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A Halloween tale from Oxbow Farm

Have you ever wondered what it is like to live on a farm around Halloween? Well, to begin with, every farmhouse has decorations. Pumpkins and mums are placed strategically on either side of a doorway or lamppost. To kick it up a notch, some farmers bring commercially made scarecrows into the mix as well. For specific Halloween decorations, ghosts can be made from old sheets and hung from the trees. Styrofoam gravestones and rubber hands emerge from the ground to give the illusion of a cemetery. Friends of ours even create a haunted barn for their school friends to venture through this time of year.

At Oxbow farm, here in Dublin, we have tossed out all of these common and juvenile Halloween decorations and have raised the bar by housing a real live phantom rooster. He provided the best Halloween spirit we have seen in a while, if only for a short period of time. The story started a few weeks back and comes to a close a couple of days ago.

It was a dark and stormy night in New England. The moon hung low in the sky. The clouds were passing overhead quickly due to the howling autumn wind. All the barnyard animals were snug in their stalls. The only sound that could be heard coming from inside the barn was an occasional snore from a pig or a squawk from a chicken falling off her roost. Deep in a dark corner of one of the smallest stalls was Mr. Rooster. He was staying up late, planning and scheming how he could terrorize the barnyard.

The rooster's plan was simple. He would gain control over the whole farm. First, he fought with the other roosters until they finally submitted and accepted his position as ruler of all animals. He perfected his crow by practicing all day, thus confirming to all that could hear that he was king of the farm.

Once the first part of his plan was accomplished he then turned his attention to the owners of the farm. He focused specifically on the smaller humans as they would scream and run away when the he charged. This first stage of submission was complete, but his plan did not make it much past this stage. The larger humans did not succumb as he had anticipated.

Early one morning while doing the barn chores, I said to Farmer Jim that we needed to get rid of Mr. Rooster (duly named, Mr. Meanypants), because the kids were scared of him, and rightfully so. He had already pecked our son and had started to charge our daughter. This is an increasingly scary situation for the kids as they are pretty close to the same size as the rooster.

I pointed out which rooster it was - as at that time we had five different roosters - and asked my husband to take care of it.

"Are you sure it is this one?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"You're sure?"

"Yes," I insisted. "It was the brown one."

I caught Mr. Meanypants and then my husband proceeded to do what he needed to do while I looked the other way. He was a fighter, but after many attempts to sever the rooster's artery, Farmer Jim gathered the lifeless rooster in a bucket and took him into the woods; then, we went on with our normal day-to-day activities.

After school, as I was walking down to the barn to feed and water the animals, I heard a rooster crowing. Slightly confused, I saw Mr. Meanypants once again terrorizing the barnyard, fighting with the other roosters and continuously chasing one poor, almost featherless hen. "Sun of a gun," I thought to myself. We eliminated the wrong rooster.

Just then my eyes fell on a ghostly figure. Around the corner of the barn came a brown rooster, his neck encrusted with dried blood and his head at a jaunty angle. There were a few hens trying to clean him up and make him look presentable.

"Mr. Rooster?" I said.

Upon seeing me and hearing my voice, the rooster ran off in the other direction. "Mr. Rooster!" I called again following after him. Now I looked like the one terrorizing the barnyard, yelling and chasing a rooster. I couldn't believe it. The rooster we thought we had killed had apparently come back from the dead. We had our very own phantom rooster, just in time for Halloween. Perhaps it would not be the kind of creature that would scare Ichabod Crane, but it was still a spooky mystery never the less.

In the end, Farmer Jim thought it would be best if the one, slightly impaired rooster was finally put to rest in case he was to suffer complications due to the near decapitation. The real Mr. Meanypants met his end as well.

Farmer Jim noted, "It was not a Hollywood feel-good ending, but it was a real-life ending."

Kim Graham lives in Dublin with her husband, Jim, and their two children. The couple hails from New Brunswick, Canada. This column chronicles their first-ever adventures in farming. For more about the farm, see www.oxbowfarmnh.com.

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