The “Gateway Drug” to Farming
For fourteen years we lived so close to our neighbors I could look out my window and see into theirs if their curtains were open, and they often were. “Madge is making hot dogs for supper. Again.” We even shared a driveway with Bill, our neighbor to right. The drive branched into a brief “Y” at the end, leaving each of us enough room to park two cars, if we squeezed. Mid-town Memphis was our home, and our house was under the flight path for Memphis International Airport. A train ran a few blocks away, rending the air with it’s whistle on a regular basis. The fire station was nearby, and we barely paused hearing sirens shrieking day or night. We had a wee patch of grass which we referred to as our “yard.” And then we moved to Maine.
It was almost painful to wrench our city roots out of the asphalt and transplant them to a handful of acres and a 100+year old farmhouse. We couldn’t peer into our neighbors windows. In fact, we couldn’t even see their houses from ours. But we knew they were there. One brought us a dozen eggs from her hens the day we moved in. Another delivered the schedule for the local transfer station, along with a fistful of the prerequisite leaf-green dump bags. It was a warm welcome.
Surveying what felt like the vast space surrounding me, I couldn’t help but think that a few chickens pottering about would be nice. Then I sent that idea away fast, like I’d smacked a whack-a-mole with a mallet at the fair. I was too old to start raising chickens. That was for younger people. I was clearly past my prime at 43. I was the sort of person who had dogs. Maybe a cat or two. Perhaps a canary. But I was too old to mess with farm animals.
My fascination with chickens started young. When I was around 7 years old I teased and begged my father until he promised to turn my outgrown pink play house into a little coop. I dreamed of yellow chicks and friendly hens. It was one of the few times that good man ever let me down. I never did get those chickens as a kid.
Then fate found me in Maine with a little land. I could hardly help myself. Within the first year I had talked a new friend into giving me an ice fishing shack he no longer wanted. And then a dream I’d ignored for 36 years hatched.
Four Silver Laced Wyandotte pullets came to live in my old ice shack. I am embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent just watching them. How they ate, how they scratched in the grass, chased bugs, slept in a cozy row on their roost. I thought they were the culmination of a dusty old dream. I was blissfully ignorant. They were only the beginning. Turns out, chickens are a gate way drug.