1st Prize goes to The Wisdom of Life, for the job you’d least like to have. There were some great entries, but this one struck me viscerally and reminded me of the one and only job I ever got sick on (that’s a story for another day).
They will be sent one Green Study Coffee Mug or Pen, a postcard from Minneapolis and I will make a $100 online donation to the American Red Cross on their behalf of their local Red Cross Chapter or International Disaster Response fund.
Chicken gumbo, chicken salad, fried chicken… the list goes on. At the tail end of the moment that a delightful morsel of savory indulgence enters our welcoming palate, we might forget the long trek on which this bite has come. One such step in this journey from egg to forked bit of delicious pleasure is the chicken house. In my late teens catching chickens paid very well and didn’t require the glistening charade of resume props other jobs of that pay scale demanded. The task was simple enough, gather chickens, hand them off to be placed in crates to be transported to the processing plant.
At the time I was on the verge of homelessness. Having searched for work in a tough market I was getting desperate and needed the money. I wasn’t unaware the job would be stinky and hard on the back. I prepared myself by chanting my new mantra; “you need the money, and you can do this”. We traveled by van that night to a huge chicken coop. It was better to do the job in the dark. Chickens can’t see in blue and red light, so they were effectively blind. We corralled and grabbed them, 4 in each hand, to heave up to the waiting crater.
Most of the crew was well seasoned. In retrospect, I could see they were battle hardened to persevere what was to come. I was just another face that might or might not be able to join that band of brothers – if I had what it took to cross over from wannabe to warrior. The wind was strong and the screeching chickens flapped and cackled as they passed from my hands to the waiting crater. My mantra grew stronger and stronger as the hours wore on. Chicken feces and urine frothed out from the terrified brood and showered me with its reminder that foul isn’t just a polite fiction attributed to these creatures.
In my blissful delight of childhood ignorance I remember asking my mother one time how chicken was made. When she matter of factly told me that it was made of chickens, I remember being mortified. I asked again assuming she didn’t understand the question. When she reasserted the ugly facts to my unaccepting mind it took me quite a while to absorb the complacent monstrosity about myself that came sauntering out of her mouth. It seared my mind like the grill lines burnt on to those poor creatures I flung on a leg of their deathward journey.
I did battle with my growing inclination to stop this madness of torture and injustice to myself and these creatures. As a teen, I had the common affliction of delusional immortality and thought that if I determined to do something that I would just behaviorally follow through. I didn’t want to face my own shortcomings nor did I want to deny myself the much needed infusion of cash. Spectacularly, I discovered I was not up to the task. 4 hours into the shift I worked up enough courage to tell the leader that I could no longer do it. I expected wrath. I remembered his look of understanding, or perhaps complacency as he probably witnessed my brand of surrender so many times before. He simply said without malice that I could wait in the van.
I sat there waiting for the end of the shift now diverting the divided energy I was applying partly to the torture of those chickens and myself to my own self alone, and I was… alone. I was so embarrassed about the whole experience that I went home and showered for what seemed like a week to get the smell out. It didn’t occur to me even to ask to be paid for the few short hours I had worked because I had let everyone down in that field of wood chips and hell. A couple weeks later I received a check to my surprise.
In some ways it seems life is a confluence of contrasts. In that time of doing my worst I learned one of the most valuable lessons of all in life… that I do have limits.
Congratulations, Wisdom of Life! Be sure to check out their blog.
Here’s a little wisdom to attain: