Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Saving Lemuel - Prologue

Lemuel was a turkey who was unsure of his purpose in life.  He lived on a farm and had a flock of hens (female turkeys), jennies (young female turkeys) and jakes (young male turkeys) and varying amounts of poults (baby turkeys) and eggs.  When he was quite young he'd been sure that his purpose was to father and lead a flock of turkeys just like him - Jersey Buff heritage turkeys, but the longer he'd lived on the farm the less sure he became that this would ever happen.  Maybe he was just a turkey in the wrong place in the wrong era.

When most informed beings think of New Jersey in the 21st century, they think of the Turnpike, the Parkway, oil refineries, or if they're lucky, the Jersey Shore.  Unless they went to school in Jersey (or perhaps actually read their license plates) they don't know that its nickname is the Garden State.  It was originally known for its farms, not for pollution and overcrowding. 

There are still a lot of farms in New Jersey, though.  Small farms, not big factory ones like the huge wheat farms of the Midwest or the poultry factory farms of Maryland.  They're farms where a family and a few farmhands raise crops for local markets as well as livestock.  Right in the middle of the state is a town called Millstone, and in-between big new mansions there is a farm owned by a man named Bart.  He bought it a ways back as his retirement hobby.  Over the years he's experimented with a variety of livestock.  He's had cows, goats, chickens and even a donkey or two.  Some types of livestock worked out better than others.  The bull was entirely too ornery, and had to go.  The donkeys annoyed the heck out of everyone with their braying, so they were sold.  Bart's most recent acquisition was a turkey farming operation that he started last year. 

For the most part, Bart's neighbors put up with his farming efforts with good grace.  Occasionally someone will complain about the animal noises (which was one of the reasons that the donkeys had to move on). Mostly they understand that Millstone has a long history as a farming community, and if you move into a farming town, you need to expect there to be animals, even if you've paid way too much money for a gigantic fancy house.  Plus it's something to talk about at parties. 

One of Bart's neighbors has a collection of livestock of her own, but it's of the domestic variety.  Val's property backs onto Bart's farm, separated by a tall hedgerow, complete with actual fences that keep most of the animals on their own properties.  Val currently has two dogs and three cats.  The dogs are Bella, a moderately rotund Chihuahua who was a rescue from a puppy farm in the Bayshore and Ziggy, a Maltese who was another rescue.  Despite their former traumatic lives, Val and her daughter patiently loved the dogs until they could love themselves and each other.  At this point they are inseparable.  When Val's daughter Lizzy moved to Hoboken recently, Val put her foot down and said that Bella needed to stay, even though she was really Lizzy's dog.  Ziggy would pine away without Bella, so she stayed. 

The three cats are Buddy, Emma and Kid.  Kid came from Val's dad, who gave her Kid when she was a wee kitten.  She had been a stray, and her dad knew that Val had a big heart as well as a big house.  Kid happily moved in and took over the household.  Next to arrive was Emma, a loving tiger cat who likes nothing more than snuggling under the covers with the people she loves.  She and Kid happily played chase throughout the house as they grew.  The last cat addition was Buddy, who Val found living in the compost heap at an age when he still should have been at his mother's side.  She gradually coaxed him to accept her, and after a visit to the vet to make sure he was free of parasites and disease he joined the household.  Although he started out as a very tiny kitten who was mostly bones, he grew to be kind of a fullback type of cat - huge and not too blessed in the brains department.  Val and the yarn lady describe him as a feline version of Zonker Harris from Doonesbury.  Nothing fazes him and he's just fine and dandy with whatever happens. 

When Buddy realized he was the largest of the three cats as well as the only male, he decided that he really should take charge of the household, which doesn't entirely go along with his easy-going image.  He decided in particular that he needed to keep Kid in line.  Kid’s the explorer of the household.  She hops fences to visit all the neighbors, probably for miles around.  She's always ready to come home for mealtime, though, except that Buddy likes to try to keep her from coming in the house. At the first site of Kid, Buddy streaks off the back deck and chases Kid until she hops the fence into a neighbor's yard.

Ziggy and Bella didn't think that was at all fair, so they've become Kid's protectors.  They keep an eye out for Kid, and as soon as they spot her, they run outside to her and provide escort duty to bring her safely into the house.  Once she's inside Buddy leaves her alone, probably because it's too much effort to chase her out again.  

Of all the cats, Kid is the one who knows the most of Bart's animals.  She can climb the hedgerow and fence with ease, and sneaks over there when Bart's out for his daily walk or if he and his family go away for the day.  She likes the cows, as they often have interesting things to say.  Cows have interesting views on life and a wicked sense of humor, so Kid can often be found chatting with them.  The chickens were useless and brainless.  The only interaction she ever had with them was their screaming, "Fox!  Fox!" any time she got anywhere near their yard.  And as soon as they did that Charlie-the-dog would come running, barking with all his might. 

Charlie-the-dog wasn't the kind of dog that a cat could become friends with.  He took his job of protecting the farm and the livestock very seriously.  Whenever he saw her he chased her until she climbed a fence or a tree.  She'd then reassure him that she wasn't going to chase or catch any of the animals, but she was never quite sure he believed her.  He was intensely loyal to Bart, and Bart didn't like having cats on his property, so therefore Charlie didn't either, although if Kid was on the fence or in a tree, Charlie figured that she wasn't exactly on the property and would talk to her, or at least listen.  He wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, though, so Kid had to repeat the same things pretty much every time she saw him.

Ziggy loved Charlie.  His favorite game was to run down to the hedgerow and call for Charlie.  They'd then race up and down the length of Val's back property line, calling to each other.  Ziggy was convinced that if he could ever get Charlie to come over and play that it would be the most fun ever, but Val worried that Charlie might decide that little Zig would make a good snack for his German Shepherd self.  Bella mainly ignored him, as her portly body and tiny legs weren't built for the kind of running that Ziggy and Charlie liked to do. 

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