I am bone tired. Cross-eyed tired. It’s light at 5:00 am and not dark ’til 9:30 pm, we do 3 shifts of work a day, and my feet ache. I am upstairs on the computer when the Bearded One comes in the door and says, “Anna caught a mouse.”
At first I think, Who is Anna? Then I think of our twenty-something son who is downstairs in the den, right below me, as he recovers from knee surgery. I’m the chief caregiver and it’s been a long, rough day. The patient mutters in his drug-induced sleep.
I whisper down to the Bearded One at the top of my lungs, “Anna?” I realize as I say the word that he means Anna the Chicken, our golden Wyandotte hen. Four of the hens are named for our son’s girlfriends from Kindergarten (Kimber), Junior High (Danielle), and High School (Leah and then Anna). “Yes, Anna,” he says.
“A mouse?” I’m a bit slow this afternoon.
I’ve been up and down the stairs 6,000 times and am exhausted.
The sun has been shining gloriously all weekend, and the house is hot.
The Bearded One has been up and down the ladder 6,000 times as he constructs the tent roof of the meat bird pen — the meat chickens will be here in 4 weeks — and he limps a little.
“Danielle is sick with jealousy,” says the Bearded One now. He is surprisingly energetic. “She’s chasing Anna and trying to steal the mouse.”
The patient is silent through all of this. I am trying to picture a chicken catching a mouse, and feel a tiny gray flash of energy. I toss off my fatigue like a cape, grab the camera, which stays under the computer screen, and head down the stairs.
All the hens are in the lower pasture, and sure enough, there is Anna by the fence with a tiny gray mouse hanging from her beak. It looks dead.
And there is Danielle, the silver Wyandotte, angling for the prize. I take a picture, and then the camera has to think for a few seconds before the next shot, giving me time to see that all 10 hens are present. Meaning that no broody banties are sitting all day in the nesting boxes. This is very good news, and I greet them all.
While I’ve been icing our son’s knee every 15 minutes, four 15-minute icings in all, requiring many wrappings and unwrappings of ace bandages, repositioning of pillows, and rolling the patient’s quadriceps with a quart canning jar…the Bearded One has made a luxurious confinement cage, or Broody Box, for our 3 stubbornly broody banty hens.
The time-tested, less-severe treatments of dunking in cold water and repeated removals from the nest weren’t fazing them. But just one night in the spacious, 2’x2’x5′ asylum cured two of them. Stevie took 2 days and nights. The box’s bottom is wire to let air finally get to the hot, self-plucked breasts and snap them out of the incessant, exhausting drive to nest.
I try for another picture of Anna, but she turns away. I reposition and try again and notice that the mouse is … gone. She must have dropped it. I scan the ground for the body and see nothing. I look back at Anna and the nearby hens. No mouse. Was it alive? Has it escaped? Maybe it was just exhausted. It sure looked dead to me.
I study the bottom of the lower pasture where we’ve dumped barn straw for the chickens to turn into compost — an idea we got down in Texas. I see no mouse body and zillions of places to hide. I’m glad that I’ve got at least one picture — justifying this crazy burst of energy that propelled my worn-out body out of the house like a human cannon ball.
The goats come stampeding down the hill now, a bit late. Sage’s dreadlocks drip from his shoulders. He looks like I feel.
Back at the house, the patient is still zonked. I tell the Bearded One the story of the disappearing mouse, theorizing that it was playing possum and has now escaped. He is profoundly skeptical. “Looked dead to me, too,” he says.
“It’s amazing, though,” I say, “a chicken catching a mouse.”
“Garfield won’t have to carry the load all alone anymore,” says the Bearded One, and we head upstairs for a nap.