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GUEST COLUMN: One chicken at a time

Harry Musselwhite

Harry Musselwhite is the author of “Martin the Guitar” and is an award-winning filmmaker.

I shall call her Gladys. Perhaps I shall amend the name and call her Gladys the Great.

Last evening the three farm pups agitated toward a mysterious something south of Ranchero Musselwhite. I assumed it was a coyote roaming for her evening meal, and when I went toward the fence line I smelled skunk. I assumed that was the object of their attention.

The lead pup, Roshi, would not be satisfied. He would charge the fence, stop, and let loose with menacing growls and then retreat. In the twilight I couldn’t make out any predators, and besides, the field beyond had not been cut. There were perhaps millions of hiding places therein.

I gathered Roshi and we went inside to watch one of the food channels that just happened to be featuring one of my favorite Santa Fe restaurants, The Tecolote Cafe. Roshi sat contentedly on the bed while the bride and I watched the familiar construction of green and red chile sauce.

The two girls, Punkin’ and Blackie, were outside, and they erupted in barks and yelps. They were focused on the same area as their brother.

I walked toward the fence and spotted what I thought was a piece of trash, bright white like a plastic bag. I thought, well, the pups were keeping us safe from a vicious bag. I admonished the pups and went over to the fence.

There, just against the wire mesh, sat a pathetic sight. It was a small white chicken huddled against the fence.

I don’t know how long and with what fortitude it took that small animal to make it all the way across a tangled field. This creature wandered aimlessly, not being able to see more than inches in front, and yet arrived safely at the edge of my property.

Well, it was much too dark for me to open the gate and wade into the dark mess of vines, goatheads and briars to retrieve the beleaguered fowl, so I had to relegate Gladys to the fates. Nature is cruel out here. There is no shortage of predators, and the evening brings out hungry coyotes, skunks and raccoons.

Another beautiful sunrise over the Manzano Mountains greeted me as I arose and looked out the bedroom window toward the fence line. There sat a white round object, but I could not ascertain if the creature was alive or dead.

I dressed quickly and walked to the fence. Gladys looked up pitifully and I resolved to rescue her. I opened the steel gate, entered the field, and waded through the damp collection of green plants that were up to my knees.

I kept thinking about that long previous night. Our New Mexican monsoon season is ending so at least she was dry. Why the predators did not discover her is a mystery.

Gladys sat still and chirped gratefully as I picked her up. She barely fluttered her wings and relaxed into my grasp.

“You are a brave little chicken,” I said.

I took Gladys back to the house and placed her in a dog carrier that was conveniently sitting next to the truck. She settled in with complete ease.

Now one might be a bit skeptical, but the fact is that my organic farmer neighbor, Thomas Dollahite, has opened a European style coffee shop at the edge of his large farm. Yes, friends, I can drive or walk mere yards and enjoy a coffee and croissant, and in the meantime shop for organic beef, vegetables and other goodies. Too cool.

Upon entering I told the barista of Gladys’ rescue and she called Thomas, with “Harry’s here and he has your chicken.”

Thomas and his wife, Amanda, arrived soon, and we shared tales of chickens, coyotes and Bulgarian arts. Really.

Thomas went to the back of my truck and lowered the gate. He grabbed Gladys with the hands of an experienced chicken farmer and off the two went.

Now Gladys is back home safe with her many chicken brothers and sisters, and hopefully she will refrain from a solo walkabout through the dangerous acres of the north field. Gladys 1; Coyotes 0.

Mr. Dollahite’s beautiful coffee shop faces south and as I write this I look out upon a herd of cows grazing while white birds nervously scurry looking for goodies. I sip delicious coffee and smile knowing that one of nature’s creatures is safe among her own. One chicken at a time, I say.

Former Roman Harry Musselwhite is the author of “Martin the Guitar” and is an award-winning filmmaker.