My Grandmother once gave CPR to a chicken. I just don’t know any other way to start this tale. It would just seem as if this story was rambling and twisting around like the Mississippi River, unless I let you know right up front where we are going. So there you have it, this is a tale of life in the country, and chicken CPR is where we’re headed.
The month was July, the weather was HOT, and setting tobacco was the task of the day. That day I remembered, how as a child I use to sit in the shade and watch with envy as older family members rode the setter. Now that I had gained the coveted privilege, my envy had gone up in smoke. If you were a kid who lived your life in the country, you understand how you grow up waiting to be big enough to help. Oh, if we had only known how good we had it! My tobacco setting companion for the day was my Grandmother, aka, Mama Sue. She said she was too young to be called any grandmotherly name when I, the first grandchild was born, so Mama Sue it was.
Mama Sue and I rode along singing old country or gospel songs to pass the time. Row after row, plant after plant, as the setter wheel went round and round. I looked forward to when the water tank on the tractor would start getting low. I knew we would have to go back to the house to fill it up, and I would have a short reprieve. I knew better than to complain, because then I would hear about how lucky I was to ride the setter, and how they use to do this by hand with an old wooden peg, and someone following behind with a bucket of water. That sounded like pure torture, compared to my paid tenure riding on the setter, so I looked forward to my breaks quietly. This day however dark clouds were quickly forming in the sky. An executive decision was made by my Grandfather to head back to the house and wait out the storm.
As we gathered on the back porch, Mama Sue fixed us glasses of her sweet sun tea. There we were, sipping our tea, smelling that wonderful aroma of a good ole summer rain, enjoying life in the country, when.. BAM, lightning struck! I don’t mean in the distance, I mean, I thought Gabriel had blown the trumpet, my insides were reverberating, the ground shook, struck!
Now, there are differing accounts of exactly what happened next, depending on who you ask, but I can tell you what I saw for a fact. The side of the old wooden garage was on fire, a tree limb was on the ground smoldering, and a fuzzy face chicken lay lifeless by the garage. I stood stunned, motionless, for what seemed like a decade, while others ran past me off the porch. When the shock wore off and I started moving, I saw my Grandpa and Uncle heading to the garage, Mama Sue right behind them. I followed. I almost ran smack into Mama Sue as she suddenly stopped when she reached the chicken. I had expected her to keep going to the burning garage. Silly me, I should have known better. She hurridely scooped the ole hen up in her arms, turned, and ran back to the house.
I turned and hurried after her, yelling, “What about the garage?”
“I have to save this hen!”, She yelled back.
You may have gathered this about Mama Sue, but if not, she loves animals, all animals. She once had a pet pig in the house. I don’t mean a guinea pig, but that’s another story.
I burst through the back door to see Mama Sue sitting in a chair in the kitchen with the ole hen completely lifeless in her lap. She opened that hen’s beak and began to do mouth to beak resuscitation. She used 2 fingers to give compressions, it actually looked quite professional. For the second time that day I stood stunned, motionless, until Mama Sue snapped me back into reality.
“Well, don’t just stand there, get me a wet paper towel!”, She instructed.
I wasn’t sure if the paper towel was for her or the chicken, but I did as I was told. It turned out it was for the chicken. That ole hen had started breathing! Mama Sue started dabbing it’s face and head with the paper towel. She just sat and held that chicken for awhile, while the men outside continued to fight flames. Now I will say that it is a mild possibility that in my child’s mind, the flames appeared bigger than their size in reality. In my mind I remember a blazing inferno.
Whether an inferno or a smoldering, the fire was eventually extinguished. The hen was placed in a cozy spot of the laying room of the hen house, away from the other chickens, so she could continue to recooperate. After everyone’s excitement had calmed down, Mama Sue explained that the ole fuzzy face hen was the last one of her Father’s who had passed away. She just wasn’t ready to lose her yet.
The funny thing about that hen was, it was old, it had lots of missing feathers, and bald spots all over it. After her near death experience that day, all her feathers grew back! She lived the country life another couple years on the farm, thanks to my Mama Sue and her chicken CPR.