A personal anecdote from living on the farm on the ‘B’ line between Kincardine and Tiverton, Ontario that was published for my parents as a gift in Rooster Showdown and Other Tales for the Farm. Request permission to reprint through the contact page.
I can’t remember a time in my early childhood when I didn’t have chickens. Before I ever went to school, I was responsible for feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs. In addition to their daily care, I conducted a serious scientific investigation of chicken behaviour, on a semi-regular basis. My mother reminisced years later that I would come in the house chattering about the results of my wing tests and tail tests that I had just conducted. They were quite talented chickens!
Feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs was not so easy as it may sound! The chicken coupe was a fenced in area behind the cherry tree in the backyard. The dirt path started at the tree and was surrounded with weed flowers: buttercups, daisies, dandilions, clover, and, my favourite, Queen Anne’s Lace.
At the end of the path was the gate of the coup. I opened the gate and artfully slipped inside without allowing any escapees. Inside the yard, all around the coup, there was a dirt packed ground, out of which grew numerous tall, hearty weed flowers. Here was the challenge! Attached to the roof of the coup, under the eaves, in the corner, was an enormous beehive. Neadless to say, there was a large number of bees in the area, doing their job, collected nectar from the wildflowers. Seriously, this was no small feat. These flowers were almost as tall as I was and swayed in the breeze. A wildflower swaying in the breeze with a bee resting on the top is a dangerous weapon!
It took a great deal of patience, but I had an effective strategy to deal with the situation. Take a step. Stand still. Take another step. Stand still. Wait for the bee to move. Take a step. Stand still as the bee buzzes around my face, behind my head, and back again, until it buzzed away.
This was my daily routine to make my way to and from the entrance, which was around the corner, on the far end. Once inside, I had a sense of success and relief. Collect the eggs. Spread the feed. Complete the scheduled wing tests and tail tests. Make my way back to the gate. I took great pride in the fact that I completed this task without getting stung. In fact, on many occasions I was heard bragging about my amazing abilities.
One summer day, I had my best friend over for the day for a play visit. My mom asked me if I had fed the chickens yet, and I hadn’t, so we headed out to the coup. I explained to
Heather how we had to walk to the coup to avoid being stung.
We walked down the path to the gate, opened the gate, stepping inside, and began the slow walk to the door. Take a step. Stand still. Take another step… I should have waited! I don’t even remember the bee, but I felt the sting. I burst into tears immediately. Heather led me back to the house, to my mom, who immediately took “mom” action to rectify the situation. She made a warm, baking soda poltice which effectively removed the stinger. The bee sting was really painful, but, really, what hurt the most was my pride.