Chickens die Tuesdays

Well, they used to die on Wednesdays, but then they got switched. It happened when I changed trash service from the big and ever more expensive guys to the locals who are still affordable. You see, they pick up on different days. Now it’s Tuesdays.

And my chickens live until just after the trash has departed for the week, then they keel over dead.

I look at it as a compliment.

The way I see it, they like their life here so much, they want to hang around as long as they can. If need be, in death. Never mind that in the heat of summer the trash can gets mighty hot inside. I don’t know if it’s the lack of communications between the live and the dead chickens, or maybe they don’t get the connection between heat and a closed can, but word has not gotten around, that it might be better to get picked up sooner. At least in summer.

Of course not everybody end up in the can. Or rather everybody does – but one. And that was Talky. Talky was a Partridge Rock. Brown and luxurious, every feather a work of art.

And boy did she like to talk. Must be the breed. Now it’s Gimpy, she never shuts up either. I go anywhere near the coop and she starts up. Though I don’t speak Chicken, I get the feeling Gimpy is a complainer. Talky was a happy customer. So I was real fond of her.

She was getting on in age and had moved to the Retirement-Coop. (By now you are well familiar with my set-up and the ongoing saga of fence building.) And as you also know, raccoons have no compassion for their victims or the victim’s owner. In about 30 seconds (I swear that’s how fast I was out there when the screaming started) he had slashed my Talky’s neck. And the hole he had made in the fence was so small! And I so berated myself for missing it and not fixing it. Next day the electric fence went up.

But Talky did not go into the can. She went into “The Garden”. The garden started out as the area under a huge Arizona Cyprus on the north end of my vegetable plot. The plot is fenced, so safe from intruders (and diggers). First to be “planted” was Oliver. My feisty cat.

Oliver showed up one day while we lived in Riverside, California. Came in, made himself and home, and stayed. Came time to leave California for places less crowded, Oliver and Yeti, our Abominable White Snow Cat, came along. Of course so did Sheba, the dog.

Our fist week away from the city was spent camping in the woods south of Williams, Arizona. We pulled the travel trailer off the forest road and made ourselves comfy. Oliver exited and was immediately in hog heaven. Mice! The great hunter went to work. For a week straight he stalked his way through the scenery. Born to be wild.

After some travel, we ended up back in civilization, namely here. Not here here, but here in Prescott, Arizona. It took another year or so before we came here here.

No sooner had we moved into our little cracker box in our not so upscale neighborhood, when Richard Pioverson (may God rattle his resting soul now and then) came by to make it clear “he owned the hood”. Sporting an assortment of weapons, I seem to recall a rifle, a few knives, and a Pitbull, he strutted by the house doing his best imitation of Mad Max. (Well more like one of the goons, Mad Max looks a whole lot better) We were suitably impressed. We had no plans to usurp the position, so all should have gone well.

However, enter Oliver. He had plans. Not to take over Richard’s kingdom but the cat domain on our street. He apparently had some fights down at the end of the street. He was probably doing all right on the cat level, but he did not watch out for the human enemy. Richard shot him and tossed him out into the street.

So he was the first to be buried under the Cyprus. Richard I never quite forgave. He got old and lonely and decrepit and finally died last year. The people who remember him do so without fondness. I guess, Oliver, that’s as good a revenge as you’ll get.

Next under the tree was Sheba. Smartest dog ever to come into my life. She could spell better than quite a few high school graduates I know. A-m-b-u-l-a-t-i-o-n. How’s that for a doggy spelling bee?! She had W-a-l-k down before she was a half year old.

She lived 15 years and 11 days. That’s not shabby as doggies go.

I never thought she’d get very old. She kind of lived on the edge. Jumped from running car windows, got bit by a rattle snake, chomped on a porcupine, landed with all 4s in a cactus patch, got her ears stapled together by Choya cactus. That’s just the stuff I remember off the top of my head. With a little memory jogging I’ll come up with some more stuff. Like the bone that got stuck in her gut, and the tooth she broke on the vets contraption meant to catch dogs. As I said, given time I’ll remember more reasons why she didn’t seem like the type to die peacefully on her bed of old age. Not that she died on her bed. She never had one. Not that one wasn’t available. She was a DOG. She laid on the floor or in the dirt when camping, like you expect a dog to do. Most spoiled dogs lay on nothing less than a doggy bed or the couch. Better yet – your bed. Like her buddies the Whites.

But the Whites didn’t show up until late in Sheba’s life. Another time, another story.

Sheba got the name on Highway 60 right after Harcuvar and before Brenda on her way home to California. Sheba was born on August 14th, 1993 in Phoenix, Arizona to Shena and the neighbors Short Haired Pointer. Something in liver color and brown, we were told. Shena now is another story. A neat freak. She would drag her dog blankets out off the dog house when she felt they needed washing. Shena was a people lover. Her owners did infant babysitting. And Shena loved all the little kids. Though she didn’t like the pizza delivery man who put his foot in the door. I imagine he had second thoughts, given that Shena was one mean looking Pitbull. So there you have it. Sheba was half Pitbull. A facts we took great pains all her life to avoid mentioning. One vet at some point said, she looked to be having Vizla in her. So Vizla it was. Vizla and something. Who knows. Just a mutt. Uncertain parentage is easy to claim with a dog.

So anyways… Sheba was born in Phoenix, where we first laid eyes on her. We that is my former husband and always best friend and I. He was visiting friends from his youth, while I stayed at his mother’s house. Why I would stay at his mothers instead of taking the opportunity to flee – anywhere at all – , I can’t remember. Anyhow, he returns to tell me about that cuuute puppy he has seen. Did I want to see it? Now, we were strictly cat people then. We had 4 no less. But yes, I wanted to see the puppy. Number one, I subscribe to the theory that one can never have too many animals. Number two, this seemed really dear to hubbies heart.

So we get there. And I immediately fall in love with another puppy. Hubby held this cute thing with brown eyes and chocolate color fur. I am eyeballing this yellow eyed dog. Well, hubby was in the mood for a puppy, I wanted that particular puppy. This is how we started our love affair. Sheba, Hubby and I.

So on the way home to California right about the time the road curves through the hills past Harcuvar I come up with name Sheba for the puppy. It was mutually agreeable. Sheba it was.

God I loved that dog! Fifteen years. Lots of stories later she just layed down and within 24 hours she was gone. She was tired from a good long life and dozed toward death. I was with her in her final moment. I was petting her when I felt her heart flutter out. It still rips me open just thinking about it.

So Sheba was the second one to be planted under the tree. By that time I was creating a little more of a formal area, acknowledging that this was an ongoing project. You love them they leave you. Get used to it.

And leave they did.

Hubby before Sheba. Though not planted, thankfully alive and well.

Jack, the rabbit. Another Jack, Odo. Stories that still need telling.

When you are alive, really very few people are aware of your existence. Say that you are an average Joe like me. Not some super star. Once you are dead, the people that remember you tend to die off themselves. Next thing – it’s like you never were there. Animals live even more obscure lives. So by telling their stories I give them substance. I make their lives solid and real. Not that I expect my word to last into centuries. But maybe a little while.

Talky was buried next to Sheba. By then Sheba’s flagstone grave marker had started in an unsettling way to settle. Unsettling to me. Settling to the earth. I packed a few of those gorgeous feathers into a glass jar and set it as her “headstone”.

The Whites came soon after.

In a very few short years I buried a lot of pieces of myself there.

It has been a thankfully long time since I had to do any more burying.

Now I wonder as I get set to leave this home of a quarter century, how am I going to tell the next owners about “The Garden”. It’s one thing when it’s your garden, it’s creepy when it it someone else’s pet graveyard.

I guess I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

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