Saturday, July 14, 2012

No more chickens

I don't know what I will say to them.  The last few days when I am alone with my thoughts - usually early in the morning when the sun is up, but I know I don't have to be, I imagine what our next conversation will be like.  Sometimes I pretend that Dick and Helen, our neighbors, are apologetic and bring us kringla cookies because they feel bad about making us get rid of our chickens.  Then I am grand and forgiving.  Sometimes I am rude and angry and I swear at them and tell them about my crying children.  Sometimes, in the twilight between awake and asleep, between dream and imagining, we pass in the street and we say nothing to each other and that breaks my heart too.

Tuesday the Huxley City Council asked us to come to their meeting to discuss renewal of our license to have chickens in the city limits.  Two years ago we went to the city and got a special dispensation to have chickens in the city limits on the conditions that all of our neighbors agreed and that we kept the chickens contained.  I went, dreading the meeting.  I knew that our neighbors across the fence were not happy about it because we had let the chickens roam and they went in their yard.  They are our friends, really, and we had talked about it before.  We were third or fourth on the agenda.  The meeting wasn't going well - Mr Quick was angry about the development the city wasted millions of our tax dollars on.  That is another story.  Dick and Helen were both there when I sat down.  I jokingly asked them if they were there to testify against me. They said they weren't there to testify against anyone, but I knew that wasn't true.

When it was our turn, one of the council members asked why this was on the agenda.  The city clerk said that they had received a letter from Dick and Helen complaining about the chickens and that our yearly permission was up.  Most of the council members were skeptical about us getting chickens the first two times I had been there, but we had covered most of their concerns by having a letter signed by all the neighbors agreeing to have chickens, plans for a fancy coop, and a limit on the number of chickens.  I knew how it was going to end once Helen and Dick started talking.  In their defense, they did say they didn't want to be there, but the clerk had asked them to come.  But, they said they didn't think we should have chickens.  The chickens had got out and come in their yard.  Dick and slipped on the crap.  Helen had expensive hostas.  They chickens have digging feet of hosta death.

I tried to defend the chickens.  I admitted that we had let them out in the evenings, which two city council members were visibly upset about.  We had not said earlier that the chickens would roam free.  Sometimes they went along the fence and five months ago, when I was out of town, they had wandered a number of times into the neighbors yard.

Helen called Leila furious and vowed to call the cops.  Leila called me upset and when I got back I went to talk to Helen.  I told Helen then, if she would apologize that I would kill the chickens.  Helen doesn't believe in apologizing.  No, really.  She doesn't. Leila said she was sorry, but Helen told me, that if she, or anyone, is really sorry, then they wouldn't have done it.  If she was sorry, she wouldn't let the chickens out any more.  We had been irresponsible and she wasn't going to stand for it.  I told Helen that it had really upset Leila, not that the chickens had got out, but how Helen had spoke to her, and that I hoped that she would because they had been our friends.  Helen never apologized.  I didn't kill the chickens, and was careful that the chickens never went in their yard.  That was five months ago.

We discussed it for a half hour.  The same council had spent 5 minutes discussing paying an outside firm for a commercial development plan for 20,000 dollars that we didn't have.  It passed. Don't get me started.  A number of compromises were proposed - building a fence for example.  I said I was happy to build a fence.  Again they were skeptical about why would even want to have chickens.  Again I explained that I liked having them for my kids to have chores to do that were real and that I liked the eggs.  They aren't dogs or cats that love you.  But we were still attached to them.  Finally they voted.  It was unanimous against allowing chickens.

So, we could either ignore the rules, which I think are stupid, or we could abide by them.  I mean, what could the council have done if we had ignored them?  Called us in for another meeting?  A fine?  Have the cops come and take our chickens by force? I didn't want to kill the chickens.  I usually am the chicken butcherer.  I am pretty good at stripping the feathers, gutting and cleaning chicken.  I don't like plucking, so I usually skin the chicken and cut off the wingtips that have those little pin feathers.  But, somehow it is different when I want to kill them.  Leila put an add on Craigslist and 20 people called before lunch.  By four they were out on someone's farm.  I guess that means we would abide by the law/rule.  I don't know if that is the honorable thing to do.  When I comforted my crying daughters it felt weak, like I had backed down to a bully.

I still don't know what I will say to my neighbors.  For now, we haven't talked about it.  Maybe we never will.  I don't think I have forgiven them or the council members, but I am not sure what the right thing to do is.  So instead, I lie awake running scenarios in my head, pretending I know what to say and do to make it right and be the person I imagine myself to be.  


Christine Merrill said...

If it makes you feel better, I think you did the right and brave thing. I don't know what to say to the neighbor. Someone was similarly rude to me in PTA last year, and somehow, after a yelling match in the school cafeteria, by the end of the school year, we were working together well again. Maybe not quite friends, but able to get along. Time an a concerted effort to forgive can do a lot. In the mean time...not very fun. But things will get better! A window will open somewhere!

Brian G. said...

I brought them sweet corn yesterday, the Iowa equivalent of an olive branch.

Becca said...

Ugh. This is making me mad all over again. I think I only read about it on Leila's blog??? I actually got on your blog to find the post about when you GOT the chickens, because my friend in Rigby is trying to write chicken ordinances for the city and get them to allow it. I'm so sorry Brian.

Also, you are such a good writer and so introspective. We miss you Gardunias! Can't Monsanto transfer you here???