so cute and friendly and would look so nice grazing.  In succession, he suggested getting a horse, some goats, and some sheep.  Each time I repeated the information that there wouild need to be a barn.  “I could easily build one,” said Ted, with a cavalier disregared for the fact that, sweet as he was, he could not have built anything at all.  I was able to fend off the livestock until poultry came up.

   When Ted was growing up in Charleston, S.C., the family had some chickens in the back yard.  He loved them and they became his playmates Therefore, when he happened to be at our neighbor’s house and overheard some plans to give their rooster to another neighbor for his stew pot, it was too much for a Ted, who offered to give the rooster a home to save him.  He brought him home and there he was.  He was a very feisty rooster and I hated him a lot, but I loved Ted and thought I needed to let him have his fun.  Little did I know how that fun would escalate!
   Some time after the rooster moved to our yard, we went to a political rally at the home of someone who lived nearby.  As luck would have it, we met there a woman with her daughter and her daughter’s pet goose. The goose was on a leash, but the dogs who came along to the meeting terrified the goose, so the daughter picked him up, where he proceeded to nestle his long neck into her neck.  Ted was entranced.  He started conversing with the woman and learned that she had quite a lot of poultry.  He told her of his recent acquisition of a rooster and she persuaded him that he should have some hens to make the rooster truly happy.  I did not want him to be truly happy, in fact I hoped he would die of loneliness, but Ted did, and soon the woman arrived at our house with three hens, which he gave to Ted as a gift.
    Apparently he had charmed her. I reluctantly allowed Ted to keep them. They were terrible. As long as  they spent their time clucking and wandering around at a distance from the house, I could tolerate them, but one day I saw them come onto the front porch. Looking out the door, I saw that they were leaving little piles of manure on my porch.  I wasn’t pleased and rather pointedly told Ted that he had to get out there and clean the porch, and that he would have to figure a way to keep them away from the house.  Of course, this necessitated the building of a house for them, which Ted engaged a friend to build. After it was built it was dragged down the road and put in place beside the tractor shed. Then Ted found someone to run electricity out to the henhouse, and had some water piped out there. It was hen heaven.  The rooster saw Ted as a threat to his harem and tried to kill him every time he came near. He would launch humself off the ground and go for Ted’s face. Ted was terrified. One day the rooster got on our rear deck. When I saw him there, I was enraged and determined that since he was small and I was large, in addition to being a human being, that rooster would get off that deck. I grabbed a baby gate that we used to keep our puppy in the kitchen, and a ski pole.  Using them as a red cape and a sword, I made like a bull fighter, and edged that damned rooster off the deck with loud, angry words (not
“ole!!) He left. After the hens started to lay eggs, one night in winter, Ted told me that  the rooster would not “let him” get the eggs out of the nests.  I was cozily settled in my bathrobe and slippers.  Once again, my mindset returned to the one I had when I chased him off the deck. That beast was not going to get the better of me. I put on my boots and coat and out I went. This time I had no weapon and was mad enough so that I was able to rely on loud threats to persuade the rooster to let me into the henhouse to get the eggs. Ted thought the rooster was easier on me because he did not regartd me as such a threat to his ladies, since I was female!
   One day when I had somewhere to go, Ted told me that he was going to attend a poultry fair nearby.  “Don’t even think of coming home with anything!” I said threateningly.  He said he wouldn’t.  When we both arrived home later in the day, Ted said he had a good time at the fair, and I started to prepare our dinner.  After a while he went out to his car and came back in with a large box that said “Chiquita Bananas” on it.  Before I got to asking him what was in the box, I happened to see four webbed feet sticking out of the bottom of the box.  He had bought two ducks!
    I don’t remember when or where we acquired a bantam rooster.  He was the only one of the whole bunch I didn’t hate.  I didn’t know why I liked him, but I did.  He wasn’t fierce and he caused no trouble.  I liked his cheerful little crow in the morning.  
   When our friend died in Hew Jersey, we went down and Ted asked the lady who had given him the hens to keep our poultry for us while we were gone.  We just never went after them. Ted never brought up the subject of poultry again!  We finally managed to give our really expensive henhouse away.

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