The day the chicken died. We started singing! Bye, bye… Actually, no. That day was the last day I ever pointed a gun at a living thing.
I’m a farm kid. Where I am from we have a group called 4-H. It is basically unisex boy scouts with livestock raising and death. We do lots of things like hunting, and fishing (and those things mean learning about conservation, death, and responsibility). We start fires with sticks and learn how to hold snapping turtles. We show projects and sell rabbits, and go to state fairs and milk cows.
Seriously. Milk a cow at the state fair. So cool! And you get free milk!
One fateful summer my esteemed 4-H leader had deemed us ready to hunt things other than targets. We had completed hunter safety courses with flying colors and were able to spin the small metal pig sign around and around repeatedly with our .22 rifles. Skeet shooting? Ha. We had the accuracy of the Remington clay bird team. We were champions. We were awesome. I thought I was that good. I was amazing! I was the best shot in the history of the world. Like, Annie Oakley get your freaking gun because this girl is gonna make you dance. Twice. With finger cymbals. Cha. Cha. Cha. I rocked.
It was natural that I felt awesome. After all my dad had taught me how to shoot the eyes out of my Troll dolls in our basement with a BB gun from a young age. I had shot a few raccoons and opossums out of trees on our family hunts and none of them had come back to life to claw me to death. Well, okay. One of them had, and I may or may not have a completely rational fear of opossums, but that is neither here nor there. Freaking zombie armadillos…
I looked around as my compatriots took down their rabbits and chickens with ease. The creatures stood no chance against our accuracy and firepower. The steady CRACK of gunpowder left my ears ringing and my anticipation growing. Down the line we went. One at a time. One at a time. Our training was strong on that. Safety first. Finally it got to me. My palms were moist with sweat and I aimed the .22 at a chicken 10 yards out. I gently squeezed the trigger. The gunpowder exploded, expelling the bullet through the air with lethal force. I raised my head anticipating glory, but I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
Yeah. My chicken didn’t die. It squawked in a panic and hid. Snickers went down the line. I glared at my peers and got the nod of encouragement from my mentor. I could do this. I stalked my quarry and carefully lined up and fired again. And again. Five times I shot at my chicken, yet it lived. Had I even hit it? Was it a zombie chicken? Was it an undead creature sent from the grave to mock my in front of my peers with horrifying cries and loose feathers? As my 4-H leader took my gun and cleanly executed the bird I stared into its beady little eyes and knew that no, this bird was not sent to torment me with life. It was meant to torment me with death. Suddenly, at a tender age of nine I knew guilt like I had never felt before. I knew inflicting pain. In that moment I realized the responsibility that a weapon is, and the heavy burden of deciding life or death of another living creature. I knew without knowing that I did not want to cause undue suffering ever, ever again. To anyone or anything. Even a chicken.
I had maimed a bird and I was forever changed.
I avoid hunting and fishing now, as I have ever since. I absolutely refuse to shoot at anything other than a soda can for fear of not killing it humanely.
And I don’t even like chickens. Like they attack me, and I am somewhat convinced that they are demons. We are discussing getting chickens on the farm for eggs and such. A small part of me is looking at it with so much trepidation. You don't even know. I am haunted by the ghosts of poultry past. I fear the chickens are going to rise up en mass and attack me like that flock of seagulls did. Or they are going to become giant hybrid chickens and chase me like the damn emu from hell did.
Seriously, there are nightmares.