I am the head of the Wallace Family Farm Complaint Department whether I want to be or not. I didn’t apply for the job. It was thrust upon me.
For instance, every time I enter the pasture, I am met at the gate by members of the ‘Goats for the Preferential Treatment of Goats’ committee. They are never happy.
“You’re a little slow on the hay delivery, today, aren’t you, Food Boy?” Elvis, our biggest goat and a known despot, complains. “The sun has been up for minutes. A goat could starve to death waiting for you.”
“Yeah,” says, Johnny, the brother of Elvis. “Get your back into it. It looks like your about ready to collapse and I need food.”
“What do you expect from him?” comes a snide comment from Lilly, our smallest goat. “This is the same clown who tried to foist a bunch of celery stalks off on us last Tuesday. You should have seen Betty cry when she realized they weren’t collard stems. It was all she could do not to spit a stalk back at him.”
I dump hay in the feeders. They descend on them while I lean against the goat shack breathing hard.
“Check it out,” Elvis says chewing with his mouth full, “Food Boy’s out of breath. Hey, Food Boy, if it’s not too much trouble, why don’t you make yourself useful and saw us down some branches or are we going to have to go the rest of our lives without leaves?”
This gets a snicker from the crowd. A regular comedienne, Elvis. I ignore them.
No sooner are the goats done with me than I am confronted by Cully, the head of our Waterfowl Grievance and Oversight Committee. We rescued Cully from a terrible situation a little over a year ago when she wasn’t much more than a hand-sized puff of yellow feathers. I wouldn’t have given you a plug nickel for her chances for survival. We looked after her night and day and now she is a big, healthy girl.
Cully thanks us by complaining non-stop. We apologize to Cully, but our apologies fall on deaf ears (or what passes for ears in the case of a duck).
And who can blame her?
Why just yesterday my wife, Marianne, in an apparent act of near criminal inconsideration, fed Cully grapes that she merely cut in half instead of cutting them into quarters. “The humanity!” you are probably shouting at the screen. “Forcing a duck to eat grape halves!”
Cully eventually composed herself enough to scarf her grape halves down, but the emotional toll it took on her will not soon be forgotten.
The issue Cully confronted me with this morning, if I understand her correctly, is the water in her personal kiddie pool was too wet. Nothing upsets Cully more than having too wet water in her private pool. The water was so wet, Cully seriously considered waddling all the way down to the pond to swim. It takes her nearly a minute of non-stop waddling just to reach the pond then another near minute to waddle back. By the time she gets back, she is understandably exhausted. She has to convalesce in her private duck house for hours before she can even consider stepping out long enough to get a few bites of feed from her dish.
How you make water less wet is beyond Marianne and me, but too wet it is, and Cully is not about to let us forget about it. We hear her grievances quacked at us all day long. It is a wonder she stays on our farm.
Of course, the chickens get in their complaints, too. I am often confronted by the President, Vice- Chairmen and sole member of the Layng Box Exclusivity Committee – also known as “Ruby.”
Ruby is one of our older hens and the self-appointed owner of the crown jewel of laying boxes on our farm. It looks identical to any one of our other laying boxes, but Ruby knows, and all her fellow hens know, it is the greatest laying box ever constructed. The problem arises when other hens apparently don’t know the laying box descended to Earth from the heavens for the exclusive use of Ruby. Every hen we own ignores the dozen or so other laying boxes and sets up shop in Ruby’s laying box when Ruby is ready to lay her egg.
Ruby shouts! She flaps in protest! But whichever little chippy is inside the laying box will not budge.
Her verbal complaint goes like this, and I quote: Bwak! Bwak! Bwak! Bwak! Bwaaaak! (Repeat four thousand times or until the usurper leaves).
It’s enough to make a goat stop complaining long enough to see what in the world is going on with the chickens.
“I’ll talk to the other girls,” I tell Ruby, but nothing short of barbecuing the offenders will satisfy her.
I even get complaints from the wildlife around the place. Hardly a day goes by that the squirrels don’t bark at me angrily from the trees when I pass by. We had to relocate a hammock out from under a hickory tree, because they kept bombing us with sticks and hickory nuts. Honest.
Wild geese bring their young to the gates of the poultry run looking for a handout. The father’s hiss at me with malice when I tell them I can’t afford handouts for wild geese. “C’mon, Mac! I got a family to feed!” they complain. As a form of protest, they line the edges of my pond with goose poop. “Have fun fishing,” they cackle.
I sometimes complain to my wife about all the grief I get from the critters, but she doesn’t show me much sympathy. She listens quietly, nodding her head in sympathy. When I am done, she tells me, “Cully’s on the back deck. She says she wants to speak with you.”