I’m so sad, but I can’t cry. We’ve lost so many animals here at the Hillhouse, and now we’ve just lost another. It’s part and parcel of life here with the wilderness just steps beyond our door. Elihu takes it in stride, but this morning my heart is unusually heavy with the loss of our dear little Bantam Silkie Rooster, Felix. I suppose when we finally do lose our beloved Molly one day, then I will cry, but for now I’m merely beset with yet another loss of a creature I’d grown to know and love, yet another irretrievable event out of my control here on our small farm, yet another inevitable tiny heartache.
I think back on a summer morning last year when we awoke to find all sixteen of our young chicks – finally on the doorstep of adulthood – mangled and dead on the floor of their brooder pen. My fault, I knew. I’d not secured the wire over the window very well, and it was an easy entrance for some creature. A creature who did not even eat his spoils. That broke Elihu’s heart more than the deaths themselves. It’s much easier to accept a death when you know it served to feed another needy stomach on the planet. But to see death for no gain – that’s a true heartbreaker.
I’m wrestling with myself this morning. Did I in fact secure the barrier plank against the coop last night?? Did I? It had been knocked over this morning, and that was my first warning something was amiss. Felix, as he’d been rather picked on by the bigger birds, had taken to spending nights under the coop rather than in it, and so I’d made sure to close the perimeter of it, leaving but one entrance point which he used like clockwork to let himself in each evening. In the morning, my routine was to kick his plank down, opening up his ‘door’ and wait for him to emerge, thereby giving him a head start over his larger cousins upstairs. But did I close him in last night? Had I perhaps forgotten? Or was there a highly motivated creature here last night who’d simply knocked the plank down himself? I’m pretty sure it was the latter, but since I can’t be sure my mind goes tormentingly round and round.
In the end, there is nothing I can do so I must let it go. I make one more hopeful look around the property, waiting for that familiar lift my heart always feels when I first see the strutting of his poofy little legs and goofy little silhouette. He is here, he is there, he has always been somewhere about, and to come upon him all at once is always a joy – a tiny bright spot in one’s day. One cannot look upon a silkie and not smile. But his was a lonely life – the only one of his miniature kind, always skirting the edges of the main flock lest his tail feathers be plucked to bleeding by the other birds as they had been many times before. And as his feathers are fluffy rather than tightly zipped up as most birds’ are, he’s unable to fly, making him an easier target still. The irony to me is blunt: Elihu and I had only yesterday decided we’d set out to find him two hens this week, and they were to be Gretchen and Gertrude. It gave us peace to know that soon our dearest little Felix would not be alone, and his way in the world might be lighter.
Well, Felix is no longer in this world, and I’m sure his way is indeed much lighter today. Some other forest creature has satisfied a long empty belly, and Felix’s cares are all ceased. Rest in peace, little rooster. Thanks for the joy you brought us. We’ll miss you.
Post Script: A “bantam” is a miniature breed of chicken, standing about eight inches tall. Silkies have fluffy white feathers – even on their feet! – and dark purple skin with blue combs. They really are pretty adorable. And they’re very soft to the touch. Here is what our Felix looked like: