Monday, November 9, 2009

Life and Death on the Farm

The stretch of Tuscarawas road extending from our neighbor on the East, John Gillespie, to the West edge of our property was maybe a half-mile long and relatively straight. For whatever reason, it attracted speeding and was very dangerous for both us kids and animals.

I can't remember the number of dogs and cats we owned that were killed on that particular stretch of road. Some were killed outright, but the most devastating were those that were badly injured and had to be shot. Their loud, screaming howls of pain seemed to penetrate your very existence. Those anguished screams, which held we kids transfixed, would go on until usually either Dad or Grandad would come running with a shotgun. At the bang of the gun those anguished screams of pain abruptly stopped but were followed by equally heart wrenching sobs and tears for a dear friend lost. No one wasted money on veterinarians for dogs in those tough financial times. We kids learned about paved roads, fast traffic and life and death at a very young age.

One of those days that taught us a first-hand lesson occurred when we kids were watching the fruit stand for Mom. We were out in front of it playing---not on, but very close to, the pavement. All of a sudden we were literally frozen in place by a blaring auto horn and the screaming, screeching of tires. Our heads whirled to face a barreling, rocking, skidding automobile almost upon us. We were frozen in fright where we stood. The driver, going much too fast, had swerved to miss a bunch of dogs that had tumbled out of the weeds alongside the road, milling around a bitch in heat. As you can imagine, we were transfixed with fear where we stood. The careening vehicle, with horn screaming, hit my brother Rod, slamming him down and running over him. It stopped with him under the back axel. By then, we all were screaming and crying in abject fear. Sis ran for Mother and I ran to Rod. The driver was totally devastated and couldn't even get out of the car. I heard Rod screaming from underneath, toward the back of the car. Just as I started to crawl under to get him Mom arrived, yanked me out of the way and dived under the car to where Rod was laying. She pulled Rod out from under the vehicle and, except for a few serious bruises and scratches, he was just fine. Terrified, as we all were, but fine.

We also learned about birth and life there on the farm. Mom always raised chickens and turkeys. Eggs were cheaper than peeps, and we had plenty of eggs, so Dad purchased several incubators for hatching them. Also, many an old hen hid her nest out in the weeds and would eventually come in clucking proudly, leading her little brood of running fuzz balls. I enjoyed watching the hatching process in the incubators best. Several times during the incubation period, each egg was "candled," to determine whether it contained a fetus, or was still alive and well. Candling--actually looking through the shell using a light source to silhouette the fetus--was done by cutting a small oval hole in the base of a round Quaker Oats cereal box and putting either a candle or low wattage light bulb under it. An egg would be taken from the incubator and placed on the lighted oval hole. It always seemed like a miracle to me to watch the changing fetus until the baby chick pecked it's way through the confining shell and emerged all wet, gooey and hungry.


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