Christmas with the folks in Houston, ’71: the vibes were not so high
Easter break, ’71: visiting the land before the move
Are you kidding? Have you ever been to Dixon? 🙂 But no. I edited the ad somewhat, but none of that was mentioned. There’s a phone number, of course.
We collected the chickens by spreading cracked corn on the ground and nabbing them with blankets again. Figuring that all I had to do was cut them down to a size that prevented the birds from flying, I used a pair of scissors to cut the wing feathers back as far as I dared, and soon we had a flock of hens with little stubby wings. Which quickly started bleeding… Who knew that living feathers had blood vessels? The bleeding wasn’t heavy, but the birds were snowy white, and soon they all showed bloody stains to punctuate my guilt. The chickens didn’t seem to mind, however, and at no point demonstrated any pain or obvious discomfort. In fact, the maiming didn’t slow them down at all: when all the corn was gone, they promptly flew right out of the enclosure and back into the trees! All they had to do was flap a little harder, and they were free.
We had no chicken coop, but I’d erected a pen of sorts with sticks and chicken wire (obviously), which the birds promptly escaped by taking flight and roosting in the trees. This state of affairs lasted for several weeks, and there was little we could do. They didn’t seem to mind the absence of the rooster and laid eggs wherever they wanted. Inside hollow logs or under piles of leaves were favorite spots, and if we found them, we had eggs. In the interest of efficiency, I eventually built a stronger pen and had a flash of inspiration as to how to keep them there: all we had to do was clip their wings! It sounded like a normal chore, like trimming your hair, for instance. That none of us had ever done it was no obstacle, and I volunteered.
O h no, not the bloody white leghorns again! Too late, alas. The memory of the brutal Arkansas chicken adventure was autoplaying in my brain, triggered by the offer of a flock of fifteen hens—free, of course—from someone in the nearby town of Dixon, New Mexico, as published in an email classifieds newsletter I subscribe to:
For our purposes here, all you really need to know was that by the summer of ’71, six people from Texas in their twenties were living in a motley collection of tents and one hand-built underground home on 170 acres of land they’d bought for fifty dollars an acre about an hour east of Fayetteville and trying their damnedest to make it work. We had a garden, foraged in the woods for wild persimmons, and ate communal vegetarian meals under a canvas awning beside a hand-dug well. There wasn’t any dope because we couldn’t find any. There wasn’t any sex because Sylvia refused and Sue was married. There wasn’t any booze, because, good God, who drank? Nudity was common, however, and we’d all ride down to the river or a nearby creek to bathe. We had no electricity or telephones. Whippoorwills shrieked scarily in the woods at night and wild hogs rooted in the leaves. There were three substantial streams and several waterfalls. It took about an hour to get to town unless we headed for the closer county seat, which we avoided if we could because the locals mostly loathed us. My contribution to the immediate ambience was ordering an Earth flag from the Whole Earth Catalog (where else?) and mounting it on a pole. The nearest fellow humans were several miles away, and that was fine with us.
He makes it sound so simple: just come and get them after they’ve settled in for the night. Of course, you’ll need some cages—or maybe not, if you leap into the abyss like I did over forty years ago.
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Yellowhammer Farm in northwest Arkansas in 1971. Hippies and a mess o’ chickens. Who could have known?