Almanac

Community - November 17, 2010

Barbara Wood's 'Dispatches from the Home Front": Barbara does Stupid Human Tricks

By Barbara Wood

Here is the question I have been asking myself lately: Do other normally rational and mature adults routinely indulge in dangerous and embarrassing activities for the sake of their animals — or is it just me?

It started the night I found myself teetering on top of the bunny hutch attached to our chicken coop, stretching one arm as far as it would go in a vain attempt to grab a chicken with the hand not holding the flashlight, when I heard an ominous cracking sound, and began to think about my obituary.

"Woodside woman dies after crashing through roof of chicken coop in the dark" the headline would say. This is not how I want to be remembered.

So why, instead of going inside and crawling into bed right then, did I persist in grabbing chickens, tucking them under my arm, climbing down, taking them into the coop and putting them on their perch, where they should have been to start with? (After the hutch roof cracked, I did fetch a step ladder.)

Four times I repeated the maneuver, placing the silly birds safely inside, where they were safely off the dinner menu of the neighborhood raccoons.

Job completed, I snuck back into the house, my hand bleeding from a chicken wire scratch, grateful that I had escaped the embarrassing headlines.

For some reason, my eight young hens keep trying to roost on the roof of the chicken coop instead of safely inside. I try to venture out to latch the coop door just before full dark each night, so I can see to round up any who haven't made it inside. I started this routine after the night that two chickens fell on my head as I shut the coop door, which they were roosting on.

Then, a few days ago, I found myself scrambling down a steep embankment that I wasn't sure I could get back up. The dog's ball was stuck somewhere down there in the poison oak.

It wasn't a case of life or death, but I knew that Wheeler, my 90-pound lap dog of a Labrador retriever, would be nervous and unhappy the entire mile and a half back home without a ball to carry. Plus, that grocery-bag full of lacrosse balls a friend had given us was being depleted as Wheeler lost the balls in drainage ditches, under fences or down embankments even a dog wouldn't attempt.

So I abandoned common sense and decorum and headed downhill — just as I had a few weeks earlier when I scaled a 6-foot-high fence to retrieve a ball that had gotten away from him.

This time, the ball was under a root, deep in a hole that probably was the front door for some dangerous form of wildlife. I bravely stuck my arm in halfway to the elbow to grab the ball.

"Woodside woman starves to death with arm stuck in gopher hole," that headline would have read.

Barbara Wood is a freelance writer, photographer and gardener from Woodside. Her column runs the third week of the month.

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