Feathers & fuss – Mother’s Day & the menagerie

With Mother’s Day 2020 fast approaching, and what sort of a day it will be given the current COVID conditions….. gets me in the feels somewhat as I come to realise the immense privilege that it is to be able to celebrate this day as a Mother myself.  For some this is not ever a possibility, either through choice or through circumstance; for others it is painful as they’ve either never known the love of a mother of their own, or that their own mother has passed away so YES, I am thankful to be called MUM by our two precious daughters and that I have my own dear Mum still alive to thank for all that she has done for me as well as the added privilege of having a wonderful Mom in my MIL who is loving, kind & uncomplicated!  

This being said, I can be brutally honest, now that my daughters are in their 20’s, that there were MANY days that I did not feel so very grateful for the privilege of motherhood as a stay-at-home mother of two small children – a minefield for another post (insert eye-roll here!)

Backing up some 10-12 years…. We had newly moved into our newly built (with reclaimed bricks) home on our small holding (a patch of rural land by South African standards; small farm/boerderij by Dutch standards) where I was able to return to my roots in a small, non-commercial way by becoming the proud owner of 6 laying hens and a magnificent rooster.  Adding to the menagerie of horses and cattle that grazed our fields, we had 2 beautiful chocolate Labradors, brother Jamison and sister Ruby, as well as 2 delightful miniature Schnauzers in Tallulah and Tiffany; we also had 2 precious bunnies Maddy & Molly. 

All animals, except for the horses & cows, were a part of our home, the downstairs living area only – I drew the line at having animals in the bedrooms upstairs as fondly remember a book club member saying that her husband grew so fed-up with the menagerie in their home that he wanted to know if the next step would be “hoenders op die headboard?!” 

In our farming community there was a much anticipated 10 day event held in our closest city of Pietermaritzburg, The Royal Agricultural Society Show (a throw-back to the Colonial days of the British Empire, the name still stands).  As school children, this was the highlight of our winter term as it was a real treat time of candy floss, pop corn, ice cream, donuts and funfair rides – the stuff of childhood dreams which I obviously wanted my children to experience too.  So it was that we decided to take our girls to the opening night of the Show when all was still clean, tidy & exciting, which we did for a number of years as they grew up.  

This particular year, the girls were well into their teens with their own agendas for the Show: meeting up with friends and funfair fantasies, all of which were on strict time schedules since this was before they were all glued to their personal communication devices.

Leaving home entailed more than simply showering, dressing and getting into the car as there was the appropriate time given to selecting exactly the right outfit, which usually meant matching your friend’s outfits exactly, then it was tending to the animals for food and water and shutting them into their safe night homes.  The dogs were fed and left outside as usual, the bunnies were fed and put into their cage in the scullery and the hens were fed and left to put themselves into their cage at roosting time.  In our haste to get to town, one of the gates that I’d designed to use as fencing around our immediate garden area was not properly shut meaning that the dogs could squeeze through the gap and roam around the larger part of our house property but without being able to get out into the fields and further away. Blissfully unaware of “minding the gap”, we took off down the dusty farm road, onto the pot-holed district road and then the death-trap that is the national hi way (N3) into town.

A great evening was had by all and we eventually rounded the family together and began the reverse journey home to our house on the hill.  On approaching the house, I noticed something white in the garden and the closer we got, the more I noticed and it looked oddly like lumps of snow or hail, which is what my head was frantically trying to reassure my heart that it was, when all the while my heart was sitting in my throat as I had a sinking suspicion that what I was seeing was in fact feathers!  

As soon as the car stopped I jumped out and ran to the garden gate where my worst fears became worse still as not only did I confirm the feathers but also the carcasses of my beloved chickens strewn on the lawn and the front steps!  I was utterly distraught, devastated and furious with the hounds for their destruction!  Jamison immediately grabbed one carcass and began skulking away with the dead chicken in his jaws.  Faster than a fowl can fly, I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, yelling all the while, and forced his jaws open in order to remove my dead chicken and then I raged on and on at all 4 of the hairy hounds, all of whom were trying to creep away from my rage-choked screams.  

I was having none of that and as soon as the rest of the family got themselves out of the car in the garage and into the front of the house, trying to figure out what all the noise was about, I bossed them into grabbing a dog each so that I could give them the treatment that my Dad had taught us for chicken-killer-dogs:  I tied the carcasses to each dog, around their necks and then banished them to stay outside for the night!

Mother’s Day Sunday dawned with its usual May autumn crispness and there I was, in my pyjamas, bag in hand on my knees crawling around the garden picking up all the feathers of my beloved chooks, tears and snot running unchecked whilst the hapless hounds lurked wearily around the edges of the garden, dead chickens still dangling from their collars.

Lesson learned by human & hound alike:  dogs left alone will find something to play with/destroy no matter how well behaved they are when you’re with them; dragging a chicken carcass around your neck definitely puts and end to the urge to play/eat chickens that they’d been taught not to chase!

4 thoughts on “Feathers & fuss – Mother’s Day & the menagerie

  1. What a story your writing drew an exact picture I was traveling through this mayhem with you. Thank you so much for sharing loved it, though the story was sad. Motherhood is like that we have some of our best and worse moments.

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  2. Sally, you are truly a gifted story teller! I can also picture the the whole evening playing out as you so eloquently described it! Thank you for sharing! Being a dog and chicken raiser myself and daughter of 2 teenage daughters….I could relate to your entire story! So glad Rachel posted this on FB so I could read it and find your blog! I am looking forward to reading more! I hope you had a beautiful Mother’s Day!

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