Rum do

They were everywhere and every which way. Some lay flat on their backs, gnarly feet rigid, pointed straight up in the air. Others were collapsed on their fronts, their necks stretched as far out as they could go. Most were scattered about in the garden, sprawled among the rows of peas, in the middle of the strawberry patch, draped uncomfortably over cabbages and turnips. A few had made it out the gate as far as the farm lane, this way and that, in and out of the deep muddy puddles. One had even tried to fly up onto the top of the privet hedge, but having failed to make the height, was sticking out of it at an odd angle. All that could be seen of it was a feathery bum! Such sad squawks they let out, I bawled my eyes out at the terrible sight, the grown-ups were crying with laughter, particularly when I fluffed my childish attempt to pull the hen backwards out of the hedge.
Hens, all twenty or thirty of them in high disorder, pissed to the eyeballs, drunk in charge of themselves!
It was many years later before I got the joke, and here is the gist of why the pullets got pickled.
During the war Grandpa, an ex-policeman, had duties at a nearby naval base, and in the course of this work, he had a chance to get an empty wooden navy barrel, which he fancied to use as a water butt. It looked a huge monster of a thing, towering high over my head, and fat as anything around in the middle. It had once been full of navy issue rum, and when Grandpa brought the barrel back to the farm, he discovered it still had gallons liquor in it. What a surprise that was!
Who knows how they did it, but every drop was removed, and the barrel was put in its place to catch the water off the slate roof. Nobody realised, I suppose, how much rum remained held in the oak staves of the barrel, and as it took a long time to fill up, the water that eventually came out was strongly alcoholic.
If rum and water can do in a man, what chance did the poor little chickens have? None.
After the unfortunate incident, the birds were kept away until the rumminess dissipated; the pigs and dogs, however, were given the water, and while they weren’t knocked out exactly, they used to sleep on and on for hours.


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