Friday, August 27, 2010

First Drafts from Folsom Prison

I shot a man in Reno just to see if the gun still worked.
I shot a man in Reno for changing lanes without signalling.
I shot a man in Reno for driving with his turn signal on.
I shot a man in Reno for driving fifteen miles below the speed limit.
I shot a man in Reno for driving in the passing lane.
I shot a man in Reno for tailgating.
I shot a healthy man in Reno for parking in the handicapped space.
I shot a man in Reno for parking in the fire lane.
I shot a man in Reno for improperly using apostrophe’s.
I shot a man in Reno all the way from Tahoe.
I shot a man in Reno for using ‘reactionary’ when he mean ‘reactive.’
I shot a man in Reno for talking on his cellphone in the movie.
I shot a man in Reno for wearing a ‘Guinness’ shirt while drinking a Bud Lite.
I shot a man in Reno for generically referring to motorcycles as ‘Harleys.’
I shot a man in Reno for randomly using “quotation” marks.
I shot a man in Reno for using ‘literally’ to mean ‘figuratively.’
I shot a man in Reno for misusing the HOV lane.
I shot a man in Reno for arguing with the cashier over a 25¢ coupon.
I shot a man in Reno for having 12 items in a 10-item express lane.
I shot a man in Reno for organizing his entire financial portfolio at the driveup ATM.
I shot a man in Reno for ordering that drink he ordered at Starbucks.
I shot a man in Reno for saying “fewer,” when he meant “less.”
I shot a man in Reno for using ‘your’ when he meant “you’re.”
I shot a man in Reno
I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. ü

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beast Music

     I. If I had to pick the exact moment the day began to go off the rails, I have to say it was when I chose to stay in rather than head across the vast parking lot for some fast food. Instead, sometime later that afternoon, stomach grumbling, I opted for a stopgap plastic-wrapped “fish sandwich” ransomed from the vending machine and resuscitated with ninety seconds in the microwave.

That may have been the single most uninspiring lunch of my life.
Besides leaving me neither hungry nor sated, it set a dispiriting, dehumanizing tone that lingered with me like a stale fart until the next morning.
When the workday finally ground to an end, I suited up without any real sense of exhilaration at the prospect of five and a half days of free time to do nothing but ride. I suited up and shuffled out of my cubicle, only to arrive bikeside minus a glove. Sweat was already breaking out under the steamy sun as I carefully retraced my steps back across the parking lot, along the sidewalk, back through security into the building, all the way back to my desk.
Nada. Re-retracing my steps, I spied the errant glove hiding in the shadows within a pace of where I had been standing by the bike. Now completely drenched in sweat, I buttoned up and rolled into rush hour, lurching foot-by-foot the entire mile of the dusty strip to the nearest gas station for a quick top-off before hitting the road.
Forty-five minutes after I first started starting, I actually hit the interstate and found my little niche, tucked in amidst the screaming tractor trailers, in time to get ten minutes of riding before the storm hit. Like flipping a switch, the rain began and within seconds, water stood on the road and the blasting trucks filled the air with filthy spray. I got off the highway and watched the madness from the safety and comfort of a gas station awning while the storm sorted itself out and gradually moved on east.
Welcome to West Virginia. Elapsed time: One hour. Miles travelled: Sixteen. And I could still taste that fish sandwich.
For the next four hours, the storms played cat-and-mouse with me. As I rode northward, the sky would clear, the road would dry, it would be beautiful, and in just a few miles the clouds would regroup and the rain would resume. Twice it got bad enough for me to exit the highway and sit it out; I was not the least bit interested in proving anything on this ride.
Eventually, we reached a compromise—it would rain steadily, but not heavily. And so it did, for the last two hours of the first day of my long anticipated vacation. Which, it so happens, corresponded with the beginning of the real riding part—extricating myself from the superslab and entering the highway hugging the west shore of the Susquehanna.
Admittedly, the rain was gentle and erratic enough that I was able to enjoy the riding and the beautiful mix of mountains and river. But as the road wound on, it slowly began outrunning my riding stamina. I was worn from the workday and the hassles of getting this far; the light was fading, I was chilled from the earlier sweat mixed with the spots where the insistent rain had found its way in my suit, I was hungry, Beast was running low on gas, and I had no idea how far it was to my destination.
Did I mention I planned to camp tonight—tent, sleeping bag, the whole nine yards?
Maybe that goes farther to explain the “going off the rails” than a single fish sandwich from a vending machine. Because in pretty much every instance, ‘camping’ is synonymous with ‘outrunning my stamina,’ ‘chilled,’ ‘hungry,’ ‘low on gas,’ ‘tired,’ ‘getting dark,’ and ‘damp.’ That’s exactly what camping means, at least in our household.
Getting annoyed with myself, I started looking for a motel appropriate to my circumstances, meaning ‘cheap’ and ‘willing to shelter a bedraggled motorcyclist as long as he doesn’t do an oil change in the room and ruin our linens.’ Strangely, the little college town I was passing through seemed to have lots of places catering to parents well-enough off to send their kids to a fancy private college in the foothills of the Poconos and overlooking the confluence of the two branches of the Susquehanna, (read: pricey and fancy) but oddly, fairly few targeting my specific demographic. Hmm. Go figure.
No matter. I would bravely soldier on, trusting fate there would be something appropriate down the road somewhere.
But by now, the rain had abrogated our earlier agreement; it was raining both steadily and heavily. It was full-on dark, and both my visor and glasses were spattered with rain and fogged; oncoming headlights made it almost impossible for me to see the road ahead. I rode awkwardly and hesitantly into the darkness, fumbling my way down the highway until I finally recognized a road of the right aspect heading in the right direction. I followed it.
In short order, it took me to the route number I was looking for. Making a calculated guess between left and right, I turned onto the road and began looking eagerly for my destination—the campground.
Prior to this, I had been riding in daylight or in built-up areas; I was now in the country, and it was very, very dark. Except for the headlights of the onrushing cars, which were very, very bright. I really wasn’t liking this part very much at all. The low-gas warning light had been on for a really long time, and there wasn’t a gas station to be found. There wasn’t much of anything to be found, it seemed.
Then suddenly (…really suddenly, like I had to grab a fistful of brake because all of a sudden there it was, and thank FSM for ABS…) I was there. Oddly enough, at almost the exact instant, two Ducatistis arrived, making us the only folks there on eurobikes—everything else, without fail, was a V-Twin, American or otherwise.
A huge fire burned in a ginormous metal bowl near the entrance. I parked Beast, and slowly, creakily, made my way towards the light and warmth. Squishing my way along, I noted the campground was on the fertile flood plain of the Susquehanna (evidenced by the rich cornfields just beyond the road), which also meant the land was very, very flat, and all that rain that had been falling since I left Virginia four hours ago was sitting right where it fell, all two inches or so of it. Right where my tent was going.
Yeah, I was starting to think that perhaps camping was the weak link in my plan.
But angels can come in all shapes and sizes, and in this case my personal angel was a big, beefy, hirsute, tattooed dude riding a triked Suzuki through the gloom. He introduced himself and invited me to come hang out by the fire. Even more betterer, he actually had a tent available for my use; a great big tent. A great big dry tent. With a queen-sized airbed already set up in it.
Perhaps camping, per se, would not be the downfall of my trip after all.
I retrieved Beast, got her secured near the tent, and offloaded what I needed for the night. Once ensconced in my snug, relatively dry castle, I set out in search of dinner at the roadhouse that sat cheek-by-jowl with the campground, a roadhouse with a line of H-Ds filling the parking lot out front. What a beautiful place to find at the end of the road.
Dinner was a 12-ounce Budweiser longneck, downed in two swallows while standing at the bar. I slogged back through the fog and darkness to my beautiful, beautiful tent, stripped off my clammy riding gear (which had absolutely no chance in hell of doing any drying under the circumstances), climbed into my sleeping bag and fell immediately asleep. I dreamed spectacular dreams of broad rivers rushing, of trucks passing on the road, of trains rumbling by, of big V-Twins firing up and thundering into the night.
Then in the early grey light, I loaded up my gear, paid my respects to my angel as we stood by the smoldering remains of the night’s fire, and rode into the dawn of a new day—firmly on the rails, where I would remain for the duration of the trip.
     II. A Sunday Morning in August, 8:00, a Diner with An Undetermined Number of Calendars on the Kitchen Wall:
“God-damned motorcycles.”
The shoulder belonging to that sentiment wrapped around the door at about the level of my forehead. Oddly, its hidden owner had apparently not noticed me pull up.
Nevertheless, I responded with a hearty “Alleluia, Brother!” as I unzipped my riding jacket and sidled into a convenient booth. “Coffee, please.” The waitress hands me a menu, smiling brightly as the enormous speaker exits, muttering an unintelligible addendum as the door jangles shut behind him.
“Don’t mind him, hon. He wunt talkin’ a you.” A compact woman addresses me across a jumbled plate of home fries and toast crusts, coffee in one hand and cigarette in the other.
I smile back at her. “I probably agree with him, anyhow.”
“Naah. My nephew was just killed last week, riding his motorcycle.”
Suddenly this conversation seemed way too personal to be having so casually on a summer Sunday morning, and the diner seemed to shrink all around us.
“He was twenty-seven. Just back from his third tour in Afghanistan. Got out of the Army. Was getting ready to go back over there as a civilian—you know, as one a those contractors. Gonna make some real money for his trouble.”
The coffee comes. A tall, cobalt blue ceramic mug; two creamers. Too hot to drink right now.
“He left a wife behind. They had a service for him down in Charlottesville—that’s where he was living—and a bunch of his buddies gave him a ‘ride off.’”
“Charlottesville? That’s down near where I’m from.” I pause. “I might have seem him on the road…”
“Yeah.” She offers a brief description of him and of his ride. “Some of his buddies are bringing his ashes up here, his riding buddies.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” I find nothing else to say, and I cannot begin to unpack the onion of sorrow she has conveyed in such a brief conversation—not here, not now. Who was this man—what kind of man was he, that he survived a war in a distant land, made it back safely to his wife and family, just to die alone on the dark streets of his hometown? I think about it for a few moments, then, I can think no further.
“God-damned motorcycles,” I say quietly to myself as my eggs arrive.*
     III. Sometimes when you are riding, it seems like everyone you talk to has, had or wants a motorcycle. Without fail. And they want to share that with you.
Which is really nice.
     IV. Quaint Old Vermont Sayings: “Heavier Than A Dead Minister.” Discuss.**
     V. Route 17 is one of those roads, like Trinity Road in northern California, or U.S. 129 in North Carolina, that are notable less for what they connect than for what they are. The road is the destination; its endpoints are incidental.
I rode Rt. 17 on Campaigner when it was a relatively new bike and I was half my age. I am pretty sure it was the only place I ever ground a valve cover on that R80st while riding. Phil and I drove it (several times, as I remember) in a 5-speed Toyota a decade ago, when his license was fresh and driving was thrilling. Now me and Beast were warmed up on a beautiful summer morning, ready to attack the road west-to-east, Bristol to Waitsfield.
Rt. 17 is exactly the kind of road Beast was built for. Rising steeply from the valley floor, it winds its way up and over the Green Mountains at Appalachian Gap, then descends sharply into the valley to the east, gradually leveling out before reaching Waitsfield. The road itself is a motorcyclist’s dream, two sinuous lanes of frost-heaved asphalt looping, rising and falling from the deciduous forests of the lowlands to the sweetly scented firs and balsams of the summits. Curves build madly upon curves, piling up so rapidly you ride like a rotary phone being dialed.
I had been waiting for this moment for ages—for years. And when the moment came to finally address Rt. 17, I rode Beast like someone’s elderly grandmother. She might as well have had tennis balls stuck on the ends of her fork legs.
Grind the valve covers? Are you kidding me? I didn’t even remove the vinyl slipcovers from the sofa or rearrange the anti-macassars on the rocking chairs. If I had taken a full week to make some easy practice runs, I might have gotten to know the soul of the road well enough to really do it justice. But I didn’t have a week to learn it—I had one pass at it, and I approached it with great reserve, caution, and deference. I rode the rule I learned at the Dragon’s Tail: Your gear equals how many seconds ahead you can see. In some cases, that wasn’t very far ahead at all; I took an awful lot of turns in first or second gear. Nevertheless, I did have a few opportunities to wring Beast out and get to what I came for.
Beast Has A Happy
When we finally arrived at the gap, I pulled in to admire the view, and to get a picture or two. I caught Beast in profile, silhouetted against the western vista as she ticked away the accumulated heat. If she had been a greyhound, she would have been panting hard, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth, with a great big goofy smile plastered across her face.
In the end, it turns out I had a second crack at App Gap, returning in the early afternoon and swapping ascending side for descending side by going westbound. The little bit of practice in the morning let me ride the return much better. I took a much more fluid and graceful approach, and except for getting bottled up behind a gaggle of brake-burning flatlanders for much of the descent, I think I did pretty well.
By the time I reached the valley floor at Bristol, the sport bikers were appearing in buzzy packs of two and three, queueing up eagerly to make their pass over the mountain. In the brilliant primary colors of bikes and riders, they seemed childlike and unserious, expensive toys clad in expensive raiment, out for a moment’s romp in a grown-up’s mountain playground. 
I watch them go by me, and smile.

     VI. "Blue Highways" is a book written by William Least Heat Moon, also known as William Trogdon, describing his journey around the United States in a white van in a time of personal turmoil. He stuck to the "Blue Highways," his term for the lesser highways that Rand-McNally designated in blue in their highway atlases—in contrast to the interstate highway system. Blue Highways take you right up to the edge of people's front yards, with lemonade stands (really), yard sales, gardens & vegetable stands, ramshackle sheds and pristine cottages. You can smell their lunches and their laundry, hear their dogs bark at you, and project your own hopes, fears and wildest imaginations onto the screens of their lives as you flash by.

Interstate Highways, on the other hand—regardless of the scenery they traverse—are a long, slow, soul-sucking passage through the dark twisted colon of corporatist America***.
     VII. What is the World Coming to?
A classic Pennsylvania roadhouse, sitting beside a shady two-lane highway nestled deep in the recesses of anthracite country in northeastern Pennsylvania, and above the door, sticking out from the front of the building where passing traffic can’t miss it, is a beer sign. Actually, it is an Ale sign. For Chimay Ale.
I’m not sure what to make of that, actually.
* I'm pretty sure she was referring to Corey Guthrie.

**Bill Bryson actually discusses this at length in "I'm A Stranger Here Myself."

***I know that on close examination, that analogy falls apart. But I still like the sound of it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Few Words About Turkeys

When we started looking into raising turkeys early this year, we kept coming across a few consistent threads of turkey lore—that they are stupid; that poults have to be shown what to eat at first; that turkeys will stampede at the slightest provocation, trampling and suffocating each other; that turkeys will drown in a heavy rain; that turkeys break their eggs because they lay them standing up, and so on.

I beg to differ.

Our experience may be uncharacteristic, because we are raising Narragansetts, a breed closely derived from the Eastern Wild Turkey. These are not the grotesquely deformed 'Butterballs' which have had their natural avian grace replaced with bland tasteless tumors of white meat. Narragansetts are spectacularly beautiful birds, large, stately and graceful, with woodland markings. They recall, from deep within, what it is to be a real bird. And when the Toms display, they are the very strutting epitome of what any first-grader or buckle-hatted Pilgrim would recognize as a Turkey—gobble, wattle, snood and all.

Unlike chickens, turkeys have a social structure, which implies they have some awareness of individuals. They have elegant, stylized, sometimes comical display and courtship behaviors. They communicate with one another and with the rafter—the term for a group of turkeys—as a whole. They are muscular fliers, and frequently leap into the air and wheel about for no apparent reason, often half a dozen bursting into flight nearly simultaneously.

They are curious and inquisitive, and have a broad vocabulary of vocalizations that seem to express a wide range of moods, from quiet contentment to pique, alarm and distress. A certain distinctive cry will make them all look in a particular direction and freeze for several seconds. They listen attentively to the flock of chickens, who are out of sight and some distance away across the ridge, and will echo and amplify calls of distress or alarm they may hear from their galliform brethren.

They are generally tranquil and appear thoughtful, unlike the frantic and seemingly pointless activity of chickens. They will cock their heads sideways and quizzically watch an airplane far overhead. I would go as far as to say they are affectionate, recalling how when they were younger (and mercifully smaller) as many as seven or nine young turkeys would hop onto my shoulders, back, neck and extended arms until I couldn't support any more. Once there, they would pick at my hair and ears, cooing quietly all the while.

As a way of showing our appreciation for these magnificent birds, we have gone all out in revamping their habitat. We began with significantly expanding the footprint of their enclosure into the adjacent forest on several sides. We then replaced the standard tee-stakes and four-foot welded wire fence with ten-foot black iron pipes driven two-and-a-half feet into the ground and five-foot welded wire.

We then replaced the lightweight netting roof with 2" mesh aviary netting, held up with/suspended from a complex rope web. Large ropes run from tree to tree outside the enclosure, and smaller ropes run from the tops of the pipes, connected to the suspensors through the netting with carabiners. A final run of rope traverses the perimeter of the fence, providing an edge for the netting to be pulled over. It is a spectacular flight cage, a clear-sky tent of swooping catenaries and vast volumes for the birds to play in, with rough-cedar roosts for them to sleep on under the stars.

It is a real pleasure to share the place with them. Many an evening we have spent just sitting, quietly watching them go about their gentle routine of strolling about their enclosure nibbling the odd bit of forage, preening, stretching like little feathered ballerinas, convulsively dirt-bathing or softly dozing off...

Monday, August 09, 2010

"Good Night and Good Luck"

Right now. Go buy, rent, beg, borrow or steal a copy. And watch it.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Requiem for a cockerel

The other evening we dined on the first of the chickens which we had raised from chicks. The chicks arrived last April, and the newly-matured cockerels went off for butchering last weekend on Saturday and were in our freezer Sunday. It's a little weird to look at it that way—chicks to meal—but I really haven't felt conflicted in the least.

Every single day when I went out to feed the chickens, or check their water, or make sure they were safe, or any of a thousand other chores I performed on their behalf, I would look at them as individual living animals and know exactly how their lives would end. As Joel Salatin puts it, "...a good life, then one bad day."

Virtually every other chicken I have ever eaten in my life—every drumstick, nugget, finger, roast, et cetera, et cetera, has lived a short, wretched life of misery and suffering. Our cockerels ran around like crazy in the sun and the rain, ate bugs and grass and some of our favorite flowers and garden plants, showed off for one another and the hens, and got to act like real birds of planet earth—hell, they got to fly; how many 21st-century chickens can say that?

To show respect for this cockerel and to appreciate exactly what a home-raised chicken tastes like, we did him up plain and simple: a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, a little butter in the pan to baste him. We baked him for a little over an hour, and accompanied him with roasted potatoes ( also simple, with salt and pepper only) and some sauteed summer squash fresh from the garden.

His meat was flavorful and toothsome; his bones solid and well-calcified. He was small, a little smaller than a regulation NFL-football, except with drumsticks. Three of us dined on him, with a decent portion left over for another meal. His bones will make another meal by way of stock. He was a real treat, unlike the bland, tasteless, textureless meat that is foisted off on us as "chicken" by the Purdues and Tysons of the world.

We have another dozen or so of his cohort in the freezer. I am looking forward to seeing what they're like.

Friday, August 06, 2010

"….been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time"


Beast is finally back in action, and she's in fine form. Every last vestige of injector bronchitis is gone, she’s wearing deep rubber front and rear (...just scuffed enough to be broken in) has two working mirrors all the way to six o’clock, and she’s freshly tuned to boot. She’s got a few scars here and there, but overall, she hasn’t felt like this in years. I’d pretty much forgotten what crisp throttle response was like, and had been riding hesitantly because of the sketchiness of the tires.

This morning, once I reloaded the drivers and remembered how to ride again, I was actually able to relax and focus on the ride instead of fretting over the machine. As a result, without even thinking about it, I opted for the more circuitous, rolling, winding “motorcycle friendly” route instead of the expeditious—but dull—superslab I’ve been favoring on four wheels for so long. Outstanding.

On the way home, I noticed something else interesting. My homeward commute on four wheels is a long string of counting down the miles, endlessly flipping through the radio stations, tedium piled upon tedium up to the last mile coming down the lane. But today, time and distance was irrelevant. I was, as the young'uns say, 'in the moment,' and the otherwise incessantly granular trip home was transformed into a delightful, fluid moment.

This is my 300th post on RLYMI, which will be five years old in a week or so. That works out to a post every six days or so. I’m no Great Orange Satan or anything, but I’m pretty pleased with that posting schedule, given all that has transpired during those years. Personally, I think most of what I’ve posted stands up pretty well.

But of course, I’m biased.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"They symbolize the classic American values of independence and hard work...a uniquely American phenomenon."

Harley, Davidson, Davidson & Davidson
Adding extortion to its diverse product line, Harley-Davidson is threatening both the city of Milwaukee (the company's home since it's founding 107 years ago by William Harley and Arthur Davidson) and its labor unions with relocating to another city. Unless the city is willing to offer "incentives" and the unions make wage and scheduling concessions, H-D expects to announce plans to move elsewhere within the next few months.

If I recall correctly, the Milwaukee facility makes the quaint, iconic legacy V-twin engines that define the brands; the motorcycles are assembled at their York, Pennsylvania plant. Milwaukee is also where H-D's corporate headquarters are located, but I don't imagine the suits are feeling any pressure to make concessions and there are no threats to move the white-collar side of things, nor the H-D museum located there as well.

Keep in mind, this is the company that cut 2,000 manufacturing jobs last year, plans to cut 1,400 to 1,600 more jobs by 2012—and reported over $70 million in profits for the second quarter of 2010.

It's a little ironic to me, the cognitive dissonance between the rough, hard-living, hard-riding blue-collar workingman's image H-D has worked so hard to cultivate, and the ruthless, bloodless corporatist approach they are taking to their business model.

But on second thought, I also recall that H-D has, more than any other marque, been responsible for the ascendancy of the RUBs ("Rich Urban Bikers"), those affluent, white-collar, middle-aged, mostly white, mostly males riders who are newly arrived to the game. That demographic has helped keep the motorcycle industry off life support for the last few years (while, ironically, swelling the fatality rate with their poor dilletante riding habits, drunkenness and lack of awareness).

But the average Joe has probably been priced out of the market; motorcycles have slowly become a rich man's indulgence, a second childhood enjoyed on the cusp of senescence. I suppose that in reality, H-D's target demographic is perfectly okay with the current ruthlessness the company displays. Hell, it's probably the same cold logic they pride themselves on displaying Monday through Friday when they aren't out playing badass biker gang member in pseudo colors and tassel loafers.

For what it's worth, if BMW Motorrad showed the same sneering disconnect between the carefully-crafted public image and the way it actually treated the people who build and buy its products, I would feel the same way. As long as the Quandt family remains at the helm, I don't see that happening.

Eff them all. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if within five or ten years (max) H-D had completely abandoned manufacturing altogether and became a finance and "lifestyle" conglomerate, leaving the Chinese and Koreans the dirty work of actually manufacturing bikes.

Take your trademarked "Potato potato potato potato" and shove it right up your p&l statement; this company can't die soon enough. Wake up, HOGs.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Yet more about SOTW, tangentially:

" Recent studies by Professor Nina Kraus, a neuroscientists [sic] at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, have shown that the electrical activity inside the brain while listening to music closely matches the physical properties of sound waves.
Using brain scanning equipment Professor Kraus, who presented her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego on Saturday, said the brainwaves recorded from volunteers listening to music could be converted back to sound.
In one example where volunteers listened to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," when the brainwaves were played back the song was clearly recognisable.
She said: 'When we play the brainwaves back as sound, although they don't sound exactly like the song, it is pretty similar. It shows that the brain matches the physical properties of sound very closely.'" 
Slow moving Walter was unavailable for comment.

When A Bicycle Courier Saved The World:

From The Gallup Management Journal (behind paywall) , by way of :

"The Cuban missile crisis in 1962 not only showed how close the United States and Soviet Union could come to a nuclear war, but also the sorry state of the communication channels needed to avert it. During one point in the crisis, the Soviet ambassador to Washington had to rely on a bicycle courier to take his urgent messages for Moscow to the local Western Union office."

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Silence of The Cockerels

Well, this weekend we graduated the first cadre of the Class of 2010. Fifteen of them, all adolescent rooster types—technically known as Cockerels—were part of the mixed run of chicks we received in early April, after the disaster we experienced with our first batch of mail-order chicks (e.g., 100% mortality on arrival).

Since our long-term objective is primarily egg production, we knew that beyond one or two select roosters, all the others would provide meat. Specifically, the cockerels would become our younger, more tender "fryer" or "roaster" chickens; the retired egg-layers are our soup/stewing chickens.

For their graduation, we took them to a near-by operation that has a little bit of everything: Pick-Your-Own fruits and berries, orchards, free-roaming poultry, a truck garden and roadside stand, and a full line of self-labeled jams, jellies, sauces and preserves. One of their services is fresh rabbit with 24-hours notice, and they are fully equipped to butcher and process small animals.

Our average butchering and processing time so far has been, setup to cleanup, about one hour per bird. I dropped off two cages of birds late on a cool and pleasant Saturday morning, and by the time we got home late Saturday evening, there was a message on the phone that the birds were frozen and ready to be picked up.

They were all small, hardly more than Cornish Game hens, averaging around three pounds dressed weight. They had probably maxed out close to a month ago, and were simply burning through feed for the last few weeks without adding any weight. But the recent spate of mercilessly hot, humid  weather kept us postponing processing them ourselves—a hot, messy job under the best of circumstances.

We wrestled with the 'ethics' of paying someone else to do our dirty work, but in the end, it made sense, saved us time we didn't really have in the first place, and gave us, admittedly, a far superior finished product. Plus, we received bonus packs of duck feet, duck wings, and several packs of surplus giblets. All told, quite a fair deal and a respectful farewell to a bunch of pugnacious little yard monsters. (Who knew cockerels can draw blood from people?)

We've both dealt  with butchering, and know exactly how hard it is. Odds are, we'll be doing it again in the not so distant future, but when we don't have fifteen birds to process. But in this instance, we paid someone else a very reasonable amount and got something done quickly, mercifully and efficiently that would not have gotten done otherwise.

But yeah, it's a whole lot quieter out there with fifteen fewer roosters...

The Dim Mak

“It was the Dim Mak.
“The Dim Mak?”
“The Dim Mak. The Quivering Palm. The Death Touch. It's forbidden in the New Earth Army.”
“What does the Death Touch do?”
“It kills you, Bob—with one touch.”
“There's a story that Wong Wifu, the great Chinese martial artist...had a fight with a guy and beat him. Then the guy gave him this light tap. Wong looked at him and the guy just nodded. That was it. He had given him the death touch. Wong died.”
“Then and there?”
“No. About eighteen years later. That's the thing about the Dim Mak. You never know when it's gonna take effect.”