On Becoming a Hillbilly

“Neil!” I woke myself up yelling. Just a second before, still half asleep, I heard what sounded like something was in trouble.

“Shhh, Kalie.” Neil shot back immediately. Apparently I had been talking in my sleep.

As soon as his words fell we fully awoke and recognized the noise.

“The chickens!”

Neil darted out of bed and ran out the sliding door that leads to the deck, hitting the outdoor light and grabbing a grill basket before descending the stairs. From the deck I saw the infiltrator: a raccoon. I watched from the deck as Neil, wearing only his boxers, smacked the top of the chickens’ box with the grill basket to scare the raccoon. As he yelled at it and pulled off the top of the box I wondered how he was going to fight a raccoon while barefoot and practically naked. My fear subsided quickly as the raccoon jumped out the top and scurried away.

“Are they okay?” I asked.

“One of them is bleeding.”

“Awww.” The irony of our concern for the chickens and outrage at the raccoon was lost on me at 3:30 in the morning, but I feel justified because raccoons are nasty scavengers who ate my carrots out of the cooler when I was camping. They also kill just to kill. Supposedly Neil slit their throats the “humane” way, and while it didn’t bother him, he said he got a bad taste in his mouth each time he killed one.

Neil tried to get a better look at the wounded chicken. A thin trail of blood ran next to its wing and it squawked and squirmed when Neil tried to pick it up to examine it. He let it go.

“Doesn’t look too bad. He can still walk.”

As Neil secured the box with large rocks that bordered the nearby flower bed, we conjectured about how the raccoon got in. The top of the box was a wooden frame covered with two overlapping pieces of chicken wire. It usually rested unsecured on top of the box and was still sitting squarely in place when Neil rushed out to save the chickens. Seemingly the raccoon broke in via the overlap in the chicken wire. Neil wove sticks through the wire to keep the pieces together until he could secure the box more permanently the next day.

Back in bed, we couldn’t sleep after such an adrenalin rush. The humor of the situation dawned on us once we stopped worrying so much about the chickens. I imagined telling someone the story in my best hillbilly accent. Better yet, I imagined the neighbors watched Neil run around in his underwear, batting a raccoon away from his chicken coup with a grill accessory while his knocked up wife watched the action. The breaking and entering occurred right next to the fence separating our yards, after all.

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A couple weeks earlier when the chickens first graduated from the garage to the yard, Neil wanted to give the neighbors fair warning. So when he saw them outside he invited them to come see the chickens.

“I’m not going to lie, that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” said the twenty-something wife.

The next day, there was a for sale sign in their yard.

I spent the rest of the week trying to convince Neil that it wasn’t the chickens.

“We’re weird,” he concluded. “We’re officially weird.”

“Yeah, but you don’t just decide to put your house on the market in one day because we’re weird.”

Maybe he was right.

Maybe they were right.

Neil said country is different from hillbilly. Probably true, but I did spend the week right before the eventful night on the beach, seven months pregnant in a two-piece bathing suit. Not a maternity bathing suit, but my normal, not-pregnant bathing suit. If I learned anything from lifeguarding at a hillbilly campground, it’s that hillbillies of any size or shape will wear a bikini. No matter if you’re 100 pounds or 500, a bikini is appropriate beach attire if you’re missing a few teeth and your hair faintly resembles a mullet no matter how you cut it.

Later that week, I purchased an oversized fanny pack. I’m not sure what this means, but I’m afraid to find out.

Our friends came over to try the first chicken this week. Upon arrival their two-year-old daughter, who apparently had been praying for the “baby chicks” since first seeing them, asked, “Did the baby chicks go to their new home?”

I glanced at the golden-skinned bird and got out an unconvincing, “Yes.”

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