Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fixing government woes with chickens

original run date April 10, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

I don’t follow a lot of politics, but the recent laws wanting to restrict farm kids from being able to work on the family farm really baffles me. Some of the most important lessons I ever learned were as a farm kid. I would think since the government is looking to hire the next generation at some point, they would want employees that have learned the lessons farm kids learn by working on the family farm.
Doing chores everyday instilled work ethic into my young mind. I didn’t mind most chores except for those stupid chickens. I hated the laying hens with a passion. I couldn’t leave eggs lying under the roost just because I didn’t want to crawl through the droppings. Not to mention, if you left to many eggs behind, other critters would come eat both the eggs and chickens. I didn’t mind so much when chickens became dinner for other creatures but it tended to upset Mom.
I despised having to get the “sitting” hens off the nest of eggs they were so closely guarding. They were determined to turn that egg into a baby - I was determined to turn it into either breakfast or noodles. I had a special stick that I kept at the door of the chicken coop that was tailor made for those feathered beasts. I’d poke at them and they would peck at me everyday.
I always won the initial battle. They usually won the war though since they would attack me as I was leaving. I did get the last laugh though. Since we never kept roosters around, they were never going to get that baby anyway.
My family will vouch for the fact that I loved all animals except for those stupid chickens. I got in trouble more than once for finding the barn cats new litter of kittens and taming them down. I was notorious for picking either a fat hog or a calf out of the lot as a pet. Then I would bawl hysterically when they were hauled off to the packing plant. But when it came to the chickens, I could care less. That attitude led me to one of the worst butt whippings of my life. The physical pain was no big deal. The pain of knowing who administered it left a lasting impression.
After one particularly brutal attack, I decided the chickens had to go. I devised a brilliant plan to get rid of all of them so I would never again have to collect another egg from a psychopathic chicken. I was going to kill them. I was probably about eight years old and in my mind, my plan was brilliant.
I decided if the chickens didn’t eat, they would die. That should fix the problem. Yes, looking back, I realize this was a cruel way to end my misery but don’t panic - it didn’t take long for my plan to backfire.
 Apparently, the day I decided to put my plan into action, I was a little to enthusiastic. My oldest brother, John Darold, noticed my enthusiasm as I grabbed the feed bucket and headed out to do chores. Since the whole family knew how much I hated those chickens, he decided to stalk me to find out why I was uncharacteristically happy about gathering eggs.
I made my way to the bin  for the mandatory bucket of corn. I thought I was putting on an Oscar worthy performance. I ran my hands through the corn as if filling the bucket to the rim. I failed to factor in the lack of sound effects confirming the corn actually going into the bucket. Add to that my trip to the coop with the bucking swinging like an Easter basket full of fake grass and my Oscar performance took a nosedive.
I picked up my chicken poking, get even stick as I opened the door and made my way in. I thought I was home free. A few days of no food and those chickens would be coyote bait and I would never again feel the pain of a beak in my hand.
John Darold caught me coming out the door of the coop, singing a happy song. He turned me around and pointed out the lack of corn in the feeders. Let’s just say, my tall tale that followed convinced him not to waste his time delivering me to Mom. He took care of the situation himself. The pain I felt had nothing to do with his hand connecting with my butt cheeks. It did break my heart that my best friend in the world decided it was something he had to do.
The lessons I learned that day still carry with me both in my personal life and at work. First, most of the time it is faster and less painful to just do those daily chores whether at home or on the job and get them over with quickly. It takes a lot more time and effort to concoct plans to get out of something than it does to just do it.
Second, starving the enemy never works. Interacting with the people you live and work with everyday is critical to good relationships. Administering the silent treatment just comes back to haunt you in the end. Maintaining good relationships takes effort but the rewards are great.
The most important lesson I learned that day was to not do things that will disappoint those you “live” with on a daily basis. Respect is a powerful emotion, even if it is for nothing more than a chicken. I didn’t have to like the chickens to respect them and the power their beaks carried. I didn’t want to respect John Darold for doing what he did but as I grew up and entered the world of work and had kids of my own, I knew he did me a favor that day.
 Maybe our current government officials looking to restrict farm kids from working on the family farm need a chicken coop in their backyard. Instilling a little work ethic in their daily grind and getting holes pecked in their hands as they gather breakfast might just put some common sense back into the laws they make. If that doesn’t work, I vote we send John Darold to Washington to straighten them out!

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