I didnâ€™t mean to put out a â€œhitâ€ contract on the guinea hen. But I did. Such is life in the semi-rural, but too near big towns to really feel rural, place I live.
It was a cold day with a wind that could only be described as cranky. My husband was still out of state; so dog-walking duties fell to me both as the sun rose and as it sank. I enjoy the exercise since Booker, our husky, is a joyous sort. He checks every fresh â€œPee-Mail,â€ chases tumbling leaves, and sets a goal of riling each familyâ€™s dog on our route.
On the day of the unintentional snuff-contract, our walk went predictably smooth. As we turned back into our driveway Booker lifted his nose into the air and started running with a force that dragged me forward. Huskies, for the record, like to pull. Sleds, surprised and off-balance humans, whatever. Pulling is pulling. As I attempted to gain control I scanned the area looking for the cause of his interest. Nothing seemed out of order, so I released him into our fenced backyard.
A few minutes later I looked out our kitchen window and saw he was standing on his hind feet, front paws on the top of chain link fence, and looking towards my husbandâ€™s workshop. He was also whining, which is unusual for him, so I put my boots back on to take a look around.
When I rounded the corner I heard a noise that can be best described as rusted metal rubbing on rusted metal. Then I saw the head of a large bird bobbing up and down in the rafters of the porch. At first I thought a young turkey was taking refuge from the weather, but then as I got a better look I realized it was a guinea hen. We stared at each other for a while as neither of us knew what to do next.
The hen looked healthy, but lost. In my world, when in doubt, feed it. Food is the great Band-Aid. I gathered sunflower seeds and spread them near the bird. Sheâ€”Iâ€™m assuming the sexâ€”watched cautiously and hunkered down. Although I wouldnâ€™t say she was scared, she didnâ€™t trust me either. Meanwhile Booker held his vigil from a safe distance, entranced.
That evening, when my husband called, I told him about the visitor. He suggested I contact a particular neighbor to inquire if he was missing any fowl. That made sense because said neighborâ€™s chickens have, on occasion, found their way into our yard as well.
â€œWhy do you suppose his animals like us so much?â€ I ventured.
â€œBecause you feed everything,â€ was my husbandâ€™s response.
I left a message on our neighborâ€™s phone and went about my night. The next morning Booker was still on high alert. I had to keep him on a short leash as we ventured out for our walk because he wanted, very badly, to have a confrontation with the guinea hen.
She, on the other hand, seemed nonplussed. Cocking her head, she walked around the porchâ€™s handrail as if we were merely props in her unfolding story. I couldnâ€™t tell if she had eaten any of the sunflower seeds, but didnâ€™t feel there was much more I could do to entice her.
Later that morning the phone rang. It was our neighbor.
â€œGail, you wonâ€™t have to worry anymore about the guinea hen.â€
â€œOh, hi. I wasnâ€™t worried, I just wanted to know where it belonged.â€
â€œIt was ours, sort of. A friend gave us two guinea hens because they’re supposed to be good woodtick eaters. I had them with our chickens for a while, but one day they escaped and took off into the woods. I’ve never been able to catch them. I thought they had died until you called.â€
â€œIâ€™ve heard guinea hens are wanderers.â€
â€œNot anymore. As I said, it wonâ€™t bother you again. I doubt youâ€™ll see the other one, but if it comes around let me know and Iâ€™ll kill it too. â€
As I hung up the phone I felt sad. While our relationship was brief, I thought the hen had a kind, knowing, face. My intention was to get it back home; back to a safe and snug refuge from springâ€™s moody weather. Instead I had ratted the poor thing out and brought a swift death.
The next time my husband called I told him the story.
â€œI feel horrible,â€ I said. â€œI donâ€™t like being the conduit of death.â€
There was a hefty pause before he said, â€œYeah, particularly since you cared enough to give it a last meal.â€ My anguish grew.
Forgive me guinea hen, I knew not what I did.