Freezing solid in Montgomery County Texas is a rare threat the good Lord giveth. Almost like proverbial hen’s teeth. The warning of winter storm sounds from rural to borough and citizens listening batten down their hatches. A crystal cover soon cloaks each road and roof and wheeled ride. Worry turns to wonder as Nature slightly smiles in arrogance at the halting power she still holds over the ever pushy and impatient men at her mercy.
For an old farmer, staying home (and far from the madding roads) is my default, anyway. So, the calamity of traffic lines looms less important. More important be the water lines in winter. And the great lengths that water hoses go. Strewn and stretched. To five coops, with four splitters, into three pools, from two sources. One shrinking soul slinks out each night to protect the vessels of drink from the icy fingers waiting to grip them. Cutting off water, draining off hoses, taking off nozzles. Maybe silently praying that I got it all. Knowing from piles of coiled evidence that I did not.
The next morning icily crackles awake, an accompaniment to the familiar cackle of poultry. Layered clothing and mud caked boots soon maneuver through a glass menagerie of thin, irregular glass panes glazed overnight in my muddy puddled pasture. The Ice Queen! Yes. She was here. From coop to pen, to my gloved hand, fingers numbing, in the deep freeze, exhausted smoke hurries up from my lungs and sun rises. My cotton and wool weaves envy the victory that fur and feathers still claim against wind chill. My ever-present canine companions relish the relief from the heat of this climate change, adding their own smoky dogs’ breath. My fowl friends stare thirstily and indignant. A steady gaze, one hundred pairs of eyes seemingly asking at once, “Who do I have to kill to get a drink in this place?”
Good question. I go grab a maul (like an axe but blunt and fat). The skinny chickens see me coming in brisk. One would think, instinctively, the winged animals would take flight at the sight of an axe. But curiosity overcomes them and all watch to see what this fool with his tool may do. I speed past them to the waterfowl.
First, I deliver a love tap to this seemingly pitiful ice sheet on the kiddie pool that serves as the duck’s drinker. Only a contusion. Next, I raise it up higher, delivering a more insistent blow. Maybe a fracture. Followed by a big bounce. Whoops! Back atcha. Finally, I chop at the ice like I would wood. I’m attacking an evil, tightly grained, unseasoned green, stringy round of hickory. That did it.
Drink it now, you young quacks, because in an hour or so the laws of physics will taketh it away.