Evening lock up and two guinea fowl are missing. I walk around the henhouse, look up on top of the run and count them again. Still only six. I go back to the house for the flashlight to begin my search.
I look in the barn and in the rafters. I look up in the nearby trees. I walk along the lilac bushes. I check the brush piles and the thorn bush where they have laid eggs before.
Did they go broody? Did they just decide to stay out for the night? Had they already fallen victim to some creature hunting my property in the twilight?
Of all my birds, I worry about the guinea fowl the least. I’ve seen them under attack. Heard the call that brought the flock running. Saw the fox midway in its predatory leap. Saw the birds turn and the fox disappear, overcome by its own prey.
But looking for a gray bird in the twilight by the light of a flashlight is not very effective so I chain Jake and leave Luke out, hoping to see them in the morning, hunting bugs by the henhouse and waiting for the rest of the flock to be let out.
No such luck. Instead, I find a mass of feathers down by the barn while leading the heifers out. And I wish I knew when the guinea fowl had been attacked. Had it been killed the day before and I missed the feathers? Or overnight? Or early that morning? I hope for an owl because they present the least danger to the rest of the flock, so long as they are secure in their pen by nightfall.
And I feel resigned to the fact that I’m going to lose all my birds and have to start over year after year. My guinea fowl were the first to live long enough to see the beginnings of my breeding plan. I hatched 21 keets from their eggs. But three already died when the heat lamp went out. We’re hitting record breaking highs, and three keets die when a heat lamp goes out.
And this feeling of resignation is pervasive. Ido not get as upset about things as I did last year. I don’t find myself screaming in the onion patch. But I hear myself say it over and over when life hits the smallest of bumps.
I give up. I give up. I give up.
But I don’t really even know what that means so I just keep going. I look for a bird I know is dead. I care for keets I fear will never live long enough to join the flock. I confine my remaining ducks, hoping to keep these last four alive long enough to breed.
And I wonder how many times I can fail before I finally give up.
Whatever it is that means.