Over the years that I have been coming to La Creuse and in particular over the past few years that I have called it my home, there have been plenty of opportunities for laughter and happiness… There have also been many times of sadness, some tears, heartache, and loss. Some of those times have unfortunately involved death- the death of family, the death of friends… and now animals.
The death of animals on the farm is not generally something that given much thought or notice. Animals are raised and sacrificed for our means, pets come and go. It’s simply a fact of life. That is the way things are, and the way they always will be… But in this case, there was something more than just the loss of life – in this case just the lives of a few chickens – It was the loss of an ideal.
I arrived at Jeanine’s house this weekend, so happy that I had finally found some chickens of my own, eager to show her the photos of my new girls. Shortly after I arrived, the phone rang, Jeanine answered, and after a short conversation she hung up. She looked at me and said simply: “All the chickens are dead.” She shrugged and turned towards the kitchen and as she walked away I heard her say “and I had just finished making their breakfast…” I walked to the chicken yard to find Jean-François waiting. He was just standing looking a little bewildered and shaking his head in disbelief. All twelve chickens had been killed- some animal; a fox or a dog perhaps, had gotten into the henhouse that night and one by one had killed them all… the bodies were scattered about the yard, lifeless and deplumed. “Une massacre” was all Jean-François had to say.
Such is life. The chickens were gone for sure, all twelve accounted for, lined up in the grass… There was not sadness in their deaths- only regret that there would be no more eggs. Disappointment that their bodies would go to no use in the kitchen. But mostly- Sorrow for Jeanine. She tried not to show it, but I could see the look of heartbreak in her eyes. She feigned a smile and remarked, “C’est comme ça.” I looked about the yard which I had come to know so well over the years- when I would stop by for un goûter or a café. If Jeanine was not at home when I knocked, I always knew where to find her, in the chicken yard, calling “Cocotte” and tending to her troupe. Standing there that morning, I mourned not for the loss of life that death brought to the chickens (for it could as well have been a man’s knife than a beast); I mourned for Jeanine. I loathed the silence, and I wondered how could it be: la Mamie without her flock following and pecking behind?