Precht: Coming home to roost

 

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

True, Mr. Romney lost the election so the 47% of the people “who are dependent upon government” might think they have nothing to worry about.

If you are one of them, before you doze off you might pay attention to what they — Republicans and Democrats — are up to in Washington and how it might affect your dependency. In an effort to heal the deficit, they are cutting important stuff out of the national budget on which you are “dependent.”

When you wake up and begin to think of what cheer Christmas — and the federal government — might bring you this year, calculate carefully what the Washington trimming could do to your comforts. Naturally, your first thoughts will be about what is to be served on the festive table. Whether your taste runs to turkey, beef or ham, bear in mind that all of those creatures live off corn, which is supplied to growers at reasonable cost, thanks in good measure to the federal farm bill. Cut those subsidies and farmers will be jacking up the price of each slice.

What is to be done? Well, the Tea Party folk would have us revert to the customs of the early Americans. That would mean getting down the musket loader (or, if you don’t have one, an assault rifle) and going out into the woods to shoot a turkey. But hold on. The Nanny State has set rules against that: You can only hunt turkeys in season and this ain’t the season.

If you had been prudent and parsimonious, like Americans of long ago, you would certainly have a plump roasting hen in your chicken coop. There is no Bridgton regulation against raising chickens in your backyard. Walking down Main Street, I have distinctly heard the crowing of a rooster; suggesting somebody won’t go hungry. Or, they could serve a homegrown omelet.

When I was growing up in Savannah, Ga., (population then about 90,000) my Republican father raised chickens in our backyard in a residential neighborhood. There were two varieties: Plymouth Rocks for the kitchen table and bantams for breeding and show. Every January, he would bring home a flat cardboard box of P.R. biddies and put them in a wooden cage in a corner of the kitchen, where they would be nurtured until spring allowed them to be moved outside. Because we had no central heating, he kept a light bulb going at night to keep them warm.

While I am advocating chicken in the backyard as a means of avoiding the coming congressional crackdown on dependency, I should call attention to two hazards that might give you pause:

First, raising chickens is not labor free and some of the work is unpleasant. My mother took on the chore of feeding and gathering eggs, some of which she sold to neighbors for her “egg fund.” My father was responsible for cleaning up the guano. My brother and I busied ourselves cleaning the pigeon cages of Dr. Cole next door. He rewarded us with lemonade, cookies and quarters, which were not on offer from my frugal parents.

My father devised a kind of chicken guillotine: a chopping block which held the head in place and a large tin funnel to catch the decapitated body and let it drain of blood. Then, the carcass was carried in to my mother who plucked it clean and removed the innards (which, aspirant chicken raisers please note, do not come in a small envelope as they do in the supermarket). As I say, not pleasant work.

A second hazard is the crowing of roosters early, early in the morning. Only once in my life did I see my mother lose control. At breakfast, one morning, she screamed at her husband, “Those damn roosters! I can’t sleep! You’ve got to do something!” My father the next weekend cut off all the offending heads, including those of prize-winning bantams. We ate only chicken for weeks after that. But, the marriage survived.

On the positive side, if you opt for backyard chickens, you will remove yourself from the scorned company of dependent citizens. Plus, you will be marching to the popular tune of the organic drummer. Negatively viewed, raising chickens will be acting contrary to the compelling march toward greater and greater globalization

Henry Precht is a summer Bridgtonian.

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