The Chicken is Dead


It had to happen sooner than later.

Yesterday, here at Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms we learned a critical lesson, for half the price of what we should have paid for it.

It was early afternoon and I was coming up the path from our new cactus garden when suddenly I heard and saw a shadow of a scuffle behind the Juniper bush next to Coop Knox.

My immediate thoughts were that either a snake or coyote had gotten one of the chickens. When I stepped closer I discovered that it was a hawk that flew away and left its dead prey for me to solemnly contemplate.

It was almost as if it meant to leave it behind to taunt “You’d been warned - several times…” by neighbors and their stories of their own missing cats, kittens and chickens that were presumably were victims of any assortment of hungry predator here in the high mountain desert: coyotes, owls, hawks, raccoons and snakes.

Alas, we had not heeded the warning, if not flaunted the fact that all was going well at the Hacienda.

Once the family was gathered, I took it as an opportunity to pontificate. “We have to accept we live in the country now, and can’t simply let our fowl run afoul and free. There are lots of animals out there that may be afraid of us, which is why we almost never see them, but they’re not afraid of the chickens. So, as soon as we’re not around, they are liable to take advantage.”

“Luckily,” if one can say that in this situation, we only lost one chicken. For about half an hour I was afraid we had lost more than half of them, as only three had retreated to the open coop for protection. It took Milo and I some time to find and catch the rest that had been scared to death and we’re doing their best to hide.

Coincidentally, as parents, later that evening we we’re likewise reminded that children should not be allowed to run afoul as well.

Granted, picking up our lives and starting completely anew in a not-so-convenient environment can be challenging to all, and for that reason we’ve given our littlest ones a lot of credit and leeway as well.

They seriously have done a superb job of adapting and not complaining about the harsh and trying nature of their new home. I am truly proud of them.

That said, they’ve taken the idea of living in the Wild West atop the isolated mesa to heart and too far at times.

Recently, both have tested our patience and tolerance, as well as taken advantage of our lack of disciplinary measures and subsequent absence of real consequences.

Alas, their sand storm of misbehavior spun too far and too fast and too furious last night, so that the embarrassment we endured before our new friends and neighbors prompted us to give some severe verbal lashings on the bumpy way back home on Horny Toad Road.

I’ll spare you all the details, but provide a couple of solid examples. First, a few days ago, we walked into the house to find that, presumably, they had ripped a heavy wood door off the hinges of Olivia’s bedroom. I inferred that they were horsing around and slamming doors, as well playing tug of war (push ‘n shove) till the door could take no more.

Admittedly, at a loss, and being that they are our fourth and fifth children, I mostly laughed to myself as I unscrewed that one plate that was barely holding the door up. Having tried to level set and rehinge a door at Dominguez Manor once before, I immediately decided this was a job for the pros and grateful that grandpa the contractor was here.

That said, I did little but raise my voice and grimace, as I lectured the kids, neither of whom ever took responsibility or apologized for the incident, about the risks they took to life and limb.

Hence, last night’s last straw. We we’re taking a nice hike after dinner across the BLM to the Burnt Corn Mesa, when “Molivia” started to act up, making lots of fart and burping jokes in the presence of elder friends with whom we expected them to be respectful with.

Initially, merely embarrassed, we asked them to repeatedly stop, making excuses like “Sorry, hoping you understand, as once having children their age yourself…” Ugh. I knew it was a lame excuse, but as innocuous as their juvenile behavior was, we expected more from them - after all, we really believe they are inherently good people, albeit only children with much to learn, and that we work hard everyday to provide good examples.

But then/than - they pushed upon a bridge too far, when they began their Lord of The Flies antics, with Olivia threatening to throw rocks at her brother, and Milo retaliating by swinging a sharp dried Cholla cactus stick at her. This was after fifteen minutes of fighting on the trail, whilst constantly interrupting our conversations with our friends.

I share all this and the culmination of this disrespectful and dangerous behavior because I want to relay what life is really like here. Living in the country is not all pretty cactus flowers and heart-melting puppy whimpering; it can be as challenging as parenting five children will be - for the rest of our lives - and so the combination is particularly precarious.

Hence, having our buttons pushed one too many times last night, the children finally got the tongue-lashing they deserved. And today we’re reconstituting rules here at the homestead, with a chalkboard full of chores and some summer workbooks we expect them to finish before school starts anew.

And, quite frankly, we expect things to change once they start school, meet new friends, have homework, have routines and are not solely dependent on us and each other for their daily purge of boredom.

I’m not too worried and I truly believe our kids will be alright, despite the warnings from elder neighbors with grownup kids that have told us that life atop the mesa and off a dirt road can make any kid restless - especially if you’re a teenage girl…

I’ll let you know how prospectively not heeding that warning seriously enough goes.