Chapter 5 Part 2
“And just where are we planning on taking these chickens?” asked Dell. True to her vision, she was utterly covered in chicken guano. It had taken 2 hours to load 50 semi-healthy chickens into the back of the poultry truck and to clear out the remaining chickens. Most of the facility was empty. There had not been that many chickens in the place and over half of them were dead. She and Panda had picked the healthiest looking ones and then opened the wide barn doors to the outside world to allow the remaining birds to head out into the wide open spaces and take their chances in the grass.
Panda, peeling off her work gloves and brushing her sweaty forehead with the back of her hand, said, “ Duck Island.”
“Duck Island in McCarthy Park?”
“Yep.” Said Panda. “It’s a big gated park with a fence running all around it; it’s got tons of grass and ponds. It’s centrally located and there are lots of those pole barn picnic shelters where these chickens can roost in the rafters.”
“That’s a great idea! Wow!” said Dell. “Great thinking!”
Panda knew it would not keep the chickens safe from the wild raccoons that populated the inner city. She remembered when she had lived downtown on the second floor and heard something in the trees outside her bedroom window. She had looked out, eyeball to eyeball, on a mother raccoon with her 4 babies climbing all over the tree. The neighbor had a fountain in his yard and was always complaining about the odds and ends of half-eaten food he found in the water. She had always gotten a kick out of how the coons made a life for themselves in the roofs and rafters of buildings. Most people were oblivious to the amount of wildlife that co-existed with them in the city. She had even seen possums on several occasions, out for a stroll. But raccoons would decimate a feral chicken population lickety-split.
Anyway, the chickens were going to have a better chance in a large fenced park with plenty of water and bugs than locked in an airless dark pole barn with the bodies of their dead and dying inmates all around them. The back of Dell’s truck was loaded with cracked corn and feed from the farm. She hoped that whatever was wrong with chickens and eggs in general would begin to right itself now that they were no longer going to be fed genetically engineered grain and pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones.
They had also loaded quite a bit of straw that she planned on using for bedding for the chickens to lay their eggs. Later, once she was settled and had more time, she would get some nesting boxes from the feed store and see about housing a dozen or so near her where she could gather the eggs. For now, the chickens were going to be ‘free range’ on Duck Island.
Tossing the gloves into the cab of the truck where she found them, she climbed behind the wheel and started her up. Dell slid into the bed of the Cayenne and prepared to follow the flying chicken feathers all the way back to the city. Even though she was filthy and stunk to high heaven, she felt very happy. They had done good work on this day and although she knew in the back of her mind there were possibly millions of animals that could not be rescued, she felt like she was doing a great work by helping the ones she could.
On the Yolo Causeway, a 3 ½ mile long elevated highway that spanned some 26,000 acres of weirs, wetlands and cultivated rice fields, containing the largest ecological restoration project west of the Everglades, Panda stopped the chicken truck and got out to enjoy the view. Dell joined her in looking out over the vast sea of grass as far as the eye could see.
“I always wanted to stop here and just gaze.” said Panda. Together they stood at the guardrail and felt the quiet of the morning breeze. Relatively quiet since the chickens were clucking up a storm. Dell peered out towards the city skyline in the near distance and exclaimed, “Panda! Get out your binoculars!”
She was pointing excitedly at something walking in the tall grasses. Panda had left her binoculars in her truck at the mall, but she could see to what Dell was pointing.
She could just make out 3 long brown spotted necks, attached to 3 tall giraffe heads. They watched the stately animals glide across the campo.
In an act of solidarity and utter geekness, the girls high-fived and then got back into their trucks to finish the drive home.
While off in the distance, the sun caught a glint from a pair of Zeiss 20x60mm Image Stabilized Binoculars, trained on the girls.