[Warning to other city cats, potentially objectionable content follows. Country cats, feel free to proceed, and please don't laugh too much.]
Perhaps you are wondering why I'm posting later than usual. I had planned another cute little entry about what a big old chicken I am, and how chicken the chickens are. I didn't attempt to push them out into the light of day until Friday, and each day, they have refused to exit. Elvis has still not left the building.
As my morning began, I had my day planned out. Feed the Boy breakfast, drop him off at school, make breakfast for myself and enjoy my coffee, and then skip the morning walk since the Husband was hunting, to finally sit down and type out the new entry.
I made the Boy two pieces of cinnamon toast, and one fried egg (harvested yesterday from Gandalf, who is now using one of the nesting boxes). I fed Amy and Katt. I put a filter (unbleached, of course) in the coffee machine and was pouring the first scoop of fair-trade certified coffee (ground at home!).
I jumped. I peered through the window and saw through the bushes beyond the lawn area a blaze orange Yeti walking. The Boy shrugged and said, "Well, that was a surprise." I then looked over my shoulder at Amy, who is ANOTHER chicken, and was relieved to see that she didn't hear the gunshot over the crunching of her hippy dog food. A few minutes passed, and Amy whined to be let out for her morning constitutional. Unsure how to proceed, I texted the Husband.
Me: Didja get one? And can I let Amy out?
Him: Maybe Prongs. Yes, just near house.
I shared the news with the Boy, who said that he was proud of Daddy. I took Amy to the front door and let her out, and thought about it. First thought was that I was pleased for Husband, who hadn't had any luck yet this season, and anticipation of being able to cook with ground venison again, after three months without.
Him: Found him. He's a big son of a gun.
I took the Boy to school and came home, mostly looking forward to my jalepeno (canned from my own garden, naturally) and egg sandwich and my coffee. And then came the request for help. I emptied the truck bed, and then cautiously approached the top of the hill which slopes down to the upper pasture. I saw Husband over a big object that could only be a deer. I hollered down to see if he wanted me to drive the truck down. Even from that distance, I could see the disbelief in his body when he yelled back that I should probably wait awhile.
Fine. I made breakfast and enjoyed it. I went out to the chicken coop to check on the girls. I was considering starting the laundry when I saw him waving me over near the barnyard.
I went and saw Prongs. I couldn't believe that he was just laying on the sled my husband was hauling. He still looked so full of life...until I saw the other side of him. Gulp. He'd been field dressed. I was just staring at him, when my Husband gently suggested that I go put on his car coveralls to protect my clothing (pretty blue lounge pants with matching jacket) from blood.
I am not going into all the gory details, or tell you all the things that disturbed my delicate sensibilities. I simply had a rude awakening. I love eating the local meats: venison, the local sheep, goats, chickens and beef. But I've still been getting it all in little plastic bags. I've been separated from the reality of how that meat gets on my table.
At one point, I grasped Prongs' foreleg near the shoulder as we were attempting to haul him into the back of the truck. It could have been one of Amy's legs: muscular and softly furred. Except it was cold. Prongs was dead, and would never break into the hen house again, or lead a couple of does into the yard to munch on the bushes. I'd never be able to expertly identify which of the three bucks we'd caught on the game cam, because we are down to two.
The Husband asked if I wanted to go to the processor with him. I've been there several times, picking up all those little plastic bags of venison. I'd never taken a deer there. So I went. They weighed Prongs in at 130 pounds. He had a 9 point rack (8 normal ones, and another one inch spike beginning. There were two more tiny spikes, but apparently you don't count those). The processor began to cut off the rack with a saw, and I had to turn my back. There are pretty cows there. I started counting them.
The Husband got my attention, because he needed to know how I wanted the meat. I turned back, and thankfully the worker had moved on to one of the other deer waiting to be processed. I watched as he skillfully began to skin the doe. It was okay to watch, if not fascinating. But I had to walk away when he turned his attention back to Prongs.
I was quiet on the drive home. Husband asked if I was okay. I cracked some jokes: I'm married to Voldemort! Looks like Santa was hauling the deer this year! I'm gonna have to kill off a supporting character on the blog!
It's been an interesting morning. I'm okay. I'm glad my eyes are no longer shut so tightly. But my comfort zone wasn't stretched today. It was totally breached. Here I thought I was getting my hands dirty already. I have my family so accustomed to pure venison that beef tastes weird to us. I completely support the much-needed reduction in the local deer population. But then I finally got to see just how a running, jumping, and fascinating animal winds up in my freezer. I feel like a stupid city girl who might as well go sit out all night with a sack held open, waiting for snipes to crawl in.
Am I happy we'll have venison? You bet. Do I wish that I hadn't known Prongs? Absolutely. Do I think I am going to have the cajones to actually purchase some chickens for meat and then do what needs to be done? I doubt it. Apparently I might be too much of a tender-hearted, overly-sensitive little princess. I always wondered how small farmers and 4-H kids could raise animals for slaughter, but in an abstract way. Now I have a tiny bit of understanding.
So, tonight, I will raise a glass (of a medium body red that would totally work with venison) to Prongs, who was a lovely addition to my country adventure, who provided me with plenty of smiles, who will feed us for several months, and who helped teach me a lesson.
Never name your food.