Archive for November 2013

Scruffow’s Turkey Farm: no pardon here, Part two

English: a male and female domestic turkey

English: a male and female domestic turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scruffow’s Turkey Farm: no pardon here

Part two

“But your group is part of a private flock or operation used to increase Scruffow’s own profits and productivity. He has his own butcher, cutting out the middleman. By appearing to raise a higher grade species with the quality vitamin rich feed, Scruffow intends on increasing his private stock. If he keeps up with consumer demands in a private market, he makes a sizable profit. He doesn’t want to alert the FDA with his scam.”

“You and your friends belong to a select group. You’re all going to be at the ugly end of a turkey whacker unless you get out of here.  Now Scruffow isn’t going to get rid of Gerta right away. She’s too important to his breeding stock. But dimwitted Buff there might be the Mrs. choice for holiday dinner, or for someone who is willing to pay the price for a quote, ‘gourmet’ turkey of premium grade selection, top choice. Whatever he labels you, no one will know that you’re really like all those sorry birds down the road selling like a two for one super special at the local grocery. And once Scruffow has reached a marginal number in stock, the ….well, the silencing starts and off goes your…” Squawk imitated his knife hacking gesture again.

“And there’s the bird flu virus too that might keep the turkeys off the dinner table…you know, with people not buying them cause of the infected birds…”

“Squawk, what if we…” Strut’s brain was on overload now.

Strut relayed the news to his friends and they worked on a plan of escape. As if thinking of the horrid probabilities was not enough, there hanging in the turkey hutch above their heads were the deadly tools of Scruffow’s trade and terror. An ax and a hatchet.

As Scruffow came into the turkey hutch to refill their feed trough with the gourmet feed he noticed how fast they were eating the stuff. He chuckled. The feed was actually just a mixture with other livestock feed, looking and tasting differently.  They’re really gobbling this stuff up.  Good. They’re going to be healthy, and I’m going to be wealthy.“ Ha, ha, ha,!”

His plan was working out so well. And so easy. He was building up his flock, selling some at top dollar to private parties wanting the best in the flock and willing to pay more per pound for a ‘gourmet’ quality bird. He had one in mind for the Mrs. as well.

Sid, a hawk and old friend of Squawk’s flew in, landing on the gate to the turkey hutch. He was a huge, strong bird, and happy to be of assistance for the turkeys’ escape. With their wings clipped, they could not fly so would only be able to waddle out of their pen and away to safety with the pen gate opened. That was where Sid came in.

Squawk snatched the socks hanging from a clothesline and Gerta went to work filling them with the gourmet feed.  Then, they all went over their escape plan.

Scruffow went about his chores not noticing anything unusual.

Squawk would relish directing a good performance. It was time to start the show.

Sid came in low, screeching loudly and circling above the farmhouse. He landed on the fence post near the turkey hutch acting aggressively towards the turkeys.

Scruffow watched the erratic, crazy hawk hanging around the turkey hutch. He thought the bird’s behavior very bizarre. The hawk lunged at Buff, pecking at his neck and head.

“Caw. Caw. Good going Sid! You’ve got Scruffow’s attention.” Squawk crowed, prompting them from his watching post.

“Yea! But he doesn’t have to drill a hole clean through my brain,” hissed Buff.

“Hey numskull, your head is so hard that a woodpecker wouldn’t make a dent. This has to look good. Be convincing.” Sid said.

Strut, Sam & Gerta now entered front and center, appearing to be frightened and frenzied, afraid of the big, mean hawk. They ran around, hysterical as if they had already met with a ‘turkey whacker.’ “Gobble, gobble, gobble.” Their noise and commotion attracted attention from everyone on the farm. Even the squealing pigs. The turkeys gobbled so loud, even Mrs. Scruffow came out, ready with a broom to go after the horrid rabid hawk.

Sid flew off, finished with his role, until he was needed much later. Buff began to teeter dizzily on his skinny legs. He fell, not making a sound.

“That crazed hawk could be infected with the ‘bird flu’ virus. I will have to kill those four and quarantine the rest of the flock,” said Scruffow. “We can’t sell any of them now, or risk eating one for holiday dinner.”

“You still shooting those pigs with steroid shots?” the Mrs. asked Scruffow.

“Yea. I’m making a tidy sum off of those too, but my turkey operation will have to be put on hold for a while.”

The Scruffows watched the turkeys closely, but did not go near them. Another one was now gravely ill and fell too, lying in a still heap. Now the others were acting strange.

Late that night after Sid worked the latch loose on the gate, Strut, Sam, Buff and Gerta waddled quietly out of their pen, their socks filled with ‘gourmet’ feed.

“I’m not going to miss this place,” said Buff a bit too loudly.

“Shh! Quiet, you numskull, you’ll wake the Scruffows.” Strut led them out.

“Numskull! An appropriate name for one whose brain is denser than a hay stack.” quipped Squawk, flying point.

Sid flew back to the last remaining turkeys in the turkey farm. He had “unfinished business” to attend to. With quick precision, he went to work un-latching the gates to the pens and hutch.

Soon after, another flock of turkeys could be seen marching down the road behind him gobbling a happy tune to their freedom. “Gobble, gobble, gobble.”

Weeks later when Strut, Sam, Buff and Gerta  were safely ensconced at their new home on a quiet turkey preserve, Squawk reported the latest news to them.

“The Scruffows came down with the flu after the holiday. They had ham for dinner.”

_____________________

HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL 🙂

Joyce E. Johnson © 2013

Posted November 28, 2013 by Joyce in Fiction

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Scruffow’s Turkey Farm: no pardon here

Heritage Turkeys at Springfield Farms in Spark...

Heritage Turkeys at Springfield Farms in Sparks, Maryland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scruffow’s Turkey Farm: no pardon here

“Hey Strut! Get a look at this.” Sam stood on spindly legs peering inside their feed trough. He poked through the yellow corn with his beak. “There’s a new kind of grain mixed here with our old stuff. Looks like some kind of granola.” Sam scooped up a beak full. He took more, then a little more. The chewed grainy granola slid pleasantly down his gullet.

“Hmm. Farmer Scruffow brought us some decent food for a change. Not the usual stuff we’re used to. Hey, ‘bird brain,’ come look at this.”

Strut padded over to the corrugated steel trough. Called ‘Bird brain,’ for his ability to analyze everything stirred the concoction with his beak, tasting it. He agreed. “It’s definitely an improvement. A better quality premium grade feed.”

Gerta waddled over. Her full-feathered white coat and natural boa clung to her well-endowed frame. A wiggle to her waddle caught the attention of the male turkeys that followed in her wake. “What are you all gawking at?” she asked.

“Gobble, gobble.” Sam croaked, his beady eyes bulged at the sight of her lofty breasts, stout thighs, and fanned spray of white feathers. Her large red beak made him dizzy, and his wattle quiver with excitement.

Squawk swooped down on the fence post, stirring up the molting turkey feathers in the pen. The nosy, black crow knew everything that went on at Scruffow’s Turkey Farm.

“Hey, Squawk. What’s up?” asked Strut.

“YO!. I haven’t had breakfast. How about sharing your …Hey! Is that some new feed, there? I overheard farmer Scruffow talking with farmer Sniffoo. Scruffow’s going to select one of you to be his guest for Thanksgiving Day dinner.” Squawk swiped at turkey feathers settling on his shiny black coat.

“I think he has plans for you all and one especially for his guest on….”

“Wo! You mean one of us gets to have dinner with the farmer and his wife?” Buff said.

“Hey, idiot. Does your pea brain not comprehend what kind of “guest” you’d become?” asked Squawk.

“Strut? Does that mean what I think it means?” Sam asked, nodding at the grain trough with his beak.

“Yes. One of us is going to dinner at the Scruffows. Slow roasted, dressed up on a platter, seasoned and stuffed. Then the farmer and his wife will toss out our remains in the trash. The gourmet grain is to help fatten us up like a pig so we will be plump and juicy.”

“You mean …” Buff could hardly get the words out. “Like a centerpiece?” The thought of him being slow roasted and served on a platter gave him the shudders and shakes.

“Remember Joe?” asked Squawk. “He went last year. I remember seeing the farmer carrying Joe’s carcass to the garbage can just hours after he ‘invited’ him to dinner. He was a tough bird. To capture that is. I bet he tasted juicy and tender after they fattened him up. He put up a real fight though. Feathers flying all over the place and then…well, you know the rest.”

“Oh my. To be so disposed…” Gerta’s beak and gullet turned as pale as her white boa feathers. Her rotund frame swayed, wobbling on thin spindly legs before finally falling to the ground like dead weight. Sam quickly trotted over and frantically fanned Gerta with his wings. She came to, but sat visibly shaken in a disheveled squat. Helping her upright proved to be harder. He tugged too hard accidentally pulling some of her prized feathers from her wings.

“What are we going to do, Strut?” asked Sam.

“We’re going to get out of here!” Looking over at Squawk, Strut said. “And we’re going to need your help, Squawk.”

Turning their heads toward a loud racket, they watched in horror at a truck rumbling down the street filled with live turkeys from the neighboring turkey farm. The open slats in the sides of the enclosed truck showed beaks, wings, and legs poking through the packed truck.

“Hey, dudes. You better come up with a plan fast. I won’t be anybody’s centerpiece,” exclaimed Buff.

Squawk flew over to the telephone pole where all his friends gathered. Their squawking, tweeting and chirping could be heard from one end of the road to the other. He then flew back to the turkey hutch with news.

“Strut, you know those trucks we saw?  With all the turkeys in them?” asked Squawk?

“Yea? Where were they going?”

“Trucks leaving from the turkey farms are packed and loaded with live turkeys. Hours later, the trucks come back empty. The turkeys are unloaded into a place where humans in rubber boots, aprons, and gloves put them onto moving ramps. They are …” Gulp. “Silenced! I mean no more gobbling, just one last screech, and …zilch.” Squawk’s wing swept across his neck imitating the hacking stroke of a turkey ‘whacker’.

Strut’s eyes looked as big as half dollars as he realized that he and his friends faced the same fate.

______________________

To be continued …

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

Posted November 27, 2013 by Joyce in Fiction

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The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XIII, ‘Revelation’

Chapter XIII

Revelation

 We called them our “coffee talks.” It was a recurring memory I had of grandmother Lisle making me more homesick for Nebraska.

We’d finished the pot of coffee long before. The plate of cookies sat empty too.

“Magdalena was Jewish! Like all the Mengelders, before they converted. It was a long-held secret your great-grandfather did not want known. In order to survive the pogroms and massacres of old Russia they denounced everything Jewish. Culture, diet, circumcision, all the orthodox traditions.”

She smiled, obviously enjoying my surprise and shock at the news.

“Wait a minute… the Mengelders were… Orthodox Jews?” I swallowed the remains of my cookie, and took a gulp of coffee. “And you and grandfather Jacob kept this a secret never telling any of us. Why? Why keep that information from us?”

“To spare the family, Moni from hatred, bigotry, and Antisemitism.  That is all the Jews had ever known wherever they lived. Of course, it was more widespread in East Europe than other places at the time. Jews from the ‘Pale’ lived in absolute poverty, shunned like outcasts. They were thought of as “unclean” themselves like the pork they refused to eat. When German Jews converted to the Christian faith they never talked about their past again, especially to immigration officials. They wanted to conform, to just be German. Later, they came to be known as the ‘Germans from Russia,’ but many of the real ethnic Germans did not want to associate even with the German Jews who converted. They were antisemitic, too.”

Journal pages contained entries about the Germans, Jews and exiled Christians who defied the government and regime during the Czarist, Bolshevik and Soviet era by speaking their mind, expressing their thoughts. Initials were included of those sent or taken away by the secret police during the night.   

The journal was their way of recording secretly or corporately the tragedies, pogroms, even critical opinions of the anarchy and Czar they suffered under, then the Bolsheviks and finally the Soviet era. It was a kaleidoscope of all they went through, a mix of everything endured in their lives, the happy and the sad, their despair, tears, cries, fears and prayers.

When I was finished documenting and updating files, saved and sent, I shut everything down and climbed into bed, completely drained from the long day. The nighttime pain relievers were becoming a regular habit. Within minutes I drifted off, asleep.

I ran clutching the journal, a speeding car chasing me once again down the same road I’d walked before. I tripped, stumbling in my effort to get away. The car came to a sudden halt behind me. Two men got out, walked to my crouching body as I tried to get up from the graveled road, tightly clutching by bag. Familiar faces, the men in the hallway at the consulate’s office in Odessa. One was the man in the accident on the road I had witnessed. They were not dressed in suits as before, but wore tunics with ballooned sleeves secured at the waist with wide belts, vests and suede boots like the Cossacks of old Russia. Thick fur hats covered their heads.  Long bushy mustaches grew wild above their mouths smelling of vodka. They laughed, prying the journal from my hands. I was forced to go with them as they shoved me into the back seat where another person sat waiting. I could not see that person’s face. It was too dark. But I heard a laugh, cynical, taunting. “Well, Monica we meet at last.”

Feeling trapped, I pushed frantically at a door, trying to get away, but it wasn’t a door, and I was not in a car. It was then I woke up, shivering in my bed.

Dear God, it was so real. What does all this mean? If only I could make sense of it.        

I did not know how deep or strong my roots were until I began to unearth my family’s secrets that lay buried like grandfather Jacob. They took possession of not only my past, but my present and future as well. God. What should I do?

The following morning I called Irina telling her I needed to take a few days off, catch up on some sleep and work on files in my room.

Massaging my stiff neck, I took a hot bath, dressed, walked up the street to the café for breakfast, and then took a long walk.

When I came back to my room, I opened up the journal to the last and final entry. It was 1944. Hitler’s army and SS occupied Russia…

_________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

Sunrise over the Grand Canyon’s North Rim

I froze this photo from a video we took while on a vacation in Sept.,2013 to The Grand Canyon’s North Rim in Arizona. photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

Standing near the edge

 of a precipice rock face

viewing the Canyon’s crater

over this massive hallowed space

there rises with slow ascent

a crowning glow of light

piercing still and quiet skies,

sunbeams’ penetrating bright

rays that break through forest trees

leaning over canyon cliffs

like bowing subjects to nature’s throne

 waiting dawn’s announced decree.

___________________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2013

Nature prevails

Oct. 7, 2013, less than one month after the most destructive flood on record in northern Colorado, Sept. 2013 Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

The Cache La Poudre River, northern Colorado, Oct. 7, 2013, less than one month after the most destructive flood on record in northern Colorado, Sept. 2013
Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

The water is stilled

Color dots the river’s edge

Nature has prevailed

___________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XII, ‘Journal Entries’

English: Aquatint print of a Don Cossack.

English: Aquatint print of a Don Cossack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter 12

Journal Entries

After spending that afternoon at the Odessa archives filming, indexing and copying files we headed back to Tiraspol, to a Lutheran parish library for more records, then back to Grigoriopol to Olga’s. Irina dropped me off and left.

The first thing I did was send a priority message to Jeremy telling him to contact our cousin, “Jessie” and could he please send me his e-mail address as I had forgotten it and no longer had it with me. This was mine and Jeremy’s prearranged set up “message alert” to let him know we needed to switch to the alias account for e-mail messages, and attachments. When done, I reviewed and updated files, sent reports, e-mails and blog posts, then noticed the priority icon highlighting the one from him. I opened it last, giving it more time and attention.

[M, – got your files on those journal entries. Sending comments along with the transcriptions. Interesting stuff. Get a big cup of Olga’s ‘sludge’.]

When I had made myself a cup of hot tea, I got comfortable, and read the file comments he’d sent along with the transcriptions. He had transcribed the scanned copies of the more difficult journal entries I needed help on. Each had a date or year and initials at the bottom of each entry.

 Sept. 1868

We work hard to gather in the crop. It is harvest time. The winds are not yielding. There is no mercy in them. The winter will soon be here. The warm sun will soon not shine its heat upon our labors. We must hurry the harvest. We work while our bellies are full, content and store away what we will need to save when we are in want, hungry. We pray the locust swarms will not come this year or find other fodder upon which to feed. Elisabeth gave birth to a beautiful daughter today. Praise His Holy name. We named her Magdalena.    J.M.

Oct. 1884

They rode away as fast as they came, Cossack soldiers riding on fast steeds. It was the Sabbath. They tore through our village with whips and rods, fierce eyes piercing our soul like hot pokers. They held their bottles high with its evil amber fluid, praising the Czar. One mocked me covered in my prayer shawl, laughing, taunting. I stood rooted in fear. He ripped it off me and threw it into the fire burning our barn with our stored grain, then laughed like a demon from hell. My legs could no longer run, my voice no longer could be heard above a whimpered cry to eternal God. The harsh cold winds fed the fires, raging on our threshing floors. Then it swept clean the tracks of the murderous Cossacks as if they had not come. All that remained of their presence was the foul-smelling bottles of their drink. We gathered to mourn our loss. Our village destroyed, our food gone, our horses stolen, our livestock killed, our women violated and our loved ones we bury. Forgive me God. I cannot praise you today.   J.M.

 1885

We cannot help our dear Magdalena. She has recurring nightmares of that day. She wakes, screaming, rolling in pain and anguish. She says she still sees the Cossack’s face, his lascivious look. I too cannot bear to remember the horrid deed to our child. Her belly is distended, full with child of that evil man. I sit in despair and write these words. Eternal God, do you not hear our wailing cries? Where is your mercy to we, your people?   J.M.

 1888

The Czar says we must convert, be baptized and become Russian Orthodox Christians, learn their religion, speak their language, wear the clothes of their people. If we do not obey his commands we will be sent away, work in a labor camp, be exiled. I will do as he says, so I can save my family, keep us together, but it will not save my soul. My soul was dead to our God when he forsook us. David has run away. He refused to serve in the army. We do not know where he has gone. I think he has gone into hiding. They are looking for him and hold us responsible. I feel certain we will face another pogrom, more horrible than any in the past if we cannot get out of Russia.   J.M.

 1925

Rail car doors were pushed open. The empty, black space was cold and dank. The smell of cattle excrement and rot was overwhelming. The Bolsheviks shoved guns at their backs as they pushed and forced them inside. Mothers screamed, their children pulled from their arms. They raped the women, pillaged and set fire to their homes. Stole their horses, drove off the cattle, and sheep. Then beat or shot the men who tried to stop the carnage. I begged for mercy for the Christians. But the Bolsheviks would not listen. They said, ‘There are no Christians in Russia. Only good Soviets.’” A.G.

 I read Jeremy’s comments at the end of the transcribed entries.

[When families migrated west for immigration into the U.S. I believe they found people more tolerant toward the Jews. There were so many diverse ethnic groups coming over on ships it was a mixture of every nation and color. They just blended into the masses. Unless noted on their passports that they were East European Jews they most likely told officials and everyone they were Protestant since they had been baptized, and officially “converted” before leaving Russia and the ‘Pale of Settlement.’]

I hit the ‘Save’ button and transferred the transcriptions along with Jeremy’s comments into my document folder under a password protected file with the name, ‘Journal Chronicles’. My brain felt as if it was on overload. After reviewing and studying the Cyrillic and Hebrew letters and script from the video and photos of the graves I compared it to initials, birth dates and deaths, period era and village locations. Could it really be the Mengelder family? There was no proof. It was only my ‘theory,’ unproven, yet made me think that what I had found was a chronological record of my own grandfather Jacob’s family history.     

_____________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

Roads taken

johnson-R1-022-9A

A scenic route in Vermont, New England, U.S.
photo by:  Joyce E. Johnson

The roads that take us places, whether literally or metaphorically are ones that fill our mind and life with indelible memories to visit from time to time, hopefully happy ones. That was the case with this trip we took years ago to the New England states, where American history was charted and documented.  We have taken two trips like this to the New England states, and both were memorable with a lot of great pictures of all the places we visited like the farmland and beautiful trees in Vermont changing color as shown in the above photo. We took walks along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean of New Hampshire, visited Plymouth Rock and the restored Mayflower in Massachusetts, the waterfront of Boston Harbor, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall of Philadelphia, Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island in New York,  a lighthouse in Portland Maine, Arlington Nat’l Cemetery in Virginia, and the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court buildings in Washington DC.  Our second trip included some travel up into Nova Scotia (via ferry) visiting Halifax and cities up and down the northern and southern coastline.

Both of these trips were like a whirlwind, blurring the hours and days in too short a time to ponder the things seen. But, still it was a wonderful way to see the different culture, lifestyle, and meet the people along the way, and learn about their region’s history, or even a bit of their own. Sometimes significant things, big or small leave indelible  impressions that make that trip an unforgettable one. One of those things the trips back east did for me was to make me more aware, knowledgeable and thankful for the foundation laid by our country’s founding fathers in the USA. Those founding principles of,  ‘truth and freedom, justice, and the pursuit of happiness’ that are found written in our constitution were not just paths chartered for that time, but also ones to pave a foundation for a more unified nation today. It is a lasting legacy we can or should be reminded of.  Metaphorically there may be some roads we may not want to return to if unhappy ones, but some we need to re-visit, if for no other reason than to just be reminded of what we once had in this country, and from where we’ve come, if we still have it, or still want what we once had, and the sacrifices of those who pioneered and charted the roads we take today. I count my blessings for what I have, and for what I’ve gained by right as a U.S. citizen. But, I do not curse my country for what it cannot provide me. We may travel different roads, take different paths, believe differently, but at some time or other we intersect or meet along the way like the pilgrims and Indians when they celebrated their first Thanksgiving together. It was their coming together, the unity and sharing for that time that they celebrated, and what we should still cherish and celebrate today. It gave our ‘founding fathers’ hope back then that whatever comes, whatever befalls this country there is still a reason to hope, to hold fast to things cherished, and celebrate what we have. It is why I love the approaching time and holiday of Thanksgiving, and feel blessed that we have much to give thanks for.

_________________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

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