words: stoney stamper
images:courtesy april stamper
Although my family says that I have a tendency to exaggerate things a tad, it would not be an exaggeration for me to say that some of the things that happen in our house are certainly out of the ordinary. When you put a group of five eccentrics like me and my wife and daughters into one house, you’re bound to have some pretty crazy stories. Most of them involve an animal of some sort, and this one is no different.
We’ve got a small farm just outside of town. At any given time, we have anywhere from twenty to thirty animals of varied species running around here.
Although my wife, April, is a lover of all animals, she loves her chickens more than anything. We don’t have a lot of chickens, usually just a dozen or so at a time, but she puts a lot of effort into them. She buys and sells and trades them to get exactly what she wants. She breeds the Silkies, and the Polish, and the Brahmas, and the Cochin so she can get the prettiest colors and the wildest feathers. I have to admit, at first I was annoyed when she would come home with a new chicken, as if we needed another animal to deal with, but once she began getting what she wanted, I liked how happy they made her. Every evening she will go sit outside with them and throw them scratch and watch them as they walk around her and peck the ground. It’s her way of decompressing at the end of each day. So if she loves it, then so do I. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? And as the man of the house, I am their official protector. The girls feed them and love them and care for them, and I make sure they don’t get killed. Our neighbors have dogs that like to visit on occasion, there is a fox that lives nearby, and of course the occasional possum likes to sneak in and eat eggs.
Just a few weeks ago, we had an intruder. I was lying in bed, when suddenly I heard our gate to the backyard rattle loudly just beneath our bedroom window. I sat straight up in bed and listened closely. Then I heard our young basset hound bawl and I heard chickens squawking and carrying on. At 1:00 am, this is never a good sound. Something was definitely out there. I jumped up out of bed, ran to the gun cabinet and grabbed my .22, and then ran outside to the back porch. As I stepped out onto the back porch, I looked down and saw a big black snake, about two feet from my bare foot. I’m not too proud to say that it startled me enough that I let out a bit of a scream. It wasn’t a blood curdling scream, like if one of our daughters had seen a spider, but it was still a scream that I would never want any of my buddies to hear come from my mouth. I was barefoot and in my underwear. I had been startled awake, and was perhaps a tad disoriented, which, looking back on it, makes me a little bit concerned since I was holding a loaded gun. Thankfully, before shooting a hole in my porch, I did have the forethought to shine my light on the snake, only then to find that it was actually the dog’s leash that Gracee had been playing with earlier in the day. To my credit, the way it was coiled up there on the porch, it really did look like a snake. I chuckled to myself for a moment, but then I remembered that there was likely a predator in the hen house, so I got back to business.
I turned my attention toward the chicken coop. The moon was huge that night and the yard was fairly brightly lit. To my surprise, I saw a coyote, lying on his belly and slowly creeping up to the chicken coop. I yelled and immediately headed his way, leveling my gun on him. Of course, my scream startled it and it took off like a shot. I quickly surveyed my landscape, mostly to make sure there were no horses in my line of fire, and then took a shot. Judging by the yelping, I hit it, but it never missed a beat. In fact, it seemed to pick up speed as it ran away. If I hit it, I certainly did not harm it too badly. By this time, I was standing beside our back porch. The hound dog, the ferocious beast that he is, had apparently hidden underneath it. Startled by the gunshot, I assumed, he burst from underneath the porch bawling once again, from fear or bravado, no one can be sure, running into my legs and getting tangled up in my feet. Adorable as he may be, smart, he isn’t.
Doing my very best not to trip and fall, I stepped hard to the right to catch myself, and promptly stomped my foot directly onto a patch of sticker burrs that immediately turned my foot into a slice of Swiss cheese. I felt no less than fifty thorns become embedded in my foot, and with each step I took, they were pushed deeper and deeper into my skin. So then I found myself in my backyard, in my underwear, barefoot, bleeding, limping and stepping on more stickers, carrying a gun and using my phone as a flashlight looking for any blood that may have dropped from the coyote’s wound. There was none to be found. The hound still hadn’t quit bawling even though he had absolutely no idea what he was bawling at. The horses were spooked and running laps around the pasture while snorting at me. I waited outside another few minutes until I was confident that the coyote wasn’t coming back.
I then hobbled back inside, picked as many stickers out of both feet as I could, put the gun up, and climbed gently back into bed. I found my darling wife lying dead asleep and snoring. She hadn’t moved one inch and had absolutely no clue what kind of debacle she just missed out on. And unfortunately, she didn’t get to see the bravery and courage that I displayed to save her chickens. And also, I really wished she’d been awake because I needed some help getting all those damn thorns out of my feet. It’s been three weeks now, and I am pretty sure I still have a couple in there. But, I guess that’s just part of my job, huh?