Sunday, November 6, 2011

Talking to turkeys

Emma checked her email on Saturday afternoon, hoping that at least one of her friends had replied.  Even if they didn’t have any helpful information, it would be good to know that they cared.  Kid had been pacing the yard all day, and she wanted to have something to tell her even if it wasn’t particularly helpful.

The email from Clem was so funny she had to laugh.  Clementine was such a kitten!  She’d never met her, but Val and the yarn lady had talked about her and she’d seen the pictures the yarn lady had put up on the internet.  She didn’t think she’d tell Kid about how Clem wanted to chase the poults around.  Kid didn’t have much of a sense of humor these days.

Tatum’s reply was at least on the subject of poultry, but again there was no real helpful information.  Personally, Emma agreed with the noisy girl’s father.  From what she heard from Kid, it was a lot of work to take care of livestock, and if the noisy girl was like most younger humans, her father would probably have ended up doing a lot of the work with the chickens, especially cleaning up the chicken poop.

It was a surprise to hear from Runa.  Emma thought that she might still be holding a grudge over the lawsuit being thrown out of court.  Runa was also someone that Emma had never met, but the yarn lady had showed her photos of her, including the one where she was posed with her first human and the fancy cup she’d won as some sort of award.  And why didn’t she call herself by her real name?  Von HippleDePip.  What a silly name.  The yarn lady had explained that she called herself that because Woofie, her new human called her that and laughed about her exalted pedigree.  Runa’s information about all the stuff that had to be done for breeding award winning puppies might give Kid and Lemuel some reassurance, so she printed that email out to show to Kid.

The last one, the one from Rudy, was a gold mine.  She’d figured that Rudy would probably do internet research and come up with some good information, but who’d have guessed that one of the Cat Club members used to live with a turkey breeder?  And Loaf Cat of all cats!  Everything she’d heard about him since he showed up made it seem like he was some feral cat who’d just decided that Peep’s house was a good place to get fed consistently.  Emma hit the print key, anxious to get this information to Kid.  

The printer made a horrible noise as the paper was sucked into it and a window popped open on the computer screen announcing there was a paper jam, and would she please clear it.  Oh no, this had never happened before.  How was she supposed to clear a paper jam?  She didn’t have thumbs!  Staring at the screen, thinking that Val was coming home in less than an hour and panicking about her seeing an email from a cat, she noticed a little box that said “Help”.  Well, she certainly needed help.  She clicked on that button, and another window opened, and this one gave her step-by-step instructions on how one cleared a paper jam from the printer.  Maybe she could do this.  

First, open the front door on the printer.  That was easy enough – a claw wedged into the little opening popped it right open.  Nothing obvious there.  Next, carefully remove all of the paper in the paper tray.  There were only two sheets in there, and the top one was all crumpled where it disappeared into the innards of the printer.  She thought if she carefully put her claws in the top sheet, maybe she could gently pull it out.  It balked at first, but then it started coming loose.  Bit by bit she eased it out until she had a crumpled, smudged and clawed piece of paper.  Now what did she do?  The instructions said to hit a reset button on the printer, so she carefully pressed it without pressing the ones next to it.  Darn those big paws!  The printer hummed and clicked and blessedly it flashed ‘Ready’.  She hit the print button again, and this time it printed out perfectly.  

Checking the clock, she saw that it was 4:15, and Val could be home any minute.  She closed her email program and turned off the computer, grabbed the emails and got out of the office.  She heard the garage door open and started to panic.  Emma ran into the living room and hid the emails under the couch.  It was unlikely that Val would start vacuuming after a long day at the group home, so she thought that was a safe place.  

Emma trilled at Val, happy that she was home, but hopeful that she’d open the slider so she could get the emails out to Kid.  Ziggy charged at Val, as usual and jumped up and down, so happy to see his Mommy.  Perhaps it was also because he needed to go outside, but all he was saying was, “I’m so glad you’re home.  I’m so glad you’re home.”  Ziggy was such a…dog.  

Val opened the slider so the dogs could go out and announced that she was going to get into some clean clothes.  Excellent – Emma could get outside with the emails.  As soon as Val went in the bedroom Emma grabbed them and headed out the door.  It was hard to run dragging paper that was as big as she was, but she made it to the back of the yard with only a few mishaps.  She hoped they were still legible through the pawprints and claw marks, and she was so glad it hadn’t rained last night.  She stowed the papers behind the shed and turned to call for Kid, only to find her right behind her.  She must have been watching for Emma.

“Okay, good news.  She pushed Rudy’s email at Kid and said, “Check this out.”

Kid gave her a look of frustration and said, “Emma, you know I can’t read.  Just tell me what it says!”

“Sorry, I forgot.  Well, here’s the scoop.  One of the cats that comes to the Cat Club used to live with a turkey breeder, and he said that sometimes farmers use incubators and brooders to raise the poults instead of leaving them with the hens.  They do that when there are too many chicks that don’t survive because they get stepped on or get too cold and die.  That’s probably what Bart is doing.”  She gave Kid information about what those things were and would have said more, but Kid was already heading for the fence.  

Kid didn’t care if Bart was around – she wanted to get this information to Lemuel now, not tomorrow when Bart took his walk.  She landed on the farm side of the hedgerow and looked for him, but he was nowhere in sight.  Kid streaked for the turkey run calling for Lemuel.  

It’s hard to tell the expression on a turkey’s face, but Kid swore that Lemuel was looking hopeful.  “So, were you able to find out anything useful?  I appreciate your help very much, Kid.”

The explanation of incubators and brooders took only a few minutes, and Kid could see Lemuel starting to relax.  “Kid, that is such good news.  Can you wait her for a few minutes while I share this with the hens?  They may have some questions, and your information is at least second hand.  You might be able to allay their fears better than I can.”  Lemuel knew the hens didn’t respect him much, and thought they might want to hear the information first-hand (or second-hand, in this case) even if it were delivered by a cat.

Kid said that she’d wait, as long as Bart didn’t come out, and Lemuel headed for the coop.  Kid decided to play flat cat and lay down, spreading herself out as much as possible, even flattening her ears.  She thought it would make her both less visible to Bart and less threatening to the hens if they decided to talk to her.  

The coop erupted with turkey gabbling.  Man, turkeys could make a lot of noise when they wanted to.  One voice, a hen from the sound of it, repeated asked for quiet, and the noise subsided somewhat.  She could hear Lemuel talking, and then everyone talking at once again.  This repeated several time before she saw Lemuel come out of the shed, led by the largest turkey Kid had ever seen.  

The large turkey marched over to where Kid lay in the grass and introduced herself.  “My name is Sheila, and I have a few questions for you.”  She fixed one eye on him.  “First, can I trust you not to come over the fence at me?  It wouldn’t help to have this information if I wasn’t alive to make use of it.”

“Yes, ma’am, I promise that I will not climb the fence or try to hurt you in any way.”  Kid said this in her most respectful voice.

“Well, sit up, or stand up or something.  I can barely see your face, down there on the ground like that.  Now, explain what an incubator is.  I understand brooders; we have them in the broody coop.”  Sheila didn’t quite ask for this information.  She demanded it.  What a bossy turkey hen.  

“As Loaf Cat explained it, an incubator is a box where the eggs are placed in a layer and it keeps them all at the right temperature.  The farmer turns them every so often, and the incubator has an alarm on it that tells the farmer when to turn them.  The eggs stay in there, and when the poults hatch then they’re moved to the brooder.  I think there was something about how turkeys can only sit on so many eggs, and they stop laying when the nest is full.  You’d understand that better than I would.”  Kid sat in a rigid upright position as she said this, hoping not to be rebuked by Sheila again.

“Well.  That could certainly explain why Bart has been taking all our eggs, although by now I’d think he’d have given us the poults that were ready to join the flock.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve had poults.  Thank you for this information, cat.  I’d not have expected cooperation from your kind, but I do appreciate it.”   Without a word to Lemuel she slowly made her way back to the coop.  

Lemuel gave Kid a grateful look; at least Kid thought it was grateful.  “Thanks for your help, Kid, and I would expect help from you, because you’re a good friend.  You’d better get going before Bart comes out.  It’s almost feeding time, I think.”  

Kid smiled at Lemuel.  “Always glad to help a friend.”  He took off and was over the hedgerow and fences in a moment.  

Emma met him at the back of the shed.  “Emma, you’re the greatest.  One of the hens even talked to me, and they said that it could make sense.  Maybe Bart is using an incubator.”  

Ziggy ran up to her and said, “Mommy wants you for dinner, Kid.  Let’s go!”  Kid followed Ziggy, chuckling to himself.  Considering the recent conversation with the turkeys, that phrase could be alarming, but he didn’t think Val had a hankering for a catburger.  

Photo courtesy of Pirate Johnny -

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