Last night I was doing more research on sheep breeds. Emailing different farms for information. Contacted a wool shop. Got on a mailing list. Then I made a wrong turn and got on a blog. Thought I would just scan it a bit. As it turned out the blog owner had posted an excerpt from a book by a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The excerpt was about chicken butchering day. It was a bit wrenching to read. I don't know if I should say it was graphic. He hadn't gone over the top. He had simply been realistic.
The problem is , I like chickens. Well, I like chickens now. The first chickens that I ever met and which hung around in "real life" were some free rangers at Mac's parents house. They were the kind of chicken that would defiantly hop onto the hood of your car, cock their heads in that jerky chicken way they have, and crap on your waxed finish. They were huge birds! and their last act of defiance was when you tried to eat the meat from the bone. It simply could not be pulled away without the wrenching of the jaw and a low growl. They were the kind of bird that made you glad they ended up in the skillet.
Then, I farm sat for a friend. Everyday I went into their little pen and checked the water, the feeder and the grit. Looked for eggs. Checked the girls for pecking. One chicken, who had been accused of being the pecking bully, had been put on a leash. She kept getting the twine wrapped around her leg. So morning and night, I would pick her up and give her a pet and unwrap the twine. Made sure there was a feeder and water close to her so she would not go without when she had herself tangled up again. Then I would go out to where some of the grass was tall at the edge of the yard, and pull grass for them. They were ecstatic. Each day I would pull more for them. They would always have it gone when I came back. These chickens, well, these chickens I could like.
Then last night I read about putting very likable chickens into someone's arms for the last time. Holding them upside down until brain endorphins kicked in and made them naturally groggy. Then slicing their wee heads off. It gave me pause. But if we are going to talk about the reality of the moment then the entire reality is this... every chicken ever born is going to be eaten. It might be an owl, a hawk, a coyote, a fox, a pig factory or, it could possibly be me. Some will sit at their sunday dinner and think God for this provision, but when I hold that bird in my arms for the last time, I think I want to thank her instead. I want to tell her that I did my best to give her a good life, to make her safe, to provide for her, to give her grass. I need to thank her for feeding the life within me and Mac and my children and grandchildren.
That's the reality I chose.