We have been moose hunting a lot, which really means sitting very quietly for many hours in beautiful places, silently watching and listening, and after a while, sometimes napping and reading. I finished 2 1/2 novels, and an entire New Yorker, and a bunch of short stories by Amy Hempel and Stuart Dybek, since I am going to introduce them Sunday afternoon at the first event in Alaska Quarterly Review’s 4Oth anniversary series. It’s free, and runs through April. Check it out. (I have a very small part. It’s about the writers and their work, not me or mine.)
We came home for a few nights in between hunts, mainly because Chip had to go to work at the lumberyard (“Somebody needs to make some money to feed these dogs” he says.)
And one of those mornings, as I let the dogs out, a chicken hopped the coop fence. It is electrified, so she was afraid to flap back up and bump into it. Trixie and Pearl ran toward her and she dashed straight through the open door behind me and up the stairs. I locked the dogs out and went inside (in my rain gear and boots. I mean, it seemed silly to kick them off since I’d have to move quickly once I caught her.) I clucked and called and spoke softly and tip-toed up through the house, but she was gone. Silence. No squawk, no fluttering, no nothing. Was she dead? Could it be fright? Had Trixie bit her?
I didn’t think so.
I looked behind doors, under beds, in the shower. Up high on book cases, in closets, below night stands. On the bunk beds. No chicken. So I swept through each room, and then shut the door, to prevent her from running into a room I’d just exited, like a Marx brothers movie. But I suspected it, and did double check a few times. No hen. No feathers even. No poop either, so that’s good. The only hiding places remaining were the stair landing where my office is, and the downstairs, which is all open except for the bathroom and mudroom. I couldn’t find her in my office, she was neither high nor low, so I checked under the couch, on all the shelves in the living room, and in back of Chip’s chair and even the TV.
She had to be in my office. It’s not that big. I dropped down to my hands and knees, and, there she was!
I reached and she flapped up in the gap behind the desk and the wall, and launched herself off the printer, over my head and down the stairs careening off a lamp (it wobbled but didn’t fall) and touched down on the kitchen counter, took back off, banged into the pot rack and dropped in the sink.
I had a five gallon bucket, thinking I could transport her safely home in it, what with the dogs at the door still. But, she looked at me so seriously, and thoughtfully, that instead I reached for her, and she allowed as I might be a friend. ( I do feed and water her, talk to her, sing sometimes, and the kids play with her and her sisters and brothers.– Yes, there was a surprise, and two of the hen chicks are roosters, but that’s another story.–)
She sighed, and relaxed, and let me hold her, the way you do a chicken, pressing lightly but firmly on her wings, and swaddle her in a towel, snuggly. The dogs didn’t notice as I carried her past them and set her down in the coop, where she casually sauntered to the water and grain, and everyone else clucked and crowed over her. I wish I could speak chicken. What do you think she told them?
I tell you this story not because I am unaware of the mess our country and the world is in, or these terribly anxious and angry times, but because I am, too much sometimes. The truth is, that chicken rescued me. And the moose hunt was more successful for not having to kill one. I did clean the cabin one afternoon between visits to the tree stand, and sensing company, I looked up and there was a young bull staring in the window. He stayed all afternoon. How lucky is that?