Getting Chickens—And a Little More
With two 12-year-olds and a giant dog cage in my small Toyota, I drove along the dirt roads in Woodbury, in search of the woman who said she had chickens. "Ignore the No Trespassing sign at the foot of the driveway", she told me. "That’s only for burglars." The terrain in that part of Woodbury rises and falls with bendy dirt roads and homes cupped in hillsides, threaded through with clear running streams and glacier-carved ponds.
Nearly dusk in warm mid-May, a woman in black barn boots stood outside, waiting for us. The girls eyed the chickens, muttering and stepping slowly toward the two coops. The woman showed the girls her downy chicks cheeping in an aluminum horse trough, and then we went inside. Her floor was laid with flat slate she and her sons had gathered. While the girls waited quietly, the woman and I talked about her family who had lived in the surrounding towns since before the Revolutionary War. She showed us a photograph on the wall of her distant relative in a Civil War uniform with his wife, who must have had native blood. "I didn’t care," she said, "when I was younger about all this history, but I do now. I’m going back to the old ways."
She was one of my people, a small woman. Standing, we were eye-to-eye. I sensed the girls getting antsy for the chickens, but they were quiet yet, saying nothing. This woman had raised three sons alone in a mobile home on this property, and then built a house about the time the boys moved on and began their own families. She had cleverly cut a deal with her deadbeat ex-husband, for more land instead of child support arrears.
The girls rubbed her affectionate black lab. I stood listening to the unexpected bends of her life, to her story of an autoimmune disease and the loss of a job. The chickens, she said, saved her life. Began her on a new track.
In the descending gloaming, we walked behind the coops to her new bees’ white hive. For a moment I guessed she would offer to take us further, up that steep hillside I admired where she and her sons had cleared a field.
But the girls edged toward the chickens. The hens muttered, stepping slowly into their houses for the night. We took four, driving out through the sound of the clattering peepers.