A Caribbean math problem:
How do you get a baby chick out of a three-feet deep, two-inch wide fence post hole?
That's the dilemma we faced recently when a newborn chick fell into a hole in our yard and proceeded to cheep, cheep, cheep for dear life.
My daughter Alex heard it first. As this is St. Croix, chickens roam freely everywhere. That is one thing that surprised me most about living here. Chickens. Everywhere. In the streets, in yards, on the beach, in the cities, behind businesses, in front of businesses, even in the trees. Yes, chickens have been spotted in the trees. I am reminded of a jaunty, animated Sesame Street ditty:
"There are chickens in the trees,
Chickens in the trees..."
At the end of the animated song a small voice proclaims ' silly man, chickens do not climb trees.'
Yes they do. Virgin Island chickens climb trees, poles, roofs, fences, cars, small children, large children and horses.
And while Virgin Island chickens climb trees, poles, roofs, fences, cars, small children, large children and horses, they also fall into holes.
All year long mother hens strut around with baby chicks in tow. Sometimes the hens will have a dozen babies following them around, pecking and scraping their tiny little feet at the ground looking for bugs. But it is a good thing they have a lot of babies, as chickens have no natural defenses and there are a lot of predators: Cats, mongoose, (or is it mongeese? Mongooses? Mongi?) cars, the weather, young Crucian boys who have to bring dinner home or face the wrath of mother, and the big damn Rottweiler next door who has used chickens as chew toys on more than one occasion, and three-feet deep, two-inch wide fence post poles that have been cut off at the base and left as a trap for poor little chicks to fall into.
When Alex heard the sound of a muffled chick squealing, she had to investigate and soon found that a chick had, indeed, fallen and could not get out. This little guy was jammed in. He was small enough to fall all the way to the bottom, but tight enough that we couldn't get anything under him to lift him without crushing his fragile body. We couldn't dig him out as the pole was set in concrete. We tried a curved stick, a coat hanger, two sticks used as chopsticks, a rope on a stick, a rope on two sticks, but to no avail. We even talked of flooding him out with the garden hose, but rejected that idea, as despite being Monty Python fans, we didn't really know if the chick would float. (And if it didn't float, it'd be a witch and we'd have to burn it. Too much trouble. Better not to know.)
We were frustrated in our failed attempts to save this poor baby chick. We couldn't think. It seemed hopeless, the chicks cries were slowing down. He'd been in the hole for an hour or more and we nearly gave him up as a casualty to the bitch of nature, when suddenly, along came a spider.
We had a flashlight beam shining down the hole on the chick and suddenly, the light picked up a curious glare on top of the chicks head. Two curious pinpricks of light, only it wasn't exactly pinpricks of light, it was more like pea-sized, giant pea-sized points of light reflected back to us at the top of the hole. And dear, sweet, God, I can't describe how freaked out we were to realize that a huge, giant, enormous spider had crawled on top of the baby chicks head. I kid you not, a big damn spider was covering the baby chick's head. Bad to worse.
There is nothing like a super creepy arachnid with glowing eyes perched on top of an innocent, fluffy, chick to inspire some creativity! The stakes had immediately gone up. Now we weren't just facing an unsolvable dilemma of nature, we were the good guys battling evil. If we failed, then all of mankind would fall into the darkest depths of chaos. The forces of evil would win. The spiders would win. But oh! How terribly creepy it was. I am not generally afraid of spiders, but this scene made me feel sick to my stomach. My creep-o-meter was on full tilt. What to do? What to do? We just knew Shelob was waiting for us to go away so he could inject his venom, wrap his victim in silk and claim his prize, his precious.
We had to defeat the spider.
Our sticks prodded the hole with a new fervor. We'd poke the spider, he'd fight back, lifting his legs up to ward off our wooden swords. We prodded, Shelob rallied, we screamed feeling particularly oogie. Finally, my husband John joined Alex and I in battle, and when he thrust his stick, er, sword at the venomous monster, it fought back aggressively, raced up the shaft of the stick and out into the open, but before it could attack, John hurled the minion of Sauron into the street and crushed him, stomped him again and again under his mighty Rockport tennis shoes.
Our hearts were racing! We triumphed over evil! If only we could save our symbol of hope and purity!
Damn it! We are Theater People. Surely we can think of something. And out came the duct tape. Within minutes of defeating the spider, Alex had rigged a long stick with a wad of inside out duct tape. She fished into the hole, gently, gently, gently and suddenly, hopefully, felt the chick stick to the tape. She lifted him up, slowly, slowly, carefully. We held our breaths. Stuck to the end of a stick in a wad of duct tape was our baby chick.
Elation! Shrieks of joy!
We had to unstick him from the duct tape, and the little guy lost some bits of fluff on his back, but he was alive and intact. Nothing broken, no spider bites. We raced the chick to the back yard where his mother was pecking and scratching at the ground with about a half a dozen babies all around. We set him down and watched this adorable, innocent symbol of Easter, run towards the hen and the other chicks cheep, cheep, cheeping all the way.
We spent the next ten minutes gathering small stones and with a last burst of heroic adrenaline, we filled in the three-feet deep, two-inch wide fence-post hole and capped it off with a coconut shell. We sealed the slippery gates of hell.
The lucky little chick cheated death. Today. Tomorrow? That's a different story. I can report that I have seen the chick with the bald spot pecking and scratching and chirping days after his big ordeal. So the answer to the math problem, how do you get a baby chick out of a three-feet deep, two-inch wide fence post hole is easy: duct tape and a stick. Of course, the motivational spider is optional.