Dirty Harriet

Many years ago, big bro and I spent a Saturday at the loosely termed ‘gun range’ at Lytle Creek. I couldn’t miss that day. I found that I loved his .357 and while I’ve never done a lot of shooting, I may be a bit overconfident. I thought I’d merge seamlessly in Texas culture when we moved here. I still had a bit to learn….

Right out of the gate, hubby took all the kids and me out back to teach gun safety and marksmanship.  I think he did it more because he could finally shoot in the backyard than because he was worried about us, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’ve done some squirrel and bunny hunting with rifles, so listened halfheartedly to the shpiel about the shotgun and shot it once or twice before leaving the boys to their fun.

Then the neighbor’s rooster started coming over the fence in the mornings and causing a ruckus with my hens.  The kids and I would go out there and chase him off, but he was getting really annoying.  Then one morning he started a fight with my rooster.  We were all inside the window cheering on our hero, which was nearly double the size of the little scrapper.  My bruiser would finish this off quickly, that was obvious. We’ve had chickens for years; barnyard cockfights are nothing more than a belly bumping contest where the first one to fall or lose his balance walks away.  That’s how pecking order is established. But I’d never seen a homebred cockfighter before.  This little bugger would not back down.  He finally caught my boy off guard and pecked him really hard in the head.  My rooster bowed in submission, but the little thug kept on until it was more than a bow.  My kids all screamed in horror and I went out after him with a baseball bat that’d been left by the door.  He flew home a little faster when I connected with his backside, but he already had a good start.

The next morning, I woke early to a commotion in the henhouse.  I knew instantly what was going on and grabbed the 12 gauge.  I was done messing with this little runt.  Since I was standing between my house full of children and barn full of animals, and the owner’s house is only about 100 feet to the south, I really needed to make sure I aimed down.  Just for good measure, I put my back to the neighbor’s house so I could shoot straight between my buildings and not have to worry about anything on the business end.  My target came out of the barn toward me while my chickens skedaddled off the scene.  Perfect.  BLAM!  I blew his tail off.  He came at me then, instinctively coming straight for my face.  Oh, crud!!!  Thankful for the second barrel, I pulled again.  Midair, he caught the next one nearly point blank and feathers went everywhere.  I was still standing there trying to figure out what’s left and if it’s still after me, when I heard a sound behind me.  My neighbor was peering over the fence, Mr. Wilson style.  In a thick Hispanic accent, he says, “You having trouble with my rooster?”  I couldn’t think what to answer. “Uh, not anymore….”  “You kill my rooster?”  He asked again. Well, uh – I’m standing there in my mother’s stupid blue flowered knee-length bathrobe looking like a barefoot Ethel Mertz, shotgun in hand, surrounded by colorful feathers and a couple little scraps of meat.  “He killed my rooster,”  I dumbly replied.  I had no idea if this man was going to go ballistic on me or what. The man turned away, waved his hand and grunted.  I never saw him again.  It was nice to finally meet my next door neighbor…..

A few months later, coyotes began making my little buffet a regular stop on their 2:30 am rounds.  Stray dogs were perusing the merchandise at 8 am. I was trying to nurse the baby and educate children during the day, manage a household in the evening, and guard my little flock of meat animals by night. Sleep deprivation and stress were beginning to take their toll, and I was turning into a lunatic.  It was during breakfast with the children when I saw a pack of dogs cruising down my fenceline looking for a hole.  I ran for the shotgun to meet them where I knew they were heading.  I stepped out the back door and tripped over my guard dog, cowering there behind the chimney.  Muttering epithets about the useless waste of dog food as he sneaked into the house behind me, I went out to meet the predators face to face.  Moments later, they popped around the corner and stopped when they saw me.  I zeroed in on the front one and pulled the trigger.  Hard. Oh, right – safety’s on.  I took that off and aimed again.  Nothing.  Damn!  How do you cock this thing again?  Mental note: pay more attention to hubby.   I noticed one of the dogs tilting his head, looking at me curiously.  Another’s coming towards me anyway, and a third is sitting down, scratching a flea.  So much for my big showdown.  I’m beginning to feel really stupid.  And I’m having second thoughts about shooting a dog in the first place; I certainly don’t want to bury one today. I finally get the dumb thing chambered, aim again, and BLAM!!  I hit the dirt about halfway between us.  The dogs jumped and looked at the curious puff of dirt, but obviously didn’t feel I was a real enough threat to leave.  They are still looking at me, but starting to think about when would be a better time to come by.  Repeat steps 2 and 3.  This time I saw dirt fly up in the thick of the pack and one yelped.  They all instantly scattered and raced out of the yard just a nose behind their tails.  I heard my children cheer from the front door. I went back inside and didn’t answer the questions from my oldest about what took me so long. I was just happy there are no windows on that side of the house, and the dogs will never tell what happened.

The neighbors started calling me Dirty Harriet.  My husband was beginning to get jealous that all the good stuff was happening during the day when he was at work.  He never got to shoot his guns!  Then we started losing hens regularly.  One night I startled a coyote in the yard and got to see its path out.  A couple nights later, it was back.  I jumped out of bed and flashed the back lights on.  There he was, with my hen in his mouth, outside my bedroom window.  My cat was 10 inches from his nose, growling.  That’s gutsy.  That’s the biggest coyote I’ve ever seen; I don’t recommend you try this without the chicken in his mouth!  The coyote saw me and ran around the side yard toward the front.  I dashed through the house, yelling for hubby to bring the gun – he came stumbling out half asleep, barefoot in his jammies, as I snapped on the front floodlights (one of which pointed back into the driveway), effectively blinding him.  He lit off two shots in the direction I pointed anyway, still blinking to get his eyes to adjust.  By now we’re both awake (as is half the neighborhood!) but can’t see if we accomplished anything or not. We finally figured if the coyote wasn’t lying in the culvert with a side stitch from laughing so hard, maybe he’d at least think twice before returning.   I was right – it was a whole week before he took my new yellow rooster.

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