Friday, February 29, 2008

Hawks in a Country Chicken Pen

Hawks in a Country Chicken Pen
©Ken Harris, 2007

North San Juan, California, mid-1990s.

I locked myself in the chicken pen one morning. Unintentional and all that, but there I was, locked in the chicken pen with a flock of Rhode Island Reds.

They are nice birds, Rhode Island Reds. When I was a little boy my dad had a flock of Bard Rocks. Scared the bejeezus out of me. They were almost as big as I was – I was four – and a whole lot meaner. I thought their favorite food was four-year-old boy. I never went near them unless I was with my dad. Dad was treetop tall in my four-year-old eyes, more than a match for those mean chickens. They couldn’t hurt him, but they surely could have put some beak-sized dents in me.

Later on we had some Rhode Island Reds. I was bigger, so they weren’t so menacing. Moreover, they were nice, gentle birds.

In my married life we have had chickens on several occasions. We bought them mail order from Murray-McMurray in Iowa rather than going down to the feed store and buying whatever they had there at the time. We even bought an experimental flock once, the X-9s, supposed to lay eggs right through the winter.

But our favorite birds were still the Rhode Island Reds, and when we settled into our home in North San Juan and fenced off a space for our vegetable garden, we found we had room for a hen house and chicken pen. After we built these structures, it followed that we needed some hens to fill them.

We ordered Rhode Island Reds from Murray-McMurray. Their packages usually arrived within a week, but they were sometimes delayed by hatching dates. The system works well provided the birds arrive when the post office is open. But in this instance, the birds arrived on a Sunday.

Early Sunday morning we received a phone call from someone in the Nevada City post office who said a package had arrived for us from Iowa and it was cheeping.

We drove into town to collect our chicks. The post office was closed since it was Sunday, but someone opened the back door and hand delivered our birds. All this happened in the 1980s. The population of Nevada City in 1980 was 2431 and not much higher in 1990. I doubt if we would get such service in Tucson in 2007.

The chicks were all very healthy and lived to become a flock that went on for years. As the spring garden got into gear we supplemented their diets with thinnings and later with trimmings. They especially adored Swiss chard leaves. Three hens once got on top of a Napa cabbage plant and countersunk it. Ate it right into the earth.

In winter things were tougher for the birds. Garden trimmings were rare and the ground was wet and muddy. The sun seldom put in an appearance.

On days when the sun did deign to reign, we’d let the chickens into the garden. The couldn’t do the vegetables any harm at that time of the year, and they really did a number on the sowbugs and earwigs. Chickens are T-rexes of the insect world. They are earth scorching machines. Attila the Hun must have gotten his ideas from watching chickens.

One late afternoon as darkness approached, we shooed the chickens to bed. But one hen wouldn’t go in. She was happy where she was, dusting in a garden bed. She was hunkered down in a relatively dry vegetable and happily flicking dirt into her wing pits. Joanne picked her up forcibly and then had to endure chicken insults as the hen protested volubly.

There was only one problem with letting our birds roam in the garden. We were chumming for hawks. One afternoon we went into the garden area to discover a hawk dining on one of our hens. He had just killed the bird and ripped open the top of her head and eaten the brains.

The hawk wasn’t even slightly afraid of us. He flew up to the top of the power pole that furnished electricity to our garden and surveyed us, probably wondering if we would dare to steal his dinner. His very fearlessness marked him as an escaped hawk, someone whom a falconer had “sent on a mission” and decided he didn’t have to return. It happens all the time, a falconer told us.

“Can’t blame a hawk for acting like a hawk,” Joanne philosophized. Then we noticed that the dead bird’s brain cavity was not very large. Maybe you could put a half dozen beads in it. We debated how many chickens a hawk would have to kill per day if he ate nothing but brains. We decided there weren’t that many chickens in the county. Meanwhile, the hawk fidgeted a bit, wondering if we were ever going to go away and leave him to his dinner.

We eventually left and the hawk dined. But a second hawk raider did not fare so well. I went down to the pen one day and instead of seeing my birds roaming free, found them all inside the house or the pen, frozen as stiff as stuffed. Two stood in one corner and didn’t even blink. Also inside the coop was a red-tailed hawk, also frozen, an “oh, shit” look on his face, with no idea of how to get out of the prison he’d flown into.

Joanne shot him with a handgun and we threw him in the freezer. Later we gave him to a woman at the Chapa-de Indian Health Clinic and Cultural Center. She harvested the feathers to help her children’s Miwok dance group make authentic costumes. Everybody benefited. We saved our chickens, the kids got some great feathers, and the world had one less stupid hawk. We never had hawks bother our chickens again.

Chickens provided us with brown eggs for which there was always a market, and something to do in our spare time. They required a lot of attention. Nests had to be maintained with straw or rice hulls. The ideal situation required that an egg sink into the straw and out of sight as soon as it’s laid. It is not commonly known, but a chicken’s two favorite foods are chicken and eggs. If a chicken were smart enough to realize that the feathered person next to her was a chicken and the round thing under her was an egg, there would be no chickens on earth within weeks.

And you have to remove the chicken guano. They won’t do it for themselves. Instead, we did it using a flat head shovel and a wheelbarrow. And don’t forget water. Sometimes their water looked protoplasmic, and that was with daily changing.

All of these ruminations are not to put you off your feed the next time you address a plate of scrambled eggs or chicken nuggets. It just explains, sort of, how I locked myself in the chicken pen. For some reason I had to enter the pen. The door closed behind me and the hook flipped up and caught the eye dead center.

I wasn’t worried. A momentary inconvenience, nothing more. But I had come down without my pocket knife, and any other tools I might have had were safely locked outside the pen.

I reached for the latch with my fingers. They weren’t long enough. I tried vigorously several more times, and they still weren’t long enough.

Our house was a couple of hundred feet uphill from the chicken pen. Nobody “uphill” had ever heard a cry from “downhill” before, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

After a while I gave up yelling, screaming and throwing tantrums and flashed on the stupid hawk. I had a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, two teaching credentials and a master’s degree in mass communications, but I couldn’t get out of the chicken pen either. I took comfort in the idea that while I might be dumb as a hawk at least I didn’t have any feathers to dangle from some kid dancer’s costume.

At last I stopped being emotional about my plight and looked around for something to use as a tool. There wasn’t much, but I finally found a piece of rusty wire I could break off. I used it to fish to hook loose.

And as I walked to freedom, leaving the chickens behind me, I thought about how really great it is to be a human being. We can go to the moon, write classics, solve abstract mathematical problems, and, if we try really really hard, some of us can even escape from the chicken pen.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Skoshi, the Chicken Dog

Skoshi, The Chicken Dog
©Ken Harris 2006

We moved from Southern California to Northern California around 1962 and settled onto a five-acre piece of property north of Auburn in Placer County. The property was fenced and cross-fenced, had a year-round creek flowing across the foot of it, and we had built a 3-bedroom home on it. We had plenty of room for our dogs, cats, horses. We even had a cow. And chickens. And with our chickens, we had hawks, bobcats, raccoons, and other chicken eaters.

Skoshi was one of the family dogs. Skoshi (Japanese for “itsy bitsy”) had been born in Japan and adopted as a pup by a military family who didn’t recognize the significance of a pup with feet the size of saucers. The feet don’t shrink to fit the pup. By the time they got back to the States, Skoshi was too big to be cute and too stupid to be useful. They put him up for adoption, and we came along.

Skoshi was industrial strength stupid and his only gift lay in charming the females. They loved him. When a neighbor’s bitch came into heat, Skoshi scored unless they took the precaution of locking their bitch in the bedroom with them at night. In very little time he had Skoshi pups all over our new neighborhood.

He particularly picked on one family, the Kiebers. When a bitch came in heat, she broadcast the news o’er hill and dale and soon a score or more of gentleman dogs came calling. A massive dog fight invariably ensued and soon, out from under the crush of bodies, Skoshi and the bitch would emerge and go behind the barn, leaving the other dogs to fight until they forgot why. Naturally, the Kieber children had lots of Skoshi pups to play with for a few weeks. But they always went down to a nearby supermarket parking lot with a cardboard box of pups and sold them for a dollar a dog. Dollar-a-Dog Days were a regular commercial event in our neighborhood.

We once asked the Kiebers why they didn’t shoot Skoshi with their air rifle when he came round. It might discourage him.

“Oh, we couldn’t do that,” Mrs. Kieber answered.

“Why not? He’s got long hair. It wouldn’t hurt him.”

“We’ve tried. But every time he hears us cock the rifle he disappears. He’s fast!”

At the same time, among our chickens we had an Araucana, a chicken with goofy looking feathers who lays green eggs. She hatched out a dozen chicks or so, but lost every one of them to our black and white cat, Rope Racer. Every evening the hen settled herself over her chicks for the night and later Rope Racer went out, gently lift up the hen, and ate one chick.

The hen lost all her chicks and we concluded that she was stupid, even by bird standards. But she figured things out and the next time she hatched a clutch of chicks, she sent Rope Racer up to the top of a tall oak where he stayed for a couple of days. She pecked the dogs on their noses. She kept the ponies at bay. But her most signal success was when she put me on the washing machine.

She had her chicks in the garage and I happened to walk between them and her. She immediately attacked me with beak, wings and feet. She didn’t care who bought the chicken food, I was not getting near her chicks. I leaped onto the washing machine because that was one of only three options. The other two were hurt her or let her destroy my leg. Forget the woman scorned: an aroused chicken ranks right up there with Hell’s Famous Furies.

And it came to pass that one evening we locked Skoshi up in the chicken pen. The raccoons had been raiding and we thought he might scare them off. Skoshi was deeply insulted. He wondered what he could have done to merit this humiliation. Outrage oozed from every pore. But that night the raccoon struck and Skoshi repelled him. Suddenly he knew what his place in life was. He was created to defend chickens. He’d had an epiphany. This makes me insanely jealous, because I’ve lived 74 years and never had an epiphany.

From then on, we never lost a chick or chicken. When the Araucana or any other hen hatched a clutch of chicks, Skoshi stuck to them like a boyhood prank to a preacher. One of my fondest memories is the sight of Skoshi following the Araucana and her chicks. He was crawling on his belly and keeping always within a few feet of the hen. He had three chicks on his front legs and one on his nose. He was content; he had a purpose in life (besides impregnating every bitch in the county).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pecky Floppy Rooster

Pecky Floppy Rooster
©Ken Harris, 2008

Auburn, California, 1960s. We had a flock of chickens and a banty rooster to keep them in line. The only trouble with this splendid scheme was that he thought he ought to keep us in line as well. His favored tactic was to ambush from behind and dig into our ankle with his spurs and peck us with his beak, all the while filling the air with feathers and chicken invective. The kids named him Pecky Floppy.

Our children, Pat and Eric, were afraid to go anywhere near the bird. Their fears were well founded. Pat might have been seven, but I think younger. And Eric was two years younger than she. They were no match for a feathered psychopath.

One morning Joanne was working in the garden near the chicken pen when Pecky Floppy nailed her in the Achilles tendon. Joanne instinctively turned and whacked the bird with her hoe or rake or whatever gardening tool she had in her hand. She broke the rooster’s wing. Both she and the bird were startled by this development.

Joanne said, “All right, you little son of a bitch. I’ve hurt you, and now I’m going to kill you.”

And she did.

Once she had removed his head, feet, feathers and entrails, there wasn’t much left of the bird except sinew and bone. She boiled him and stewed him and simmered him and brewed him and that evening we had Pecky Floppy Stew. He was chewy but, if we tried hard enough, we could swallow him.

During the course of dinner Eric paused and looked at the chunk of chicken meat on his spoon. “Mom,” he asked, “are you sure this is Pecky Floppy?”

“Yes, this is definitely Pecky Floppy.”

“Good!” smiled Eric and began to happily chew. It’s good to eat your enemy’s heart. Or drumstick.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Just 'Cuz You're Mortally Wounded

The Banties
Copyright Ken Harris 2007

When we lived in El Monte, California in 1960 we had, among our horses, dogs, cats, and chickens, two banties, a rooster and a hen. They added color and class to our yard and were permitted to range in the flower beds because their little banty feet wouldn’t do much damage to the plants as the birds foraged for insects and grubs. Every now and again the rooster would find someone especially delicious and he would make his special cluck and his hen would come running.

One day someone, I can’t remember who, gave us a fighting cock with a broken wing. I wasn’t really too anxious to have a super alpha male on the premises, but Joanne seemed to think well of the idea. I wonder if she was trying to tell me something? Oh, well, it’s too late now.

We threw the fighting cock over the 2x6-lined-with-chicken-wire fence that separated the chicken and horse area from the rest of the property that was reserved for dogs, cats and humans. The game cock lost no time in seeking out our banty rooster and engaging him in battle. The banty had no chance, even with the game cock fighting with a broken wing. So the banty hen leaped in to help her rooster. Even so, the both of them would have been defeated. But we intervened, deciding that if the hen preferred her own rooster to the super alpha, we wouldn’t interfere.

So the game cock was captured, isolated, and the next day passed on to someone in the neighborhood who needed law and order in his henhouse. Game cocks insist that if there is going to be any fighting done, he is going to participate. Non-game cocks quickly decide they would rather watch television instead. The neighbor was pleased with his orderly henhouse.

Shortly after this episode, our banty hen disappeared only to reappear a few weeks later with a clutch of chicks in tow. She proudly led her little disciples around the yard, showing them the best places to peck and scratch.

But just as her chicks were thinking about sprouting feathers, a neighborhood animal, possibly wild, mauled her badly one evening. He was probably looking for dinner, but he didn’t get any for he failed to kill the hen. Instead he tore her side open almost down to the entrails. She lay be the side of a fence in severe shock, her internal plumbing visible through a single layer of skin, her chicks around her wondering what was wrong with mama. We figured that was the end of the hen and hoped the rooster would be up to single parenthood.

But that’s not the end of the story. The hen survived. She got well. The next day she was back leading her flock. She couldn’t die. She was too busy. Her chicks needed her. Her wound jerked over like dried beef and within the week, her feathers grew back and she was as good as new.

The lesson the chicken taught is just because you’re mortally wounded doesn’t mean you have to die.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Goat Salami (With Special Seasoning)

Goat Salami (With Special Seasoning)

In 1982 Joanne’s brother Fritz moved up to North San Juan with his wife, Ruth, and youngest daughter, Holly. They had land near us, within walking distance, although walking involved hill climbing, creek wading and forging through nigh impenetrable walls of Scotch Broom. Fritz and Ruth lived in a trailer while Holly set herself up in a tent along with her misbegotten dog, Chinwester. For power they had a generator they ran long enough to depress themselves watching the evening news.

We also lived in a trailer on our own twenty acres with two kittens, two dogs, a horse and a burro. We also had no power, but at least we had started to build our house.

None of us had jobs. Budgets were works of fiction.

At the time we all had thoughts of living on our properties a la Mother Earth News and the Foxfire series. Vague thoughts, but no concrete plans. Wouldn’t it be neat to make our own Kailua or hard cook our eggs in the compost pile? Those sorts of plans.

We had nearby neighbors, John and Becky Burton. Becky had some goats, Nubians, the kind with Roman noses and droopy ears. John disliked the goats. He worked in the Bay Area as a steamfitter and when actually on a construction project was home only on weekends. Becky figured it would make for nicer weekends if the goats found a new home.

Becky gave us the goats. She was thinking “pets” that would fit in with our menagerie. We were thinking “food” that would fit in with our fictional budgets.

One of the goats was a special pet of Becky’s and she persuaded John to allow her this one personal friend. They came over to see if they could get the goat back. They drove up just in time to see one of their goats hanging from a tree, skinned, gutted, and halved.

John and Becky treated us to an eyeball dance as they looked frantically around to see which goat we had killed. Fortunately, we hadn’t killed Becky’s pet. In fact, we’d inadvertently done a good thing. One of Becky’s goats was a very mean doe. She had broken another goat’s leg asserting her authority. She also butted Fritz’ hand and drew blood. That was the one we killed.

We returned Becky’s pet, but John was so turned off by seeing goat halves hanging from an oak tree that he allowed all the surviving goats to return.

We decided that the best way to equally distribute the meat and still be able to consume it in sensible portions, rather than one gigantic, carnivorous binge, was to make goat salami. It seemed easy enough in Mother Earth News. Grind up the meat, mix in salami seasoning, roll into loaves, and roast. Fully cooked, the meat should keep for a while under ice box conditions.

We took the goat carcass apart muscle by muscle. Since we were going to grind the meat up, appearances didn’t matter. We ground the meat up with a hand-crank grinder, something they Heysers had brought up with them. Great, huh? You don’t need to go to the gym. You can grind thirty pounds of goat meat.

Ruth and I then drove into Sacramento to a meat packing plant to buy some seasonings since, for some strange reason, the local supermarkets didn’t have any. We mixed the seasonings in with the meat by hand using a huge, metal mixing bowl.

All of this food prep was done outdoors to a fascinated audience of meat bees. Meat bees must have incredibly acute meat sensing abilities because you can’t have meat outdoors for ten seconds without some scout discovering you. Rolling our goat salami as also an exercise in bee swishing, with just about as much swishing as rolling.

I was not as avid a swisher as I should have been because meat bees got into my salami rolls. To hell with them. I rolled them up and into the oven they went. I didn’t tell anybody about this at the time. I thought I’d let it be my little surprise.

The meat bees didn’t taste bad, actually. They added a little crunch to the salami and a bite like a hint of hot pepper.

Of course we ate them. We were all Depression Babies. You don’t throw food away.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Das Gefoulenschmeller

More on the Levingston's goats
by Ken Harris

Kids, nursing and otherwise, were a fairly common occurrence in the Levingston back yard. To keep their nannies fresh, the Levingstons at one time kept a billy goat, or, as they call them in Germany, ein gefoulenschmeller. Billy goats have a universally bad reputation which they richly deserve. They are depraved and beyond smelly. The females, naturally, adore them. But no one else does, not even the goat breeders who apostrophize them as necessary evils.

One day Sweet William escaped from the Levingston yard and began to consume the neighborhood shrubs. No one else was around and so, against my better judgment, I managed to ignore Sweet William’s foul odor and grabbed him by his horns. I soon found that I was not going to drag that goat anywhere. If I pulled, he pulled harder. Finally, it occurred to me to push. I pushed and he pushed harder. I let him push me all the way into his goat pen where he belonged. Leaving him with his adoring nannies, I spent the next hour failing to scrub goat musk off my hands. I carried the smell with me for a couple of days. Goat musk would make a useful substitute for ambergris should there ever become a world shortage of this dubious commodity.

Needless to say, Sweet William was not my favorite person in the neighborhood. But one cold winter morning I saw something that wrung even my calloused withers. Sweet William had a cold.

It was a January morning, early, and it gets cold in Southern California. Not Minnesota cold, but cold enough to preclude nude sunbathing. Sweet William had found a sunny spot against a shed wall in the Levingston’s back yard and was trying to pretend it was warm. His hair jutted out. His back was hunched. His eyes were swollen almost shut. His runny nose defied description.

My heart went out to Sweet William, but from a distance. I wasn’t getting any closer to that smelly thing than I had to.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Nursery

The Nursery by Ken Harris ©February 2008

El Monte, California, Spring, 1959. We lived in El Monte, California, the very first home we owned, with our dogs, cats, horses and daughter, Patricia, who had been born the previous December. On Star Street. Our neighborhood had modest homes, large yards, sewers, mail delivery, trash pickup. Most people would qualify the area as suburban.

And yet, many people had horses living in their back yards. At the foot of Star Street lay easy access to a trail that could take you all the way to Long Beach and the Pacific Ocean. A bachelor had built a large barn of hollow tile concrete for his horses near that access. The barn had a “hay loft” with a card room and a wet bar. I don’t know if they rode horses much, but there were people always hanging around. We could sometimes smell and hear the residents of the nearby dairy.

And our neighbors, Okie Levingston and his wife, Doris. kept a back yard full of own quarter horses, a cow or two, goats, chickens. If it mooed, clucked or baaed, it probably lived in the their back yard.

So many animals took up a large part of the Levingston’s time, energy and income. Doris said that many times she would blow the family cash on feed for the animals and then check the barn to see if the chickens had laid any eggs for supper. Also, the animals made it hard for them to get away and do anything.

This became a real problem for Doris because she wanted the two of them to visit her parents in Tulare, a farm town (city now) in Central California for the weekend. She asked if we would mind their animals for them.

We had no problem with that. Feed some people hay and the others mash and don’t get the meals mixed up. No big problem. We would have to milk Willa Mae, but we could do that. We had given them Willa Mae to raise their two kid whose mother had died, but they were weaned. In fact, everybody was weaned. No problems there.

Piece of cake, we told her. The two of you go off on your weekend, drink beer, tell lies, have a great time, we told her. And so they did, leaving at o-dark-thirty on Saturday morning, long before we were awake.

When we went over to the Levingston yard, after feeding our own animals, to an enthusiastic chorus of animal sounds, and we began to feed. But we noticed one new little kid, one we had never seen before, black with drooping white ears. And this one wasn’t weaned. The way she looked at the hay, it might as well have been from Mars. She had no clue about what to do with it.

Joanne had milked Willa Mae already and she went back to our house for one of Pat’s nipples. I enlarged the business end with my pocket knife, and slipped it over the mouth of a Coke® bottle filled with Willa Mae juice. The kid eagerly attacked the bottle although frequently butting my hand that held the bottle, trying to make the milk flow faster. She thought my hand was an udder and I just wasn’t releasing milk fast enough.

She finished her bottle of milk and I looked up to find myself surrounded by other admiring young animals, including a rather large calf. They had all been weaned, sure enough, but they weren’t really enthusiastic about it. They made “me next” sounds, but we scattered them back to their yucky hay.

When the Levingstons returned we told them what happened. It turned out, they had told us the truth. Their animals were all weaned. However, a “friend” who didn’t know they would be gone that weekend had dropped the kid off in the wee small hours. I guess he had a goat he didn’t need and thought to himself, “I’ll drop it off at Okie and Doris’. They like goats.” You’ve got to be careful of friends like that.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Skinning a Snake

Skinning a Snake
By Ken Harris ©2007

Greenwood, South Dakota, summer, 1948. Our family took a summer trip to South Dakota. At the time I thought it was a simple vacation trip, the kind people take to major tourist destinations. Like Greenwood. In fact, my father was considering going into farming in the Dakotas.

But we traveled around South Dakota a bit. We visited some relatives in Greenwood on the brakes of the Missouri River, on the Yankton Reservation in Charles Mix County. All that’s left of Greenwood now are foundations where houses used to be. I imagine the Missouri River flooded so often that people just got tired of rebuilding. But Greenwood will always have a place in my heart because that’s where I taught myself how to skin a snake.

It came to pass in this town of Greenwood that some cousins and I came across a rattlesnake downtown. Of the group of us, I was oldest at 14 and so clueless I would be lucky to tell up from down at high noon. Being dumb kids, we killed the snake. So far, so good. A dead rattler isn’t likely to hurt us. We could just pitch it somewhere and that would take care of it. Right? Wrong!

A female cousin rather near to me in age, a rather good looking female cousin in fact, stated that she would like to have the skin for a decoration, maybe a hat band. Not to worry, said I, for I was an expert snake skinner from way back and would be pleased to present here with the trophy. As you might guess, I had never skinned a snake in my life. Or wanted to.

Just as an aside, I have observed that attractive females are dangerous to immature males and should be kept away until the young men are, what, say 50?

I cut off the snake’s head with a knife and buried it. Then I cut off the rattles because I thought she might want to wear them as a decoration on her prom gown. After I had removed the head and the tail, I had this long, headless, tailess thing which still occasionally squirmed. “What next, Ken,” thought I. Can I pretend to hear my mother calling?

Not with a good looking girl present. So I borrowed a single edge razor blade and began to cut along the center of the belly at one end of the snake hoping to finish at the other end without going to far astray. I cut too deeply a time or two and the snake’s insides began to become outsides. I mastered my gag reflex, for in those days I wasn’t even keen on taking out the garbage, and continued my incisions.

Once the surgery was completed my next problem was to peel the skin from the snake in one piece. Getting started was more difficult than you’d imagine. You have to immobilize one end which I did with a hammer and a nail. After the grand peeling I had two objects, a smelly snake skin and a slimy dead snake. Snakes aren’t slimy when they are alive and inside their skin. But dead and denuded, they are pretty slick rascals.

By now, though, I was home free. We threw the carcass away and pinned the skin down, flesh side out, with thumb tacks. Then we salted the skin. Mortons® iodized salt.

Everyone was pleased with our deed except me. Not only had I spent an entire afternoon in an inelegant enterprise, but my hands smelled I didn’t want to get them within six feet of my nose. My hands, unfortunately, were firmly affixed to my wrists, well within smelling distance.

So come all you young gentlemen and listen to my tale. If a good looking girl wants a snake skin, keep your hands in your pockets and your mouth shut. Let her skin it.