One day as I was walking down to the barn I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a kind of visual commotion. Turning my head to figure out what was happening on the track on the side of the barn, I saw a Red Tailed Hawk sitting on one of my chickens.
There is something demonic about the brutal fact of one animal eating another, although of course its completely natural. But it was difficult not to see the otherwise majestic and beautiful hawk as a hideous kind of Harpie, loosed from the bowels of hell, taking not just the chicken’s meat for its survival, but its soul as well, in some sort of Twilight-for-Farm-Animals sort of a way. It was like witnessing a crime in progress, something that should not be witnessed at all.
Realizing that whatever I did would probably be too little too late, I nonetheless swung into action with a series of high-pitched screams. I hurled myself down the bank to the rescue of the hapless bird, and the hawk released its prey and flapped away with a kind of “foiled-again” shrug of his shoulders.
On closer inspection the bird revealed itself to be “Goldie” one of the children’s favorite Aracanas—a particularly golden one. She was not dead, but she was not moving, and her eyes were closed. The attacker had been perched on her back and judging by the blood on her head and coming out of her beak, the hawk had been clawing at her scalp with talons and beak.
As far as I was concerned Goldie was toast. I didn’t really see how anything could get up and walk away from such an experience. I scrambled back up the bank to fetch my gun, figuring that it would be kinder to put her out of her misery rather than let her slowly fade.
I returned two minutes later to the scene of the crime, clutching my gun, but to my surprise Goldie was gone. Had the Harpie returned to claim its lunch, from the tree where it had been watching me? When I looked around I saw something that gave me chills, for some reason. Goldie was hobbling up the bank, making, with a terrifying kind of resolve, for the safety of the coop.
It shouldn’t necessarily have given me the chills, but there was something about the sight of her that suggested Zombie: One minute she was practically dead, blood-besmirched and gaga, then she was back from dead, but not looking quite right.
I had to wonder what kind of creature we were dealing with here; chicken, yet not chicken. One who has been to the other side, and returned, changed in some essential way by her encounter with the thing that wanted to, and very nearly did, eat her.
Soon she had managed to climb the bank to the barn and was staggering like one inebriated, towards its door. I was interested to see how she would navigate the little ladder that led inside, but she hopped right onto it and disappeared.
I went round the barn to enter the coop, half expecting to see her in there devouring the other hens, in a flesh eating poultry moment. When I opened the door I found the hens on one side of the room eying her suspiciously, and Goldie perched high up on the other side. Clearly they were awed by her initiation into the rights of life and death, her brushing off of the Wings of Death. I was awed by Goldie’s will to survive, her clawing back from the brink of death towards the light.
For a few days she hung out in the coop, not coming out with the other chickens as they foraged. Then eventually she started to venture out. Her wounds had healed, the bloody, wet spot on her head and side had dried up and her feathers had almost regained their lustre which justified her name. Within a couple of weeks she seemed to have regained control of things to be allowed back into the flock, although she was always a bit quicker to start at a strange sound, or flee for cover at the suggestion of a wheeling vulture in the sky.
And I always kept a respectful distance from her. Or should I say IT, for I never quite saw Goldie in the same light again.