There’s something special about the kind of people who like to live off the beaten track. Like a duck to water, I’ve taken to my new life in the country, ecstatic to have left behind the restrictions and regulations of city life. I appreciate how country people have their own ways of doing things; in Whitecroft there are more burn barrels than building permits. I grew up in a community like this. As a kid I never thought twice about the neighbours’ strange habits.
I recall visiting a local farm with my grandpa who was gelding the farmer’s colt. Until that afternoon I’d never suspected my grandfather was a vet. To the horse’s eternal regret, grandpa didn’t allow any lack of legal veterinary certification stand in the way of his backdoor barnyard practice.
Neither was my dad a demolitions expert, but he didn’t let such trifles stop him from dynamiting the beaver dams that forever obsessed him while mom and us kids sat through church service just down the road — I’ll never forget reciting the Lord’s prayer with the explosive echo of my father’s obsession booming in the distance. Something about country living just encourages people to think outside the box.
Maybe that’s how I finally realized the chicken would go faster and easier with the chainsaw instead of the axe. The chicken never suspected a thing. By the time the dog spotted me lurking in the backyard I’d already fired up the saw.
I put my foot on the chicken and revved the throttle but the chainsaw bogged and stalled. I choked it a little and pulled the ripcord. The saw fired, farted, and died. I could hear the dog fussing in the kitchen. Fozzie whined louder and looked back over his shoulder into the house, as if summoning my wife to come witness the spectacle unfolding in the backyard.
This time when I pulled the ripcord the saw fired and kept going. I revved the engine and held the chicken in place with one foot. The chicken never offered to move. It lay there in a frozen-solid fifty pound chunk, utterly resistant to my sawyerly advances. Through the door, Fozzie looked alarmed. Behind the dog Finnegan stood yelling through the glass. I bent again to my task but with the least bit of pressure the chainsaw bogged and wanted to stall. When next it died, my wife occasioned this lull to poke her head out the door. “What are you doing?”
I gestured at the frozen chunk of meat. “What does it look like? I’m cutting up Fozzie’s chicken.”
She shook her head sadly. “It looks like… I can’t help but think about how this must look to the neighbours,” she sighed.
What the neighbours think? Until this moment the thought had never occurred to me. I stepped back and took a long hard look at my yard, at the piles of dog poo, the dozens of gnawed bones and pee stains, the rooster-tail of pink shredded chicken flesh sprayed across the snow. In the midst of it all I saw my son standing at the window; hovering over him the reflection of a 42-year-old man hefting a chainsaw in camo shorts and a battered fedora.
I felt the first flicker of self-doubt right before my epiphany. I knew in my bones the neighbours would never look twice. I’d grown up with these kind of people. The kind of people who live off the beaten track for a reason. The kind who can’t be bothered to poke their nose where it doesn’t belong. Good country people.
I fired up the chainsaw.