With two 12-year-olds and a giant dog cage in my small Toyota, I drove along the dirt roads in Woodbury, in search of the woman who said she had chickens. Ignore the no trespassing sign at the foot of the driveway, she told me, a warning for burglars. That part of the Woodbury is mountainous in the small, Vermont way, with curved hillsides cupping homes, and lots of clear running streams and glacier-carved ponds.
It was nearly dusk, and she was outside, waiting for us. The girls eyed the chickens, who were not yet in their houses. Waiting, the woman showed the girls her fluffy chicks, and then we went inside. Her house had an amazing floor made from stones on the property. While the girls waited quietly, the woman and I talked about her relatives who had been in the area since before the Revolutionary War. She showed us a photograph on the wall of her distant relative in a Civil War uniform with his wife, who must have native blood.
The woman’s house was filled with dusky light. She was one of my people, a small woman, and, standing, we were eye-to-eye. I could feel the girls getting antsy for the chickens, but they were quiet, saying nothing. This woman had raised three sons alone in a mobile home on this property, and then built a house about the time the boys moved on and began their own families, cutting a deal with her ex-husband’s child support arrears for more land instead of the money he owed.
The girls petted her lovely black lab. I stood listening to the unexpected bends of her life, to an autoimmune disease and the loss of a job, and then, she said, the chickens saved her life. Began her on a new track. In the descending gloaming, we walked behind the coops and visited her new bees. For a moment I guessed she would offer to take us further, up that steep hillside I admired where she and her son cleared a field.
But the girls edged toward the chickens. The hens muttered, stepping slowly into their houses for the night. We took four, driving out through the sound of the clattering peepers.
for this hut.