Chapter 7: Safe passage on the farm

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This is this is the seventh in a series of literacy enhancement articles that will appear biweekly in The Sentinel-News.

“Woody, Chloe, come back immediately,” Pa and Lauren screamed. Obeying, we returned to Pa and Farmer Lauren. 

“Oh, doggies,” Pa said, wiping sweat from his brow, “you two sure gave us a scare!”

“I'm sorry,” I said. “We only wanted to introduce ourselves to the dogs in the field.”

“We know,” Farmer Lauren replied. “That's why we screamed. You took off before we could warn you about the dogs.”

“Warn us? Oh, no! Do those dogs have rabies?” I asked, making Pa laugh.

“They're called livestock guardian dogs,'“ Pa explained. “They keep predators away from the livestock.”

“Woody and I aren't predators,” Chloe said.

“We're not predors!” I confirmed. “By the way, what are predors?” Everyone giggled!

“A pred-a-tor” Pa said, exaggerating every syllable, “is an animal that hunts, kills and eats other animals.”

“We definitely aren't predators,” I restated.

“I know that and you know that, but those dogs in the field don't know that,” Pa said. “Livestock guardian dogs are bred to protect our livestock. They are raised with livestock like sheep, cattle or alpacas, and form a strong bond with them. Therefore, the dogs will protect the livestock at all cost. Most of the time, the dogs ward off the predators and never have to attack, but they will if they have to - and that includes cute little wiener dogs!” 

“You see, pups,” Lauren said, “warding off predators such as coyotes or wolves with dogs is safer than hunting, killing or trapping. As farmers, we have a responsibility to be respectful of the land as well as respect all creatures - whether we're milking cows, making beef from the cattle or even warding off the predators. So always remember that.”

 I knew I liked Farmer Lauren the moment I met her, but after she talked about respect, I was sure I was in love!

“Since you doggies have learned a good bit about dairy and beef cattle, let's go to a different farm,” Pa suggested. When Farmer Lauren hugged me goodbye, my heart went pitter-patter.   

Chloe and I hopped in Pa's farm truck and headed down a country road. Before long, we turned into Parker's Poultry Farm.

“Poultry farmers raise chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese for either meat or eggs,” Pa explained.  “Chickens used for meat are called broilers while chickens used for eggs are called layers. Here in Kentucky, poultry is the number 1 agriculture and food commodity, and Kentucky ranks eighth in the United States in terms of broiler production. There are 800 poultry farms in Kentucky, and this is one of them. Mr. Parker has been my good friend for about 40 years. He's in poor health, so I figured we would come over and help him. You two pups think you're up to it?”

“Of course,” we answered in unison.

“Great,” Pa replied, smiling. “In fact, that's one reason you're dressed in farming clothes. We farmers want to be protected from the sun, have our body covered so we won't get scratched or hurt, and use our bandanna to wipe the sweat off our brow so it doesn't get in our eyes. Besides, Granny wouldn't like it if I got my good clothes dirty.”

Mom didn't like us to play in our good clothes either. I missed Mom and Dad, but when Granny convinced Mom that we could learn about farm life, they agreed we could stay for a few days. Besides, we knew we would see them soon.

“OK, farmers,” Pa said, snapping me out of my thoughts, “I need you to take the basket with the blanket in it and gather the eggs. When gathering, go around to each nest and look inside. Check the nest before you put your paw in it. There could be a snake or other critter in there.” That statement made me want to run, but I'd made a commitment to help. I listened as Pa continued. “Pick up the eggs carefully and put them on the blanket in the basket. You don't want to break any. If a hen is trying to lay an egg, leave her alone. We will come back and gather it later. While you gather, I will clean out the chicken coops.”

For the next hour, Chloe and I went from nest to nest, checking for eggs, critters and snakes. We carefully gathered the eggs and put them inside the basket on the soft blanket. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

I was terrified when I saw a black slithery creature in the corner of the barn, but I handled it like a real farmer. Therefore, I was stunned when Pa screamed, “Woody, don't you dare do that!”

For more about the series including audio versions of each chapter, visit www.kypress.com.