Village life and chickens

People turn to the internet for all kinds of reasons: to learn something new, to be reminded of something old, to confirm what they already believe. To kill time.

Of course, some just want to know the chemical composition of lipstick or what time it is in Tanzania when it’s 6:33 p.m. in Latvia. But never mind all that, what I want to talk about is a search that led someone to my blog: It read (reproducing the lower-case style that all good searches hold to), “if you never chased chickens then you don’t know village life.”

I should stop and explain, for anyone sane enough not to know this, that some of the search questions that lead to a blog show up on a page the blogger can find if she’s obsessive enough to care, and I’m going to take a wild and irresponsible guess and say that most bloggers are at least that obsessive and probably more so. But not all the questions show up. Most, in fact, show up as Unknown Search Terms. Unknown to who(m, if you like)? No idea. Why are they unknown? Even less of an idea. It would drive me around the bend if I let myself think about it for too long, so let’s move on.

Irrelevant photo: Lupine leaves after a rain and before being eaten by slugs and snails.

Irrelevant photo: Lupine leaves after a rain and before being eaten by slugs and snails.

The comment about the chickens—it’s not really a question, is it?, she said turning a statement into a question of her own—is the most interesting one I’ve found to date. So instead of merging it into one of my periodic posts on how people find a blog, I’m dedicating an entire post to it, and if anyone types it into a search engine again (as surely people must, day after day, hour after hour; think an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters eventually reproducing the works of Shakespeare, although not necessarily with the words in the right order). Let’s start over, because I got lost there and I’m going to assume you did as well: If anyone types that into a search engine again Notes will be number one on the list of places addressing this very important question.

Since it’s that important, I need to fill in my background: I have never chased chickens—not in the village and not in either Minneapolis or New York, the other places I’ve lived. One of our dogs, Minnie the Moocher, did chase a chicken in an incident that involved both feathers and (a mercifully small amount of) blood, but I dragged her off in disgrace and the chicken wisely took herself off to her own side of the fence. (That was a friend’s fence and his neighbor’s chicken, so yes, our neighbors are still speaking to us.)

I have chased cattle. I’d tell you whether it was a cow or a bullock but the truth is that I didn’t look. I’m a city kid at heart. I do understand the difference, and if I look I can spot the signs, but noticing isn’t second nature. I mean, if it’s not something I need to know, why do I need to know it? So I’m using the plural, cattle, even though it was only one animal.

What’s the singular for cattle? Cat?

The incident with the, um, beast, didn’t happen in our village. Wild Thing and I were tourists then, on our first visit to Britain, and we’d gone to Avebury, which is near Stonehenge and has a big stone circle running through the middle of the village. The stone circle doesn’t have those impressive cross-pieces that Stonehenge brags about, but it’s still breathtaking, and you can wander into the middle of it and lean against the stones, which they don’t let you do at Stonehenge anymore.

We were wandering around being suitably amazed when a couple of guys ran up, trying to herd a—for the sake of simplicity, let’s say cow—into a field. She was young and spry and not interested in going through that gate, and every time they got her close she broke off and ran in some other direction. There weren’t enough humans involved to hem her in.

Wild Thing once co-owned a small farm in northern Minnesota, and they rented their field to a neighbor who ran cows on it. She swears the cows thought of nothing all day long but how to get out of the field and stand either in the yard or the road, so she knows a thing or two about herding cattle. By my standards, that makes her an expert. Besides, her grandmother spent her honeymoon cooking on a cattle drive, which gives Wild Thing all kinds of bragging rights.

Talk about romance.

So without being asked we posted ourselves where we thought we’d be useful. Wild Thing waved her arms and whooped when the cow came in her direction. I did what she was doing and I sounded like a New Yorker trying to sound like she knew what she was doing. We didn’t have a lot of cows on 75th Street. The cow jogged right, jogged left, saw an opening, then decided it was too small, what with all these humans jumping around. She looked for a different one, didn’t like the look of it either, and eventually she gave up and ran through the gate. One of the guys closed it, the other one gave us a wave and a nod, and that was it. We were tourists again. The life of contemporary Avebury snapped shut and was once again as distant from us as the lives of the people who’d wrestled those massive stones into place some 4,500 years before.

End of story. Beginning of questions: 1. Do we get extra points because a cow’s larger than a chicken? 2. Do we lose points for not living in the village where the chase took place? Or 3. do we lose all our points because the chase didn’t involve a chicken?

Since we moved to the village, we’ve seen and sometimes chased, all sorts of loose animals: one ewe with her two lambs who were on the road and terrified; a small herd of bullocks grazing happily in the Methodist cemetery; assorted wandering dogs. The best thing to do in these situations isn’t herd them home but figure out where home is and let the farmer (in the case of the sheep and cattle) know. This usually involves either knocking on doors or getting on the phone, and sometimes both.

We’ve also looked for lost cats—sometimes ours and sometimes other people’s. And I did watch a bus chase a peacock very, very slowly down the road. The peacock had his tail fully fanned out and was cursing in peacock, but the bus was bigger and he eventually gave up and went home, screaming all the way.

Chickens, though? We know a few people who keep them, but they (that’s the chickens) don’t seem to wander. For a while, M. had one lone chicken. She’d had three but two died and the survivor was so lonely that it followed M. whenever she worked in the garden and tapped on the window when she went inside. Was that chicken going to wander off? Not a chance.

T. kept chickens in a pen. They never got loose. J. and Co. kept extremely free-range chickens and they took themselves home, thanks, until the fox saw to it that they didn’t need to.

I can’t leave the topic without mentioning the things that have chased us. I’m still hoping to earn points here. One was a leg of lamb that Wild Thing had ordered from A., the owner of a local café, who raises both sheep and cattle.  When Wild Thing went to pick it up, though, A. had already sent it up the hill to us with J., who was headed in that direction. It would save us a trip, she figured. Only we weren’t home—we’d probably gone to pick the thing up—so J. left it with a neighbor, another J., who didn’t notice us coming home so she didn’t turn up on the doorstep with it. Instead, we called the first J. and she sent us to the second J. and eventually we claimed and cooked the damned thing.

Have I mentioned that I’m a vegetarian? Even when the leg of lamb’s gone free range, which this one clearly had.

We’ve also been chased by bullocks. They get bored standing around in fields all day with nothing interesting on TV, then they see someone walking through with a dog and think, Ooh, that looks like fun, and over they trot, rib to rib to massive damn rib. They’re big animals, just in case you haven’t spent any time with a herd of them gathering around you. If you’re inclined to be intimidated, they’re intimidating.

This happened a lot when we had an elderly and by then somewhat demented cocker spaniel who we couldn’t let off the leash because he’d developed a habit of turning around and running back where we’d come from. And since by then he was pretty nearly deaf—. So, yeah, we kept him on a leash. We left more than one field with me in front, leading the dog on a fast march, and Wild Thing behind, walking backward, brandishing her stick, and giving them a shout or two when they didn’t take her seriously enough. She’s the daughter of a woman who took on a snorting, pawing bull armed with nothing better than a broom and won. In a showdown between Wild Thing and a herd of restless bullocks, my money’s on Wild Thing.

This was back when her ankles allowed for this kind of carrying on. We miss those walks. More than I know how to tell you.

Until last Wednesday, we were being chased by a blue banner that says “Save Our NHS,” but that was chasing us around the entire county, not just the village, so I’m not sure it counts. When I wrote the first draft of this, it had reached the outskirts of the village. By the time I did the final edits, it had reached us.

Since I’m getting increasingly tangential, I might as well tell you that I was chased by—well, something bovine, but we’ll get to that—when I was too young to remember it. My family was in Vermont on vacation and my father walked across a field with my brother and me and we were chased by what he swore was a bull. He lifted us into a tree and heroically held it off with a stick (which probably would have broken if he’d hit anything with it). It became one of those family stories that are told repeatedly. And at this point in the story, my mother would say, “Peter, that was a bullock.”

“It was a bull.”

My parents were also city kids. Whatever chased us, it was bovine and male, that’s all I know. All three of us lived through it. My parents were an exceptionally loving couple, but they did have a habit of arguing out the details of each other’s stories. At length. I think they enjoyed it.

So do I know village life? It’s hard to say. I’ve lived here for ten years, but I’m an incomer with a funny accent and a better understanding of subway trains than of chickens.

Does the person who typed that statement into Google know about village life? Are they looking to confirm an existing belief or to challenge one? I don’t know, but I did type it into Google myself to see what I could learn. First, Google suggested that what I really wanted to know was “if you ever chased chickens then you don’t know village life.”

Nope. The original statement said “never” and it makes more sense that way.

Google then led me to a hunting magazine which would be mortified if it knew it was promoting chicken hunting but that ran an article containing the words if you don’t know and chickens. Close enough. Notes from the U.K. came second and third on the list because I have a category called Village Life and because I use the phrase don’t know (as in I don’t know) a lot. I never noticed how often.

One of my posts also used the word chase.

If you’re an SEO-hound (and for those of you pure enough not to know what SEO is, please stay that way; it means search engine optimization, and bloggers can get obsessed with it), then you know that appearing second and third on a Google list is almost as good as appearing first, even if it’s in answer to a question (or in this case, statement) as obscure as this one. After this post, I expect to come first, second, and third. So please encourage all your relatives to type “if you’ve never chased chickens you don’t know village life” into Google. It won’t do me any good, but it’ll give you all something to talk about at the next family party.

But to go back to the sites Google offered me: After Notes, I found blogs about village life in England, in Spain, and in Turkey. They used the words village, life, know, and you. One used the word never. Clear candidates. Horse and Hound used the word never and cockerel in close proximity. Google seems to recognize cockerel as a variant on chicken.

I stopped after Horse and Hound, no wiser about either village life or the person who so hauntingly googled it. Whoever you are (she typed plaintively), if you happen to read this, I’d love to hear from you. What were you really looking for?

40 thoughts on “Village life and chickens

  1. I’m going to give you points because beef and chicken show up together on the menu and on the dog food can label so they must be, essentially, the same thing. If I ever make it to your village, I’ll be careful not to chase women or any lone woman with a stick or a broom. If I’m chased by a bull, I’ll look for a china shop.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. OK, so I was a bus driver in Minneapolis for 17 years, as you know, and I never chased a peacock slowly. One time, though, I slung the bus around sideways on a highway in order to block the entire road so that a family of ducks could slowly cross the road. Fortunately they were crossing towards the wide-open world, not the other side of the freeway. I don’t know what I would have done if they were going the other direction. They had already done that half without my help. [Plural: ducks. Singular: duck.] Robert McCloskey probably has a drawing of all of us: ducks calmly moving in a tidy, endearing line and most of the passengers clapping excitedly. One complained to the bus company.
    My version of Wild Thing and I live on a farm in Wisconsin, and we have six chickens, who are completely free-range except in the winter and at night. Today one of them chased the dog away after he had energetically, despite his advanced age, chased the other five quite some distance. One of them chases me frequently, but a different one. [Plural: chickens. Singular: chicken.] A couple of times I have sat in the coop on a folding chair I carried up there and read to them. Once it was “This is Not For You” by Jane Rule, and once it was “Charlotte’s Web.” There were undoubtedly spiders in attendance (don’t they say you’re always within ten feet of a spider wherever you are–on this planet at least–) but they were unobtrusive. Perhaps they were listening intently, or perhaps they were in a corner playing pinochle and couldn’t have cared less.
    I see cattle around these parts frequently. I believe I was once chased by one, as a child in Connecticut, but I have always enjoyed seeing them and smelling them. [Plural: cattle. Singular: beast, ox, critter]. I liked this entry a lot, Ellen. Thank you. One kine word always deserves an udder.

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    • Singular: pun. Result: groan.

      I’ll spend the rest of my day happily picturing spiders playing pinochle while you read. I’m pretty sure they could play and listen at the same time. Thank you for that image. And the one about the ducks and the bus, which is wonderful.

      Like

  3. I follow a travel blogger who lives somewhere in the UK and he’ll do the occasional post on search terms. I’ve tried to look at mine, but never found much worth repeating the exercise for. I did have to look up ‘bullock’. If you’d said ‘steer’ I would have known what you meant. But I’ve chased chickens a few times until we taught them to go into the pen at night on their own. I still feel guilty about the night I wasn’t paying attention and locked the rooster (cockerel?) outside. Next morning all we found was a pile of white feathers.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Because steer wasn’t really a working part of my vocabulary in the US, I didn’t notice I’d gone all British there. Worth knowing. Thanks.

      Yeah, that business with the rooster would’ve disturbed me too. They’re a responsibility, aren’t they?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I use the internet not to kill time but slaughter it. Of course, that’s just me. The image of the peacock screaming peacock imprecations as he gave up his blockade is delightful, thank you for that!

    I am a big fan of these searches-that-brought-folks-to-my-blog posts of yours, though the search terms for CaaBP tend to follow remarkably boring patterns. (Like how every six months or so somebody will show up looking for the definition of “astride” only to be, I suspect, deeply disappointed and probably even more confused.) But I recently got a visitor searching the phrase, “truth is out i’ll seize it like a snake” — which is wonderfully weird and evocative, and probably should have brought said-searcher here to your village life of chicken-chasing and cat interlopers rather than the den of sex and pop-culture perversions that is _my_ blog…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Truth is out and I’ll seize it like a snake. Holy shit. I have no idea what that means but I’m overcome with the urge to use it somewhere. For something. It’ll sound so–. Um. Evocative. Poetic. Smart. And everyone will be too impressed to know that I have no idea what I’m evoking.

      Okay, I added the and.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I always enjoy your posts but I do feel I should issue a warning about cows.
    Last year a friend of mine was walking his dog along the edge of a field, A herd of cows attacked him and one cow tossed him. Other cows then trampled over him. He ended up in hospital with multiple injuries including many broken ribs. He was lucky to survive.
    Apparently cows have killed 74 people in the last 15 years in Britain.
    They can be very dangerous!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right–they can be dangerous. I’m always torn between caution (I read the articles and get thoroughly scared) and Wild Thing’s conviction that whatever they do, she can handle it. From what I’ve read, the best thing to do if you have a dog with you is take it off the leash. It can run faster than the cow(s)–but only if it has the sense, which our elderly dog no longer did. Thanks for adding a dose of good sense to the discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting the search terms that bring readers to us. My husband and I once herded a calf back into a field from which it had escaped. My husband chased it on his bike and I waved my arms and tried to look like a great barrier. It worked and the calf went through the gate. Oh, and being a blogger I also videoed and wrote about it. Though I’m not sure if anyone ever searched for it. Thanks for sharing at the Blogger’s Pit Stop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for making it possible to share posts there.

      I’m not sure how it’s possible to wave your arms and video the chase all at the same time. Maybe it would all get too ingrown, but that seems like it’s worth a video of its own.

      Like

  7. I’ve been chased by a Barracuda in the Bahamas, and a bull in the mountains of Australia. I do like that truth and grabbing it like a snake. Wonderful post!!!! It cracked me up. I don’t ever get any great search terms except for “cute asses”. Must have something to do with my Cute A** Puppies post. Note to self – must have more edgy titles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If there’s a most dangerous chase prize, I think you win it. I’ve never even seen a barracuda, never mind been chased by one.

      Confession: I never stopped to think what I’m writing in my headlines that’s drawing this mayhem to my door. It just seemed sort of inevitable that people typing “semper semper sex,” whatever that means, would end up at my blog. It’s something I’ll have to give some thought to, I guess, as long as it doesn’t spoil the fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Never knew Village Life but when I moved from my old place to the next place, I had to give up 4 chickens. They just ran around the yard and roosted in the walnut tree at night. Anyway, I found a great place for them to go…not too far so I could visit them and the other chickens already there.

    I asked the man; “how do I catch them?” and he handed me a net. I said; “you’ve got to be kidding?’ He said; “Nope and I’d help you if I wasn’t disabled, because there is nothing I like more than a good chicken chase”.

    Needless to say I didn’t do it that way. I got a 20 foot ladder and leaned it against the limb they roosted on every night. Well after dark, I climbed the ladder and shown a flashlight into their eyes and grabbed each of them. I handed them down to (HE who will not obey) and he put them in a dog crate and we took them to the chicken paradise.

    When the guy who owned the other chickens heard how I captured mine, he said I cheated. ~~dru~~

    Liked by 1 person

      • Sure he gets to set the rules, he was the “chicken man” and took in strays or chickens that had to be gotten rid of (because of moving, like me) AND the chicken sanctuary was clean and smelled of straw and the chickens seemed happy, although penned at night (unlike mine) but roamed free in the day in the compound.
        Hell yah he got to set the rules, it is just that I don’t often follow rules, no matter who sets them. …giggle…

        THANX FOR READING MY DRIVEL, Ellen. ~~dru~~

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey that was some great storytelling! I could go on about chasing snakes….or about the time the horse went out on the roof…(Thanks for the chicken link-up! I found what I was looking for,though I took this unusual detour here..such fun!)

        Liked by 1 person

          • Snakes; chasing them and being chased! There is such thing as a coachwhip snake here in the states that you can chase and it will run,..slither fastly?, away, but when you stop, it will chase you back! I encountered one on horseback and it was a scene with snorting pawing horses in a pickle.
            When we were young, Daddy would catch assorted non-venomous types and put them in a sack and nail it to a tree for us to see when we got home from school. That was early conditioning. Once while playing in the creek, Sister got a cottonmouth hung in her flip flop, shook it off and it chased her and everyone else up the bank! She got older and bought a Ball Python to keep in her room, it got loose (and lost)and we all slept for weeks in terror that Miles would crawl into the beds. I found him wrapped around the wastebasket in my brothers’ room after school and he was hissing at me..had turned wild. I called her at work and she said “get a pillowcase and pick him up by the tail and put him in it…easy!” It was like a real snake handling event with a writhing three foot Python and a twelve year old and a coach on the phone “just do it!!!” She still has her neighbors call her for snake removal (mind you she’s a six foot tall blonde amazonian beauty) and just last year she had a run-in up in the neighbors tree with an upset black snake that bit her on the wrist… she was quite embarrassed at explaining to her exec. bank workers why her hand was bandaged, they were totally unassuming of her redneck alter-life…

            Then there was a horse event back at the wooded snake pinning homestead.. Daddy had dug out of the hillside and made a “cave” barn for Sisters’ horse with a tin roof extending from the ground. He also had a “cave” auto shop next to the creek where he rebuilt Hondas. One day Sister let Blue Boy out to graze in the yard. It was fall, and leaves had covered the roof, so the horse walked out and his legs broke through the tin, but the timber roof pole was keeping him suspended like falling on a balance beam between your legs. Who do you call for that?? Ivan Secrest and his crane. He came out and we had to restrain the horse long enough to get the strap under his belly. He was thrashing and wild, snorting and kicking around,so 200 lb “Timmy”took a belt and hobbled the front legs…then sat on his neck to keep him steady. With one enormous grunt the horse threw Timmy up in the air and broke in half the 1970’s wide belt with all the holes in it. Finally the strap was wrestled around the belly and the 100ft crane lifted the horse high in the air and placed him on the ground. Hardly any scratches or injuries thankfully. Mama said “we should’ve called channel 9 news!!!!”
            Ok, I’ve written a whole story blog on your post here but thanks, it’s quite enjoyable to share the story with y’all over there

            Liked by 1 person

            • Well holy shit (as the kids said where I grew up), you guys are tough. And I’m admiring. I grew up in New York. Get in my face and I can make just as much noise as you do and (usually–I do have occasional moments of good sense) not back down, even though I come up, roughly, to most people’s armpits. But getting chased by a snake? I don’t care if it’s smaller than me. Ack!

              Like

    • My pleasure. He does a regular blog sharing feature on weekends.

      I’d actually forgotten about this post but I went through the spam comments folder and unearthed a couple of real comments, one of which led me back here.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Singing buildings, smart condoms, immigration, and other stuff in the news | Notes from the U.K.

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