Parental guidance suggested

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

We had out-of-town guests during spring break, former college classmates of our daughter who are now married to each other. We always enjoy seeing them. They’re the perfect houseguests, especially during a crisis, as they pitch right in and help with whatever happens to be going on at the time.

This time no one was drafted to haul hay, plow, repair the fence or dip the dogs.

However, they were forced into service at the hen house.

One end of the hen house is lined with nests filled with cedar shavings. There is a roosting perch and a little ladder the hens climb when it’s bedtime.

The feeder hangs from a rafter, and fresh water is always available. Out in the pen, surrounded with chicken wire, is a large oak tree to provide shade and a spacious chicken yard. They enjoy strolling around in the sand eating the vegetable parings and other kitchen scraps, in addition to cracked corn and laying mash.

Fowler hauls a truckload of sand at regular intervals to spread on the ground inside the pen. He also periodically cleans the nests, removing the dirty shavings and other debris and refilling them with fresh shavings.

Red Dog and Sebastian, the mixed boxer and rat terrier, have spent a lot of time lately hanging around the hen house watching for rats. Although I’d never seen a rat out there, Red Dog’s behavior had me convinced of their existence.

The afternoon when the sand was being spread and the nests were to be cleaned, Fowler and Henry were inside carrying out these operations. While Henry spread sand, Fowler began clearing the nests with a square-tipped shovel. Henry’s wife, Fleta, and I were standing outside the pen watching.

Fowler said, “There’s a bunch of rats in the hen’s nest.”

Red Dog and Sebastian were attempting to dig in under the door, so Fowler opened the door and let them in. It happened so fast I wasn’t even sure what was going on. The dogs were like lightning and nailed six rats in a matter of seconds. A seventh rat ran out into the open pen and was headed straight for Fleta, who was just outside.

Just as he reached the wire fence, Red grabbed his back legs. Sebastian had run outside and grabbed the rat by his neck. They pulled in opposite directions, and before we knew what had happened the rat was decapitated in a gory scene carried out at Fleta’s feet.

Fowler and Henry disposed of the seven bodies and one severed head. Red Dog and Sebastian strutted around the pen basking in the glow of their success.

Henry said, “I’ve hunted for years and have shot and cleaned a lot of deer and turkeys, but this is the goriest thing I’ve ever seen.”

We all agreed. Fowler said he thinks it is much more humane to kill the rats this way than to poison them. “At least it’s quick and they don’t suffer,” he said.

This is true. It may be easier for the rats to die so quickly. And I’m glad they met their end. But in the future I don’t believe I want to see their executions carried out literally under my nose. I prefer being notified of their deaths after they have been given a decent burial.

At least Red Dog and Sebastian were given the opportunity to show their skills. And we were able to entertain our guests at no expense. It worked out for the best for all concerned, with the possible exception of the rats.