katrina v. katrina

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

 • The Death of Pan

We live on a 3-acre family farm. We have chickens, goats, a horse (okay, it's our sister-in-law's, but he lives with us), barn cats, a rabbit, dogs, a pet rat, two cats in the house, etc, etc.

Every single one of our chickens have names. The roosters: Pan and The Rock'n'Roll Rooster; the hens: Latifa (a chicken with an attitude), Bossy, Bertha, Speck, Lucy, Pocahontas, The Roosterless Hen (RLH for short), Thelma, and Louise. We have also had a rooster named Sunny that went into the cornfield and never came back, Jenni the chicken that had two broken legs (cruel practice, not our doing - she was basically a "rescue chicken") that died, and Gretchen that got eaten by weasels. Our chickens have personality, attitude, attributes, character - and yes, I know that they are just chickens.

Well, Pan got some sort of infection in his left eye. We thought at first that Rock'n'Roll had pecked him in some sort of fight for roosterly dominance. But it didn't get better. And then it got worse - much, much worse. It got worse like the swelling was the same size as the rest of his head, he stank, the flesh turned black, there was ick and goop and puss. He was suffering.

A week or so ago, us women-folk (me and Cynthia [the sister-in-law of horse ownership fame]) sent the men-folk (Ric and his brother Rob) out into the cornfield with Pan in order to put him out of his misery. We had been to the vet, we were treating Pan and the other chickens with sulfer drugs and Pan was getting antibiotic eye drops, but it was just not getting better.

The men came back - the rooster had won. They hadn't succeeded in killing him. The adventures of them attempting to break Pan's neck ended in defeat. Several hours later, Pan came back home.

But Pan got worse. Something had to be done.

The corn had been taken in out of the fields that surround our house. I carried an old log stump out through the knee-high stubble and sat it down on a nice level section of ground. I went to my husband's pole-barn and found the hatchet and placed it with the stump. I went to the barn to get Pan.

When I tried to pick him up, he just fell over. He was so far gone.

I placed him into an empty fabric feed bag, got a peice of twine and carried him out to the field.

I was talking to Pan, telling him it was going to be okay, that the worst part was about to be over, that he wasn't going to hurt anymore. And then I was honest and told him that it really wasn't going to be okay, that I was going to chop off his head.

I got Pan on one side of the stump and pulled his head up out of the bag and tied the twine around the uppermost part of his neck. I put the bag and his body on one side of the stump and stretched his neck over it then I stepped on the taught twine to hold him still.

Ric's hatchet wasn't sharp enough. It took three good blows until I was sure that his vertebrae had been crushed and he was gone. I put Pan in the sack and began to cry. I had never in my life ended the life of anything.

I told him I was sorry, sorry that he was sick and that I wasn't able to make him well. And I kept crying.

I carried him in his shroud far out into the field and beyond the environs of the farm and I layed him to rest among the stubble and the random kernels of corn. There was a breeze and the sun was out and the birds were singing. And I cried.

The next day, the sack was gone. Taken away by coyotes, weasels, wild dogs... But put back into the cycle. His suffering ended and something else was kept alive. A little part of me died with Pan, but another part of me is glad that his suffering ended... and that it ended with love.

But really, I don't know if I can ever eat chicken again.


At 11:46 AM, Blogger Ric said...

Wow. That's more than you told me. I almost cried reading it...

I love you!

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Robin said...

Sorry Ric and I failed... you know I'd rather just shoot wounded animals. Give you a bit of separation. Sorry...


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