Saturday’s Meeting: Steven T. Callan and Play Tickets

authorsteventcallanphotooakwoodland

Steven T. Callan

Author Steven T. Callan will speak to the Writers Forum on Saturday, January 14, 2017 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Redding, CA.
Steven T. Callan is the award-winning author of Badges, Bears, and Eagles—The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden, a 2013 “Book of the Year” award finalist (ForeWord Reviews). He is the recipient of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 “Best Outdoor Magazine Column” awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of California. Steve’s sequel, The Game Warden’s Son, was released March 1, 2016, by Coffeetown Press of Seattle, and is the focus of his 2016 book tour.

thegamewardenssonbookcover
Steve was born in San Diego, California, where he spent his early childhood. It was there that he first developed his love of nature, spending much of his spare time exploring the undeveloped canyons behind his house and learning to skin dive in the nearby ocean. In 1960, Callan’s family moved to the small Northern California farm town of Orland. Steve spent his high school years playing baseball, basketball, hunting, and fishing. With an insatiable interest in wildlife, particularly waterfowl, he never missed an opportunity to ride along on patrol with his father, a California Fish and Game warden.
Callan graduated from California State University, Chico, in 1970, and continued with graduate work at California State University, Sacramento. While studying at Sacramento State, he worked as a paid intern for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors—using this golden opportunity to lobby for protected wildlife corridors in the county’s general plan.
Hired by the California Department of Fish and Game in 1974, Warden Steve Callan’s first assignment was the Earp Patrol District on the Colorado River. He was promoted to patrol lieutenant in January of 1978, leaving the desert and moving to the metropolitan area of Riverside/San Bernardino. While stationed in Riverside, Callan organized and led a successful effort to ban the sale of native reptiles in California. He also organized and led a successful campaign to stop a planned recreational development at Lake Mathews— establishing the lake and its surrounding wildlands as an ecological reserve for thousands of waterfowl and Southern California’s largest population of wintering bald eagles.
Transferring north to Shasta County in 1981, Lieutenant Callan spent the remainder of his thirty-year enforcement career in Redding. While supervising the warden force in Shasta County, Callan created and coordinated the Streamside Corridor Protection Plan—working with city and county planners to establish development-free setbacks along the Sacramento River and its tributaries.
In 1995, Lieutenant Steve Callan and Warden Dave Szody conducted a three-year undercover investigation into the unlawful killing of California black bears for their gallbladders, possibly the most successful wildlife related criminal investigation in California history at the time. Callan and Szody received the distinguished Frank James Memorial award for their accomplishment.
Steve and his wife, Kathleen, a retired science teacher, are passionate about the environment. They are longtime members of no fewer than a dozen environmental organizations and actively promote environmental causes. They are avid bird watchers, kayakers, anglers, and scuba divers. Steve is also a wildlife artist, using photographs he takes while scuba diving for inspiration. Callan has played competitive softball throughout the United States since his college days and, in 2004, was inducted into the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame. Steve can be found online at steventcallan.com.

Riverfront Playhouse Tickets

The Play’s the Thing!

play-ticket

Help support Writers Forum, and enjoy an Edgar-award-winning play from Broadway playwright Ken Ludwig.

From the Riverfront Playhouse’s website: The Story: William Gilette has been shot while on stage in a Sherlock Holmes play. We see him two weeks later at home on Christmas Eve entertaining some of the cast members. A murder,an attempted murder, a female detective, Gilette’s mother; Ah yes, the game’s afoot.

Tickets are $20 for one ticket, or $30 for two. Take a date and save ten dollars! Proceeds support the Riverfront Playhouse and the Writers Forum. Tickets are for the Wednesday, February 1 show only and are available through Jennifer Levens, who can be reached at (530) 722-0504, or by e-mail at theatermaven2@gmail.com . Tickets will also be available for purchase at the January 14 Writers Forum Meeting.

Steven will speak and tickets will be available at All Saints Episcopal Church, 2150 Benton Drive, Redding, CA on Saturday, January 14 at 10:30 AM. All are welcome.

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Steven T. Callan to Speak

authorsteventcallanphotooakwoodlandAuthor Steven T. Callan will speak to the Writers Forum on Saturday, January 14, 2017 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Redding, CA.

 
Steven T. Callan is the award-winning author of Badges, Bears, and Eagles—The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden, a 2013 “Book of the Year” award finalist (ForeWord Reviews). He is the recipient of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 “Best Outdoor Magazine Column” awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of California. Steve’s sequel, The Game Warden’s Son, was released March 1, 2016, by Coffeetown Press of Seattle, and is the focus of his 2016 book tour.

 

thegamewardenssonbookcover

 
Steve was born in San Diego, California, where he spent his early childhood. It was there that he first developed his love of nature, spending much of his spare time exploring the undeveloped canyons behind his house and learning to skin dive in the nearby ocean. In 1960, Callan’s family moved to the small Northern California farm town of Orland. Steve spent his high school years playing baseball, basketball, hunting, and fishing. With an insatiable interest in wildlife, particularly waterfowl, he never missed an opportunity to ride along on patrol with his father, a California Fish and Game warden.

 
Callan graduated from California State University, Chico, in 1970, and continued with graduate work at California State University, Sacramento. While studying at Sacramento State, he worked as a paid intern for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors—using this golden opportunity to lobby for protected wildlife corridors in the county’s general plan.

 
Hired by the California Department of Fish and Game in 1974, Warden Steve Callan’s first assignment was the Earp Patrol District on the Colorado River. He was promoted to patrol lieutenant in January of 1978, leaving the desert and moving to the metropolitan area of Riverside/San Bernardino. While stationed in Riverside, Callan organized and led a successful effort to ban the sale of native reptiles in California. He also organized and led a successful campaign to stop a planned recreational development at Lake Mathews— establishing the lake and its surrounding wildlands as an ecological reserve for thousands of waterfowl and Southern California’s largest population of wintering bald eagles.

 
Transferring north to Shasta County in 1981, Lieutenant Callan spent the remainder of his thirty-year enforcement career in Redding. While supervising the warden force in Shasta County, Callan created and coordinated the Streamside Corridor Protection Plan—working with city and county planners to establish development-free setbacks along the Sacramento River and its tributaries.

 
In 1995, Lieutenant Steve Callan and Warden Dave Szody conducted a three-year undercover investigation into the unlawful killing of California black bears for their gallbladders, possibly the most successful wildlife related criminal investigation in California history at the time. Callan and Szody received the distinguished Frank James Memorial award for their accomplishment.

 
Steve and his wife, Kathleen, a retired science teacher, are passionate about the environment. They are longtime members of no fewer than a dozen environmental organizations and actively promote environmental causes. They are avid bird watchers, kayakers, anglers, and scuba divers. Steve is also a wildlife artist, using photographs he takes while scuba diving for inspiration. Callan has played competitive softball throughout the United States since his college days and, in 2004, was inducted into the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame. Steve can be found online at steventcallan.com.

 

 

Steven will speak at All Saints Episcopal Church, 2150 Benton Drive, Redding, CA on Saturday, January 14 at 10:30 AM. All are welcome.

A High Mountain Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!

Today we bring you a story of a different kind of 4th of July celebration, from WF member George Parker.

 

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Vogelsang Peak, Yosemite

Friday of the first week our trail crew was camped at Vogelsang Peak in Yosemite National Park’s High Country was a holiday. July 4, 1987 fell on a Saturday, so the Friday before was a State Holiday, giving us a three day weekend. We used three day weekends for long 2-night backpacking trips. We looked forward to them. Anne came up with a great plan to head west around Rafferty Peak for some cross country hiking and visiting several lakes. Wayne, Jose, and Dewey all liked that plan and decided to go with her. I wanted to, as well.  However, this particular Friday I was scheduled for KP. Since it was a holiday and Patti, the cook, had the day off, I was responsible for feeding anybody who was in camp on that day. As KP, I couldn’t leave camp to join Anne’s group.

I had one possible escape route. If enough people were going to leave camp for the weekend, the KP was off the hook and the few people in camp could fend for themselves. I thought this was going to be a piece of cake. I mean, everybody was going to going out for overnighters, right?

Wrong.

I polled the crew and found out that quite a few people were planning to do day hikes out of camp for the whole weekend, but a lot of people were going to be in camp for dinner each day.

Rats.

I tried to ‘reason’ them into at least going on an overnighter. “You’ll have the next three months for day hikes out of camp. We’ve only got two three-day weekends. Get out and see some country!”

“Nah. We just want to stay close by. But just go with Anne and Jose anyway! We can take care of ourselves.”

Moose, our supervisor: “Nope. The rule is that the KP does duty if there are more than five people in camp. You have to stay.”

We reached an impasse. In this case, an impasse meant that I lost. OK. Fine. I know my job.

The next morning went fine. I made everyone a good brunch. Everyone got the dishes washed and then headed out for their day hikes. I took my mid-day break, reading David Copperfield beneath Vogelsang Peak. After my break, I looked at the sign-out log. For safety reasons, anybody leaving camp had to sign out. The log listed the names of everybody in the party, date and time of departure, complete itinerary, and estimated time of return. I checked the log to find out what time everybody expected to be back so I could plan dinner accordingly.

And then I lost it.

The day hikers weren’t due back until 7:00 PM—three hours after the crew’s normal weekend dinner time. I hadn’t needed to stay in camp after all. If only these guys had told somebody they were staying out that late! I was furious. I was livid. I vented into the crew journal. My handwriting got bigger towards the end of the entry. I wrote some words in the journal that I should not have used. And then I got on with dinner preparations.

I went ahead and made dinner for the few people we had left in camp. We washed dishes. After I burned the garbage, Moose took me off to the side.

“Do you know the route Anne and the others were going to take?”

“Yep. They were going to go over the saddle between Rafferty and Johnson Peak to Reymann Lake tonight.”

“Do you think you could catch up to them before dark?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. CCC policy was that we needed a minimum of two Corpsmembers in a party to leave camp on a trail, and at least three in a party for any cross country hiking. Peter Lewis had been most emphatic about this at orientation. Moose noticed my hesitation.

“I wouldn’t offer this to just anybody. I think you kinda got hosed on your KP, and I trust you enough not to do anything stupid. Do you think you could get to Reymann Lake before dark?”

“Maybe. I could sure try!”

“What would you do if you can’t find them?”

“I think the most likely reason not to catch them would be if I couldn’t get over the ridge before dark. If that happened, I’d spend the night on the ridge and come back to camp in the morning.”

“OK, go ahead and try it. Be careful!”

Raferty Trail

Rafferty Trail

It didn’t take long to throw together the gear I’d need and hit the trail. I hiked fast past the High Sierra camp and back down the Rafferty Meadows Trail. When I got toward the north end of Rafferty Peak, I got out the topo map to look at my options for getting around the mountain. If I kept hiking down the canyon to a creek and went up the drainage, the ground leveled out on the top of the saddle between Rafferty and Johnson Peaks. It looked like it might be a fairly easy route. Following a creek uphill can be tricky, though. You don’t know how thick the riparian vegetation will be. You don’t know if you will run into any cataracts that you would have to climb over. Sundown was going to be here sooner than later. I looked up the draw I was in front of and decided that my best shot of getting over by sundown was to go up right here.

When I used to think of mountains, I would think they were humongous slabs of solid rock. Yosemite taught me different. Sure, there are big slabs of solid rock like El Capitan and Half Dome. But most of the other majestic peaks you are seeing from far away are actually jumbled piles of smaller granite blocks. Remember, though—‘smaller’ is a relative term. Some of them are as big as a bus, or a house. A lot of them are as big as cars. Millions of them are as big as you. So most of the time you are climbing in the Sierra, you are actually scrambling up and over and around boulders.

37

This is not Rafferty Peak, but it is the same type of terrain. You can see Moose in there.

That’s what my attempt to find a route around the right side of Rafferty Peak was—a boulder scramble. You stand at the bottom and look up at the jumble of boulders. You can’t see the top, so you have to guess which route might be the most likely to get you where you need to go. You start crawling over and walking around the boulders as you make your way up. You aren’t hiking anymore like you were on the trail below. You aren’t really climbing, either. You keep working your way up, up, up. Before long, you look back and are amazed at how much height you’ve gained over the canyon floor. Every once in a while, you run into a dead end, either a wall you can’t get around or a chasm you can’t get across. Then you have to back track. You hate having to give up any elevation that you’ve sweat so much to gain, but you have no choice. Eventually you make your way around and up.

I spent about an hour bouldering up the lee side of Rafferty Peak. Every time I would top a bench or a large boulder, there would be more boulders up ahead. The sky was still light, but shadows grew darker on the east side of the ridge where I climbed. Finally I topped a bench and did not see another one above. I saw nothing but sky up ahead. My heart thumped as I dared to believe I was at the top of the ridge by now. As I worked my way across the last few boulders I thought, ““It’s only gonna be downhill from here!”

As I crested the ridge, the setting sun’s rays blazed with glory. I paused and soaked in the beauty and considered the sheer drop off at my feet.

Rats.

The granite sure looked pretty bathed in the setting sun’s rays. The sun was almost down to the next range to the west. The west side of the ridge on this spot was one of those big slabs of rock, about three hundred feet straight down. (I know it was about three hundred feet because it crossed about eight contour lines on the topo with 40-foot contours. At least I think it crossed eight lines. It was kinda hard to tell because they were all running together.) There was no way anybody was getting down here without ropes. I took my pack off and laid it down as I broke out the topo map again. I compared what I could see of the ridge to the north with the map. I had definitely crested too far south. There is an inherent hazard in the bouldering type of climbing that I had been doing. Your visibility is usually limited to the rocks right around yourself. Following the easiest way up might take you significantly off course…like it had just done to me!

The sun was getting lower as each minute passed. Whatever I was going to do, I had better do it fast. I swung my pack back on and headed back down. I needed to find a way to crest about 200 yards further north. That doesn’t sound very far, does it? Two football fields. About two city blocks. However, 200 yards on a mountainside are not nearly the same thing as a level and smooth football field. I had to pick a route down without spraining an ankle. Then I had to find a route through the boulders in roughly the direction that I needed to go. Then I was going to have to climb back up to the crest. And then climb down the west side of the ridge and make it to Reymann Lake before I lost the sunlight!

The light got dimmer and dimmer. Shadows in the boulders got darker and darker. Stars started coming out. I still hadn’t found a way back up the ridge. I came across a relatively flat spot big enough for a sleeping bag. The cool thing about this spot was the large, thin, knife-like piece of granite sticking vertically out of the ground right on the edge of the flat spot. It would prevent someone from falling off the edge if they happened to roll over in the night. It did not look like a natural rock formation to me. It looked like it had been placed there by somebody who had been caught up here before.

34

Makeshift Bunk

“Well, I guess this is as far as I go tonight.”

By now I needed the headlamp to see into my pack. I rolled out my closed cell foam pad and laid my sleeping bag over the top of that. I drank some water and ate a granola bar. Then I leaned back and looked up, enjoying my own private observatory on a mountaintop in Yosemite. The stars were thick in the sky over my head.

Life was good.

35

Looking back at camp

July 4, 1987: I woke up on my perch above Rafferty Meadows. The sun hadn’t cleared the mountain ranges to the east yet, but I was still in full daylight. It was about 5:30 or 6:00 AM. I crawled out of my bag and hopped onto a higher rock. I let my bare feet dangle over the edge as I soaked in the morning view. Vogelsang and Fletcher Peaks stood tall across the canyon. I could barely make out the yellow rain flies of our trail crew camp right below Vogelsang. It still looked dark down there in Fletcher’s shadow.

As I breakfasted on GORP and water, I sketched out a plan. I was an early riser, even for a trail crew. It was possible, if I got over the ridge in the next hour or so, to catch up with Anne’s group at Reymann Lake before they pressed on to Nelson Lake. I gathered up my stuff and resumed my way through the boulders.

An hour later, I was still nowhere near to being over the ridge. I kept running into walls and crevasses. I reached a point where I had to admit there was no way I was getting to Reymann Lake before they left. I took my pack off for a short break and started my way back down.

About half-way down the ridge I stumbled across something odd. It looked like a faint trail, following the contour along the ridge. It looked like it had not been maintained in years, but it sure looked like a trail.  I decided it was a good time for a break as I shed my pack and broke out the topo map one more time.

The only trail showing on the map was the causeway through the bottom of Rafferty Meadows. No other trail at all appeared on the map through this canyon. I studied the lay of this ‘phantom’ trail again. It was possible this was just a game trail, but I didn’t think there was enough game this high to leave a trail. I left my pack on the ground and followed the trail south about thirty yards until I found a water bar across the trail. That clinched it! This was definitely a man-made hiking trail! Now I was curious about where this unmarked trail led. It went the same direction I was already headed, so why not follow it? I retrieved my pack and headed south. The only reason I could think of for this trail to be here was if it was an old cavalry trail. I daydreamed about cavalry troopers riding through these mountains.

At the top of Rafferty Meadow, the trail dropped down off the contour. I lost the trail several times once it got lower. It practically disappeared. I couldn’t tell where it was by the break in the contour like a trail would follow. I stopped seeing water bars. The right of way was overgrown. Once I lost the trail, I had to stand still, look ahead, and ask myself where I would route the trail ahead. I would catch glimpses of trail clues every once in a while for about fifty yards. As I worked my way through the overgrown brush, I suddenly popped out onto the main trail through Rafferty Meadow! I could not see the main trail until I was actually out on it.

Well…that was a fun adventure!

I even made it back to camp in time for brunch. I spent the rest of July 4th, 1987 catching up on laundry and reading more David Copperfield.

Considering that I had managed to go on an authorized independent but illegal solo hike, I think it was an appropriate Independence Day.

 

 

Member Monday: My Mother’s Wedding

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a memoir piece written by Writers Forum member Jo Ann Perkins. Jo Ann read this piece at June’s read Around. Welcome Jo Ann!

Jo Ann Perkins

I was working in Denver, Colorado for United Airlines as a Stewardess, when George Perkins asked me to marry him. This was in April of 1955, and the Wedding was scheduled for September 10th. My mother demanded that I come home in June to prepare for the event. I had some trouble with this: why was it going to take so much time and what was I going to do about it? All I thought I had to do was purchase the wedding dress. I had never spent any time thinking about my wedding because I always thought I would be an old maid with a cat farm. I was unaware that my mother had been thinking about it for years.

Well, I came home at the end of June and actually didn’t do much about the wedding because my mother was into high gear on the subject. I spent a lot of my time on Battle Creek at the local swimming hole. In fairness to my mother, she did have a lot to do to prepare for the event. Because we owned Mineral Lodge, the reception would naturally be there (we had the cooks and plenty of help for this), but Mineral had no church, so there was no place for the ceremony except our front yard. The yard was big enough, and it was mostly lawn, but it was not as fancy as my mother would have liked it. It was hard to have flowers in Mineral, because of the black tail deer that loved to eat anything. My mother had cages built of chicken wire that she put over her flower beds every night to keep the deer from destroying everything. She had this problem licked, but the even bigger one was the land behind the house. It had been used to store auto wrecks from the Mineral Lodge Garage for several years. My father had promised her that these unsightly vehicles would be removed by the time of the wedding.

Well the summer went on and the vehicles did not move. To add insult to injury, a few more of the same were added to this menagerie. My mother almost killed the poor tow truck driver who delivered the last items. My father, bless, his soul, kept assuring her that they would be gone by September 10th. I am not sure what his plan was, but by the first of September, all the vehicles were still there, including the newest arrivals. As you can imagine, my mother was quite upset. She could not physically remove the unsightly items herself. What could she do? Bill Bruener, a close friend, came up with a solution. He put two strands of rope to screen off the offending items, then leaned cut Christmas trees against the ropes. This took some 50 trees which came from our own land. The cars could hardly be seen and peace was restored. I am sure that most of the guests never realized what was behind the trees.

Then there were the flowers for decoration of the lodge and reception area. Mrs. McQueen, who lived in the little fairy house on Scenic Ave spent all summer making imitation carnations out of Kleenex tissues. At the time I did not see anything unusual about this, I even helped sometime to make them and delivered all the Kleenex to her. I am sure the guests were not aware of these fake carnations either because they were backed by fresh evergreens from the forest.

George, the groom, was not planning on any wedding guests. He came from Chicago, his parents had retired to the Virgin Islands, and his one brother was overseas in the Air Force. Unannounced, the day before the wedding his cute blonde cousin Barbara* from Sacramento arrived. My uncle said he was there in quality, not quantity. So it was a great wedding. All my family’s relatives and friends from everywhere were there. The cake was the biggest cake the Red Bluff Bakery had ever made, and my mother could relax, she didn’t have to do it again, because I was the only daughter!

 

*Barbara Musler and her husband Jay retired to Mineral several years later. There is a plaque on the Mineral Lodge porch in his memory. He flew B-24 planes in World War II.

Best of Member Monday 2012 #4

The Webmaster is off to Uganda; great time to re-run past Member Mondays based on fan comments.

Maudie’s Chickens
by Sharon Owen

Maudie was five years old when Papa put her in charge of the chickens. The first thing he taught her was how to feed them.

“Don’t use but half a can of grain. And scatter it around so they all get a chance at it.”  He dipped into the grain can, cupped a handful, and tossed it lightly out into the chicken yard. “Here chickee, chickee,” he clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “Here chickee, chickee.”  He scattered another handful. “That’s the way it’s done girl, now you try it.”

Maudie hugged the can against her chest with one arm while she tried to scoop out the grain the way he had shown her. Most of it fell to the ground at her feet, but Papa just said, “That’s it, girl. From now on, these chickens are depending on you.”

Next he taught her to change the straw in the nests where the hens laid their eggs. She quickly learned to arrange each nest with just enough straw to cushion the rough boards.

Her favorite chore was checking on the baby chicks. She peeked at them every day, opening the roof of the brood box just enough to reach in and touch the downy yellow babies. Sometimes she took one out and cradled it for a moment, marveling at the soft, weightless life she held in her hands.

Papa’s chicken house was divided into two sections. One side for the layers and the other for the fryers. When Maudie’s chicks were grown, Papa put some in each section. She fed and watered all the chickens, and she gathered the eggs from the layers’ side every day. Maudie wanted her chickens to be happy, because Papa said when they were happy they laid eggs with double yolks.

Every time Mama broke an egg with a double yolk Papa said, “Give it to  Maudie. She takes good care of her chickens.”

One Sunday after church Mama said, “I could use a fryer, Roy.”

Papa said,  “Come along, Maudie, let’s tend to it.” They walked together down the path to the chicken house. “Go on inside and bring me one of the fryers, girl.”

Maudie went inside. “Here chickee, chickee,” she crooned. One of her brood came toward her, jerking its neck, turning to fix a curious yellow eye on her. Was it time for grain, or had she come as she often did with special table scraps?  Maudie picked up the young hen and took her outside to where Papa was waiting.

“Stand back,” he said.

Maudie stepped backward and watched while Papa took the hen’s clawed yellow feet into one of his giant brown hands. He flopped the chicken down so that her head lay across a block of wood, and with one swift, sure stroke he brought a hatchet down across the bird’s neck. The head dropped to the ground, and Papa let go of the feet. The bird’s wings flapped, and it ran headless across the yard, showering the vegetable garden with dark red drops of blood, careening wildly until it finally crashed against the trunk of a plum tree, where it lay still at last.

“Go fetch that fryer, girl, grab it by the feet and take it to Mama. Hold it away from you, head down, so you don’t get blood on your clothes.”

Maudie’s eyes streamed with tears and she felt a choking lump in her throat, but she obeyed Papa. She had never disobeyed him. She had never even considered it. Mama had a large vat of boiling hot water in one of the deep cement sinks in the laundry porch. She took the bird from Maudie, held it by the feet and dipped it into the water. “We’ll just scald this fryer for a minute, Maudie, then the feathers will come right out.”  She pulled the bird up, dripping and steaming, it’s severed neck exposed. “See this?”  She grabbed a handful of its feathers. “See how easy it is?  The feathers practically fall right out of a scalded bird.”  She reached out and took Maudie’s arm. “Come here, Honey, take a handful.”  Maudie gripped some of the wet feathers and pulled. They came out easily, leaving a ragged circle of exposed white flesh.

“There,” Mama said, “see how easy that was?”

Maudie’s hand was smothered in damp, clinging feathers. She tried to brush them off, but they stuck to the fingers of her other hand. Mama watched her and laughed. “You’ve gotta rinse your hands with water, Maudie, you’ll never get ’em off that way.”

That night Maudie picked at her mashed potatoes while Mama and Papa talked over their day, laughing and passing the fried chicken back and forth across the table.

Maudie didn’t eat the next day. For a week she didn’t eat or talk or go near the chicken house. Finally Papa said he guessed they couldn’t keep chickens if Maudie wouldn’t take care of them.

“I’ll just have to butcher the lot of them, Mama. I’ll tend to it tomorrow.”

After her parents went to sleep that night Maudie sneaked out of the house and went to the tool shed. The hatchet lay on Papa’s work bench, still stained with blood. Barefoot, she walked the moonlit path that led past the chicken house to the pasture gate. She held the hatchet in one hand, and dragged Papa’s shovel in the other. Stepping cautiously to avoid goat-head vines and fat summer toads, she made her way to the farthest corner of the pasture where she bent to her work. The field had been irrigated that day, leaving the ground muddy and soft, but the shovel was so big she had trouble getting leverage. Finally she gave up and fell to her knees, digging at the damp earth with her hands. If she made the hole deep enough Papa would never find the hatchet. Thistles tore at her fingers, but she kept digging deeper and deeper.

“Girl, what are you doing out here?”

Maudie jumped at the sound of Papa’s voice, twisting her body around, trying to hide the hatchet from his view, but it was too late.

“Is that my hatchet, girl?”

“Yes Papa.”  She bent her head in shame.

“What are you doing with it?”

“Burying it.”

“Why?”

“You killed my chicken.”

“But girl, didn’t you know we were going to eat the fryers?”

“No.”  She raised her chin and faced her father in the moonlight. “You said I should take good care of them. You said they were my chickens.”

Papa hunkered down next to Maudie and took her bleeding fingers into his hands. He turned them over and touched the raw, dirt-filled blisters on her palms. Then he picked up the shovel and stood above her .

“You dug a pretty good hole here, girl, but it’s not quite deep enough.”  He anchored the tip of the shovel in the shallow cup she had made and brought his boot down hard on its heel.

He lifted the spadeful of dirt and set it aside. “There, that’s about the right size for a hatchet.”  Maudie looked up at her father, but a cloud had covered the moon and in that moment he was a faceless giant towering over her in the darkness.

“Well go on, girl,” he said, “drop it in there.”

She picked up the hatchet and dropped it into the hole they had dug.

“Those chickens of yours are all layers now, girl. That means you’re gonna have to work twice as hard collecting all those eggs.”

The cloud drifted past and Maudie saw her father plain as day. “I will, Papa, I don’t mind.”

Papa knelt down beside Maudie, and together in the moonlight they packed the little grave with soft, damp clods of earth.