May 26, 2011 by wcobserver
The hen was not there. Instead, she had – by some remarkable skill of clairvoyance – perceived a looming threat and abandoned her happy pecking grounds amid the luxuriant tomato vines to travel all the way down the garden drive to the edge of the woods near the pond, where she moved along at a steady pace, not running but not pecking at things and not looking back. Who me? A sudden observer would have sworn to her status as an innocent passerby.
Unappeased, I emerged from the shade of the tree line and stood in the garden drive to take aim, not willing to walk closer for a better shot. She might make a run for it or fly into the trees. I was determined to end her cavalier crop destruction. It was a matter of aim and range. I wasn’t a practiced marksman. In fact I had never killed anything before in my life. At 50 yards, I expected that at best my shot would hit her body, that she would flop and squawk and run off sideways. I would have to go down to the pond to finish her off, use up maybe a half dozen bullets before I got a killing shot.
The crack of the rifle echoed through the morning air. Blue jays set up a cry in the woods. One instant the hen was standing there. The next instant, she had slumped to the ground.
I couldn’t believe it. No flopping or squawking. Was she going to jump up and run off any second? I hurried to the spot. Amazed as I examined her still body, I saw that the bullet had gone straight through her coppery head. It took a few minutes to absorb the reality of my stunning success, which I attributed to the venom of my frame of mind, a kind of kung-fu focus. After a few moments of study, and without remorse, I took her to the far end of the land and threw her into a ditch where critters would have an evening meal of her tomatoey meat.
I made a lot of ketchup from that harvest, pecked tomatoes or not. We had worked too hard to discard a bunch of tomatoes just because they had holes in them. Perversely, however, it seemed somehow the flavor was off. It wasn’t the tangy sweet delicious ketchup I had planned. Maybe I cooked it too long or didn’t add enough sugar or enough vinegar. It was a new recipe – maybe the spices were wrong. As it turned out, the last two quarts of it, still on the storeroom shelves five years later, got poured into the feeding pans at the chicken pen where it was relished mightily by the Bantams and the last of her kinsmen. (To be continued)