Last night, in the middle of a fitful sleep, I was awoken by a memory and urged (by my muse?) to write it down. It’s the memory of an event that happened when I lived in Dixon, New Mexico, some years ago – a seemingly small event, perhaps, but the heartbreak of it resonates right now.
Dixon is a charming little farming community located in a fertile valley just south of Taos. I’d bought a small house – my “dream house,” I thought then – with over an acre of land on which I’d planted a large vegetable garden, a lavender field, and a long, lush raspberry patch. Friends visiting from New York labeled the place my “farmette.” I even raised chickens – not to kill and eat, of course, but rather as companionable pets.
This whole scene was a dream-come-true for me. I hadn’t grown up on a farm. I grew up in suburban northern New Jersey, and our back yard was only slightly larger than a badminton court. Chickens, for me then, were only found in packages – skinned and cut up – in the meat department of our local Acme supermarket. I never knew a chicken in the feathered flesh.
So while in Dixon, basking in the back-to-earth-ness of my new lifestyle in the early 2000s, I got some adorable baby chicks. And I promptly adored them. I put them in a large cardboard box, fitted with a warming lamp, and kept them close to my bed in the house. I talked to them, petted them, cuddled them, fed them and protected them from my territorial indoor cat, Blue, until they were old enough and strong enough to live outdoors.
I had a nice man make a henhouse for them, and I put their new house inside a large, dog-run type of enclosure made of chain-link fencing, next to my house. They were happy. They were secure.
I didn’t give them individual names – because they were all red hens who looked exactly alike. I called them all “Chickie-Chickie-Chick,” and each of them answered to that.
Even as adults they let me hold them and pet them as if they were puppies, instead of “just” barnyard animals. When I stretched out on a chaise lounge on my deck to read a book, they hopped up on my legs to perch, as if I were a tree. When I let them roam in the front field and then needed them to come home before dark, I stood on my deck and called their collective name, “Chickie-Chickie-Chick!” waving a corn tortilla as if it were the setting sun. And they’d come running, excitedly, wobblingly, toward me, across the field and toward our respective houses. Corn tortillas and fresh corn on the cob were their favorite treats.
This went on for a long while.
Then one night, in the middle of the night, I was awoken by a commotion in the chickens’ pen. What could it be? I wondered. A bear? A coyote? These were possibilities. My house was near woods where such hungry predators passed through.
I turned on my front light. Saw nothing. I listened for more noise. None. I went back to bed.
But the next morning I saw the devastation: A weasel had burrowed beneath the secure fencing and up into the hens’ area and slaughtered them all. He hadn’t eaten them; oh, no, his goal was just to kill, for the sport of it, it appeared. My beloved chickens’ broken, bloody necks and limp, red-feathered bodies were strewn all over the pen.
I was numb with an overload of emotion. I couldn’t speak for three days. My “dream house” had, overnight, become a nightmare. Not long after this incident, I decided to sell the house and move away. I moved to the town of Taos, where chickens were not a possibility for me.
It seems that the results of the presidential election this week have brought this memory back because the grief that I’m feeling over the senselessness and horror of it feels the same. I and millions of other Americans were so convinced on Monday that love would trump hate. Instead, late in the night after Tuesday’s election results were tallied, I was reminded of the ugly truth that sometimes weasels win.
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