Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails From the Farm

Dad’s Way

When I was young, my family didn’t have any large livestock, but we certainly had our share of fowl. From chickens to ducks, geese and rabbits, we certainly had a lot of animals. The rabbits were housed in a nice, little building. The chickens in a chicken coop, one with a nice sized yard to peck about in, and the waterfowl had a large yard and pond off a little building they were supposed to locked up in at night. For the most part, all the animals remained safe from predators, though we did have trouble with neighbour’s dogs. The damage a dog can do is just awful. Unlike a wild predator, they’ll run through a flock, ripping and tearing as they go. A wild predator will take a chicken or whatever, and leave with the one animal. It’s not looking to kill everything. It just wants to eat, or feed its young.
We were up to about a hundred ducks and almost two dozen geese one year, when we noticed that every few days, we were missing a duck. It happened when they were put away for the night late, or someone neglected to shut the little door to their house. I would go out and count the ducks playing and splashing in the pond, little bums sticking out of the water, webbed feet paddling the air, busily getting on with their ducky day. The geese were fine. Too aggressive for most critters to bother with, they walked around with simple arrogance, beaks way up with that stuck-up air of arrogance they were so good at. Whatever was taking the ducks was too small to take on a goose, so the logical deduction was that the culprit was a fox. A fox could take on a duck, even a portly, large one. It might go after a goose, but certainly not when there were easier pickings.
My horse was a mile away, if I went as a crow flew, or almost two, if I had to stick to the road. When the fields were impassable, I would often walk in a field bordering the train tracks. It cut the road walk by half a mile. It was one of these times that I saw it. All around a hole dug into the bank of the ditch were feathers, duck feathers, our duck feathers. I had found the perpetrator of the crimes. I could hardly wait to tell dad. The puzzle was solved, and he could deal with it.
After taking care of Thow-ra, I headed back home by the same path I’d taken going out. Though I stood there a while, the fox didn’t show itself, and on I went. I hurried to tell my father of my discovery.
“I found the fox hole, Dad,” I excitedly told him, “I could show you where it is.”
“Oh?” he raised his brows in that way he had, “where is it?”
“Just down the tracks a ways,” I pointed to the west with some excitement, “there are feathers everywhere … a carpet of them.”
“Oh,” he reflectively mused, “she probably has little ones, yeah?”
I hadn’t thought about that, but realized he was probably right, “I guess. Are you going to do anything about her?”
“No,” shaking his head, he shrugged. That giant of a man, who was strict and had trouble showing his emotions, simply gave a little smile, “she has to feed her little ones, too. She’s only taking what she needs, no more. It’s my fault, she can get at them. I have to make the fence better, lock them up at the right time. She’s only doing what nature tells her to. She hasn’t done anything wrong.”
I could hardly believe my ears, yet I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t kidding. He meant every word. He worked on the fence, locked up the waterfowl earlier, and she still got a duck now and again. As it turns out, she was very determined, and made my father work at keeping the ducks safe. He never got angry about the losses. To his way of thinking, she worked harder than he did, and earned every one she took. Funny thing was, when the kits left her, she quit stealing ducks. I suppose, I get my philosophy about wild animals, from him. Nature exists, and we have to learn to get along with her, not work against her. My father, the man who had survived war, hunger and loss, had compassion for a little vixen raising her kits. He was an amazing man.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB