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Life in small town gives family room for lots of animals

I confess to being a relative newcomer to our community. After spending most of my life as a confirmed bachelor, six years ago I met my one true love and married her.

And since my wife owned a house and 16 acres in Dearing, it seemed only logical to move into her place rather than the two of us trying to live in my small Augusta apartment.

It quickly became apparent that, as far as my wife was concerned, land was worth owning for one reason alone -- room to own animals.

Those animals included horses, goats, pigs and, of course, cats. Lots of cats.

I don't even know how many cats we actually own. They're very independent creatures and most live outside, so they show up, eat, then disappear back into the woods.

Except for the ones that live full time in the house.

I should point out that none of these animals are what might be considered livestock. They're all pets. Even the goats and pigs are pets.

The horses have never been ridden. As far as I can tell, they're here to eat grass in the summer and deplete my bank account in the winter.

I'm not completely guiltless, either. After 15 years of apartment living, I was determined to own a dog.

So we got one. Then another. And another soon after that.

Somewhere along the way, we ended up with five dogs, most of them abandoned strays that showed up and stayed or were adopted from the shelter.

With so many dogs, the local meter reader won't even come on our property anymore.

He's developed some complicated system of reading our meter that involves a ladder, ropes and binoculars.

I admire his persistence, but I sometimes wonder if he isn't just making up numbers. I've learned not to ask too many questions.

A while back the wife decided we should own chickens, so now we do. I figured, "Fine, chickens live outside, no problem." I built them a sizable pen area, and before I knew it we had 24 laying hens. Again, I figured, "Fine." My thoughts on the matter were that we'd feed the chickens until it was time for them to feed us, preferably fried, but I like chicken roasted or baked also. Barbecued is good, too.

I should have known that we were both too tender-hearted to ever be able to eat our own chickens. Our chickens will die of old age, not on the chopping block. And if I know my wife, I'll be expected to give each one a Christian burial. I should have known that would be the case when my wife started naming them.

"That one's Henny Penny," she said one day. "And that one's Speckles; that one's Cuddles; that one's Hoppy; and that one's Huddles . ..." The list went on. Frankly, I couldn't tell one from another.

"How can you tell Cuddles from Huddles?" I asked, expecting, in my naïveté, for her to point out some obvious difference.

"Easy," she responded, looking at me as though I'd just asked the difference between night and day. "Cuddles has prettier eyes than Huddles."

Her answer stunned me into absolute silence for quite a while. "She can't see the news scrawl on the television set, but she can see differences in chickens' eyes?" was the thought that kept running through my mind.

A thought, I hasten to add, I kept entirely to myself. Married life teaches many lessons.

So, if you ever drop by the Ford place for a visit, I only hope it's not on urgent business.

The first hour or so will be spent meeting the family.

"That one's Henny Penny, that one's Speckles, that one's Cuddles..."

David Ford is a correspondent for The McDuffie Mirror.

Web posted on Thursday, July 07, 2011

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