1-16-14 Use the phrase “I never wanted that in the first place.”
I was bound and determined to do it, and Vera was bound and determined that I not. So it goes. We survived, but barely.
The first shipment took two weeks to arrive at the post office. Mary called up to the house and asked that I come down as soon as possible, as the little critters were a bit noisier than the biddies they usually got in the spring, and the locals were getting curious and insistent.
I got down to the post office after supper time, and picked up the five boxes with the air holes in the sides and warning stickers saying “LIVE PRODUCT” on all sides. As if you couldn’t tell from the sound and smell. They went into the back of the pickup and all of us headed back over to the farm. The locals were left in the dust, rubbernecking as a gang on the front sidewalk.
I had everything ready for the brood when I pulled in to the barn. The cages had feed and water and litter and heat lamps. It looked professional, alright. I always said, if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth over-doing.
I dragged the first box to the tailgate, and carefully opened it. Eighteen of the twenty chinchillas had survived the trip. I felt bad for them having to travel with their dear departed brothers, but I steeled my soul for the commercial venture, and picked the little rodents up and put them down again, four to a cage. I had to sex the little buggers as I went, which really meant just turning them over and squeezing a bit. Boys in this cage, girls in that one. I was hoping for a bumper crop of girls, cause they could have babies and the boys were along just to speed up the process. As it turned out, the literature was right and I got just about even with the numbers. Oh, well.
I had ordered a hundred of the little critters, and ended up with ninety two. Pretty good, I thought. With their gestation period, I would be okay within a couple of months, and I’d be in full swing by the October harvest season.
I made sure the cages were all secured and headed into the house. Vera headed me right back out, and I had to shuck off out in the barn and put on the clothes she threw out to me. She seemed to be in a bit of a pique. Once formally attired, I took a second stab at it and made it to the laundry. I didn’t ask permission, just went ahead with it and accepted the consequences.
Over supper, Vera and I discussed the economics of chinchilla farming. I had memorized the contents of the brochures, and had a shiny blue binder they had sent me from the ad in the back of the magazine. Vera’s arguments fell like dominos, and yet I had an unsettled feeling that it was all a set-up. I was sure as I could be that this was the one that was going to put us over the top. How could you go wrong supplying the furriers of New York with premium pelts? The Russians had been doing it for decades with minks and sables and all that. What made them better than me? Nothing!
Come May, I had my first litter of baby chinchillas. It was a good thing, too. I was down to seventy-five of the little guys, and had spent a fortune on fencing off the barn to keep the foxes and fisher cats out. Who knew? The babies were little, but there were six of them and I was in business. They brought me back up to eighty one. All I needed now was a continuous stream of girls chinchillas to give birth, and I’d be rolling in it. I had the phone number for the furrier tacked up on the wall, just ready for the call.
I headed back into the house, and gave Vera a call at her mother’s. She insisted she wasn’t coming back until I got a second washer and got a clothes line up. I heated up a can of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee on the stove and fell asleep in the chair in front of the TV.
July was a hot one. I lost a bit of the crop to the heat when they ran out of water by accident. I rigged up a self-watering system for the little bastards, and hoped for another bout of births as soon as possible. I drew some hope from the fact that I was still ahead of the game. There were 157 rodents in the barn, and I was getting happy again.
Come October, I crated up the crop and drove them over to the processing center. I squoze in between two semi trucks and stacked the crates myself. There weren’t enough for a forklift. I looked over my shoulder as I left, but just couldn’t get a tear to come to my eye. On the way back, I stopped down to the bank and then over to the mall.
Vera met me at the door when I got back up to the house. Gee, she looked good. She sure was surprised with the fox fur coat I got her as a forgive-me present. “You’re forgiven, but I told you I never wanted that in the first place. Now take me out to dinner. There’s nothing in the house but Chef Boy-Ar-Dee.”