Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitey and Nan hadn’t been on a vacation together since they were married. Perhaps that’s why they just celebrated their 45th Anniversary.
“Why don’t you just get away for a couple days,” I urged them both. “Go someplace where they never heard of calf scours or alfalfa hay.”
“Because the minute we leave, bad things will start happening around this ranch,” replied Nan. She is the undisputed family spokesperson, by the way.
“What can go wrong?” I asked.
“Are you kidding, the minute we leave, the water lines will break, the cows will be out of water, and a bull will get on the road. It’s just easier to stay home,” said Nan.
“I’ll tell you what,” I pleaded with Nan, “I’ll take care of everything while you are gone. Why don’t you take one of those exotic cruises.”
“But who will feed my chickens?” Nan knew my great dislike for anything fowl or feathered.
Biting my tongue, I replied, “I’ll even feed your chickens for you.”
Much to my surprise Whitey and Nan decided to take a cruise. Well, it was kind of a cruise. They went lake fishing for a whole Saturday and Sunday! Surprisingly, they accepted my offer to feed the chickens and look after their place.
Bright and early on the Saturday morning of their vacation, I drove over to their place, opened the truck door, and let Aussie out to run. I proceeded to do the chores, leaving the chicken chores for last. After checking to make sure that everybody had water and snooping through Whitey’s barn, I finally got up enough nerve to take care of the chickens.
You can imagine my surprise when on my approach to the chicken coop, I spotted Aussie gnawing on a drumstick that belonged to one of Nan’s cherished chickens. When they had asked me to clean out the hen house, I doubt if this was what they had in mind.
I realized I had failed Whitey and Nan dismally
and I knew after this disaster they’d never leave the ranch again. Under these circumstances, I concocted a desperate and devious plan. After locking up the dog, I tried to place a smile on the dead hen’s face and gently placed it back on a nest in the hen house. Hopefully, Whitey and Nan would think that the hen just died of old age or in trying to lay a jumbo.
I waited until Wednesday of the following week to visit Nan and Whitey and to take them their mail. They invited me in for a cup of tea, and for awhile, I thought my plan had worked. They thanked me for watching their place, and there had been no mention at all of the dead hen.
“Really, it was no trouble at all,” I lied. “Any time you want to take off, I’d be glad to look after things.”
“We have taken our last vacation,” replied Nan adamantly. “You aren’t getting me off this ranch until I go in a pine box. We didn’t catch any fish; we worried the whole time we were gone about the ranch, and it’s gonna take ten years to pay for the food and lodging. Can you imagine, they wanted $59 for one night’s lodging! Besides, some pretty strange things happened around here while we were gone.”
Uh, oh. “What do you mean, I thought you said everything was O.K.”
“The day before we left on vacation, I had one of my old hens die, so we buried her in the yard. When we returned from our vacation, we found that dead hen back inside the coop, laying in a nesting box. It was a miracle! That darn hen must have come back to life, and wouldn’t you know we had to be gone when it happened. We’re never leaving again,” said Nan with a twinkle in her eye. “If something like that ever happens again, I want to be here to see it.”
And they haven’t left the ranch since.