Ever heard of wild chickens? Well neither had Jesse Taylor, the author, until the neighbors from hell rented 28 acres from a local farmer where his friend Bryan used to take his English gaming fowl for some freedom. After a series of unfortunate, or fortunate events, depending on whose viewpoint, Jesse became a part owner of this land. But how did that happen?
"I've never been comfortable living too close to the neighbors. In fact, if the neighbors can see my house from their house, I don't really like it. When they can sit in their living room and watch the TV sitting in my living room, I really, really hate that. I wanted a place where I could step out on the front steps at high noon and relieve myself without anyone eyeballing my weenie, if you know what I mean...and I'm sure you do. (Not that its any real problem, considering I can hardly see it myself, and I'm standing right on top of the little rascal! But, you know what I mean.)
We found this, our dream place, through a pal of mine, Bryan. He was a chicken fancier and raised fighting chickens, or more appropriately, "English Gaming Fowl". Now, any good chicken man knows that you can't beat the looks of a real, honest to goodness, "farmyard raised" bird. A bird that runs free on an old farmplace will be brighter of color, healthier of mind, sounder of body and will develop a sparkling alertness about it that will find instant appeal even to folks who know nothing much about chickens. Needless to say, a poultry judge will recognize one in an instant.
By permission of the owner, Bryan would bring his young, carefully bred birds to this old farm place and turn them out. I came with him on a couple of occasions. A family of, forgive me for telling the truth, "white trash" rented the old farm house and they didn't even bother to mow the front yard, much less to cut down any weeds anywhere. The most they did was toss beer cans and bottles at them. Of course, the chickens didn't care. They're not really as picky as most folks give them credit for. As long as they didn't have to roost in the farm house, with the pigs, they were happy.
On one trip, Bryan mentioned that the owner, Mike, was looking to sell the place. It seems that his white trash tenants were having trouble keeping the rent paid. The price for the small, 28 acre, farm was out of my range, but it sure was appealing to think about owning the place.
As luck would have it, my good luck and Mike's bad luck, Mike's dairy barn burned down. Mike needed to raise money to either replace his barn or make more of a down payment on another place, which was what he really wanted, and fast. He offered to sell me 10 acres out of the 28, which was affordable for me. I got the woods, pond, two pastures, house, shed and barn while Mike kept the tillable farmground.
Also, as an added bonus, I got a house, a shed and a barn all full of abandoned trash, a yard full of empty beer cans and bottles, of every size and description and, as it turns out, more than a lifetime of home renovation, not to mention the needs of the barn and shed.
Years later, while putting my time in at a local factory, I would meet a fellow named Steve. We struck up a friendship and I told him he could bring his kids out to fish. Upon telling him where I lived, he told me he knew the place, intimately. It seems his old buddy used to rent the place. He talked about how they would go out there and shoot "wild chickens". I informed him that there wasn't any such thing as wild chickens, that those birds were valuable and belonged to someone who cared deeply about their survival. He maintained that his buddy told him they were all just wild and had been left there by the landowner. I told him that my pal, Bryan, used to bring chicken feed for them and would pay his good ole buddy, piece of drunken white trash that he was, to feed those wild chickens. Steve said he never, ever saw that good ole boy feed any chickens, even though he often spent the night there, drinking and partying. I told him how I was still finding party favors, in the form of beer cans and bottles, even after years of trying to seek them out so as to avoid running over them with the mower. Steve said he wasn't surprised. He said they always just tossed the empties over into the weeds, and it was all weeds back in those days.
He went on to relate the story about how they burned down the chicken house, a quite sizable building, and how all the fire trucks showed up, but couldn't put it out.
He laughed about how his good ole buddy sold the barn doors, put up new by Mike, to pay the rent.
He told about seeing Mike screaming and yelling at this good ole buddy because there was a shotgun blast in the side of an antique tractor, which was being stored inside the barn. Steve said they didn't mean to hit the tractor, they were just shooting at a wild chicken and the blast went through the barn siding. Now, I'm quite familiar with shotguns, and judging by the hole that's still there today, about waist high, I'd say the muzzle of the shotgun was between 12 and 14 inches from the barn's siding. That's one heck of a close "hip shot" to be taking on wild chickens! Funny how it never occurred to me to ask whether or not he missed.
Eventually, Steve began to lament how much he missed those good old, drunken days. I'm surprised he remembered any of them, actually. He told how his good ole white trash buddy had talked about buying the place, but never could scrape together the down payment. It's a shame I came along when I did. I believe that, in a couple more years, they could've mined enough aluminum beer cans to sell for a down payment. If there had been any deposit for the bottles, they could've stood flat footed and paid the property off. What a strange and unfortunate quirk of fate that the manufacturers of those bottle styles never had any return policy. Oh cruel world, whose forces so often seem to work against the aspirations of man.
I like to imagine that, even if they fellow had bought the place, I still could've gained ownership through the local sheriff's auction. At least, I think the law is still allowed to seize property used for the farming of illegal substances. Provided, of course, the man had any ambitions at all.
Anyway, here we are and, hopefully, here we'll stay until they come to haul us all away. That's the tale. Hope you enjoyed it."
Thank you Jesse, for your contribution. We are glad to hear that the 'wild chickens' are no longer in jeopardy!