(That's right ladies & gentlemen, she's home, and warm in the hen house all huddled & locked up with her home-girls under a warming light.)
For some reason, before we left the driveway today I had a feeling we needed to go check the bush we'd seen the Phantom Chicken under on Sunday afternoon.
Now, we'd checked the juniper bush a gazillion times since seeing her there, and she had not returned since the snow & cold has come. But it was worth going with my gut feeling (aka, listening to the Spirit/Still Small Voice's promptings). So, Mr LKP humored me (especially considering the severely negative temps last night & this morning) and we drove down to the edge of our property that borders the big orchard. Upon arriving at the bush, I got out to examine tracks.
There were some, but they were clearly not chicken tracks....more like coyote. Ikes! So I stood there for another moment, trying to see if there were any feathers or signs of a frozen body that we needed to take care of....no feathers, no blood...."Where could she be?" I thought aloud. At that moment, I glanced past the thicket into the large trees looming to the southwest of where I stood, and on the other side of the fence.
There amongst all the scattered snow, higher up in a russian olive tree she was roosting. Head tucked into her wing, shivering, trying to sleep through the cold and not fall off the branch kind of roosting!
We didn't have time to climb the barbed wire fence to get into the trees, and the latch on gate we would normally use was frozen stiff. Add to that, we were running later than we had planned in getting Mini-Me to her grandma's house. So we determined we would return later and look for her again.
Fast forward through dicey roads, crummy traffic, the kid drop-off 30 miles away, a quick dinner between Mr LKP & I, heading out to the family's construction shop for a jack & tools to switch out tires, then jamming out to the vehicle in distress, switching the tire, heading back to the family's shop to return said tools, then hauling the Jeep INSIDE the shop to re-install Mr LKP's driveline so he could once again engage his own 4WD, then I raced home (raced being a very relative term since the fastest I could go was about 40 mph) to gather the baskets I had forgotten to take into town with me in the first place (this way Mr LKP could drop them off for me since he had Home Teaching appointments that started at 7pm)!
Have you caught your breath yet? Me neither.
So, I arrived home, and as I was about to enter the driveway I thought that perhaps I should see if she still where we'd seen her. It was a long shot, since we'd been gone over 3 hours by then.
Away I went, bright headlights glaring, plowing through drifts, down to the spot along the fence where we'd seen her earlier. But I couldn't see her anywhere! (I was definitely frustrated.) Simply put, just because she survived last night's temps doesn't mean she was in a state to handle anything even close to that tonight.
I can't explain it. Must be the obsessively protective mother in me (no one's excluded from it; not my daughter, my husband, the dogs, the cats, or apparently the chickens). It just felt that it was imperative that I find her. Urgent, that's all there was to it.
I walked up and down the the barbed-wire fence, even outside of the light which my brights shed on the scene. I couldn't figure out a good place to duck through in order to walk amongst those trees. Plus I've been in my snowboarding pants all day....and frankly I didn't want to snag or tear them (they're definitely not a cheap thing to replace). Finally out of desperation I decided to risk it; found a lower spot in the fence & squeezed the top two barbed lines together.
Now if you want comedy, then you should have been there. I don't know if you remember the important detail that Heavenly Father thought maybe I'd be afraid of heights, so he gave me short, short legs to lessen the burden a fear like that would bring if I were tall. True story. (The worst part is I'm not even CLOSE to afraid of heights!) So, even with me holding down the wires, it was almost like a modern Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, or Carol Burnett scene. No lie. Took some wicked Catherine Zeta Jones "Entrapment" moves, but I did finally clear the fence with NO BATTLE DAMAGE to the pants. Woot woot!
Once I was in the grove, I walked around for a bit, always watching the tracks in that deep snow. Nothing! Then I stopped and felt I should look up again, and there she was, just higher in the russian olive! (Again, remember the short legs? Yeah, they = a short line of sight to go with them. So I hadn't earlier thought, "Look UP!")
Ready for the 2nd comedic wave? Picture awkward me, in these stupid pants, with short legs, chunky snow boots, and bundled to high-Heaven like an abominable snow something CLIMBING THIS TREE in the middle of the pitch-black (minus the headlights of my rig).
Oh yes I did!
Guess what, my ancient & meager climbing skills from summers past, spent at my grandparents' really didn't paying off. I had to climb even higher....not knowing if I would even have a footing for my chunky boots or something to hold on to. All the while fighting those blasted russian olive THORNS!!!!
Finally, she was within reach.
She made it clear she wasn't going anywhere. She was weak & cold, but she had no intention of leaving. I made it clear that if I was willing to risk my pants, as well as a broken arm, collarbone, leg, back, tailbone, or all of the above-well then, she WOULD be coming home with me.
She realized a protest would be futile, and therefore let me hold her feet and then gather her up in the crook of my left elbow. She even seemed comfortable to be held close for a bit.
Scurrying back down the tree was a bit tricky, especially one-handed, less than nimble due to all the extra bundled layers, and honestly too top-heavy for this crap even on a NON-BUNDLED kind of day! Alas, we made it to the ground safely and not too many feathers were ruffled.
Then I had to maneuver BACK OVER the barbed wire fence...this time squeezing the top barbed wires together with only one hand mind you. It was not something I'd thought all the way through, logistically speaking. NOT EASY PEASY LEMON-SQUEEZIE!
A couple times there was even the sensation & sound of my pants catching on the barbs....at those moments I cringed, however I was too stubborn to stop. If I had slowed down, either I'd have lost that chicken again or we'd have both wound up with our faces in the snow and THEN I'd have lost her anyhow. So I pushed forward. Eventually we had success.
After that there was the question, "Well, do I hike the 7 acres back to the hen house & chicken coop, or do I drive?" ...again to aloud to myself....well, and to a chicken. (Had there been passersby to witness the whole ordeal, they'd have thought I was definitely certifiable.)
My butt won that debate, and so I cautiously approached my car. All the while an alarm was screaming in my head "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?"
Granted she could have totally freaked. But I moved as slow & smoothly as I could, all the while trying to speak softly to soothe her nerves. Surprisingly it worked!
I didn't drive very fast, which proved to beneficial as I still cradled her in my arm. (I think she was grateful for the heater in the car too!)
Got to the chicken coop, opened up the hen house and put her in with Rodney & the girls. As soon as the I had secured the door, there was all sorts of commotion inside. So I ripped open the house to see Rodney exerting dominance on her poor, cold & weak self.
Not gonna lie, I was enraged! (She needed some time to thaw out dang it!)
I attempted two different times to shoo him away from her so she could have the room to relax, regain her bearings, and warm up. He went after her a third time, so I grabbed him by his butt-feathers! (Not even exagerating here.) He was none too happy, as I tossed him out of the house into the coop. (How dare I? He'd waited a long time, very patiently might he add, to have his harem. Why would I try to keep him from them?!?) It was cold and icy in the coop and for a moment I didn't care what happened to him. It may not have been my prettiest moment as I threatened to kick his trash and even told him, "I don't NEED YOU in order to get farm fresh eggs, sucker!"
With that I secured the coop door again and let him be for a few minutes while I fed the big dogs.
Of course (again this is the mom in me here), I figured he'd had a few VERY cold minutes to think about what he'd done. Then the guilt set in (as if he were really my child, or a human even with cognitive thoughts---and he were in time-out or something....really, LKP?!?). I felt bad. Not for removing him from the ladies, who he enjoys terrorizing. No, I felt bad that he was cold.
So, I went back to the coop where he was crouched in the corner with his beak tucked in his wing. When I called for him he kind of shied away, as if he truly felt bad and didn't want to get in trouble again. (Further guilt plagued my heart.) I gathered him up by the feet and got him holding on to my hand, and I took him to the dog kennel. Since the big dogs will be inside with us until this cold spell passes, I figured he could definitely benefit from the warm dog house. I tossed down some feed for him, and a large chunk of branch near the warming light so he can roost somewhat comfortably inside that empty house.
He seemed to be grateful, and finally I was too.
I was grateful that all my little ones had been safely gathered in. I knew where they all were. I knew they were all safe. And I was most relieved to know that we in fact have only had ONE fatality so far here on the Ranch....and frankly, that I gave everything I could to save the one. I felt that even if I hadn't found her tonight, or had I found her frozen body, at least I'd have given everything I could in an attempt to save her.
Kind of like what my Savior did for me.
|(Seeking the One by Liz Lemon Swindle)|
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, where YOU feel very much "found"....and feel you have a place where you belong, where if you are gone, you are very much missed.
(In a Less-than-Spiritual-Bonus: I got inside, boots off, snow pants off so I could scramble into my sweats and there was NO TEAR OR SNAG IN MY PANTS AFTER ALL!!!!! Hooray! And.....Mr LKP arrived home shortly thereafter and my baskets were perfect & ready for him to whisk away to some special ladies!)