While hitching through the southwest, a couple picked us up and offered to let us stay at their farm. When we got there, my travel partner and I realized it was less a farm than a menagerie of wounded animals. She had a blind cow and a foundered mare standing in ankle-deep mud. Over the course of the night, the owner started drinking heavily, and forgot his crate of baby chicks outside in the cold.
Eventually somebody looked outside and brought them in, but 2 of them had already collapsed. I took one, and the farmer’s wife, a cagey Hopi woman, took the other one. My travel partner, a farm boy himself, told me that mine was already dead, but I saw that chick moving slightly, I saw its heart beating, so I ignored him and put the little chick under my sweatshirt and breathed warm, humid air onto it, and kept away from everybody, who was drunk and loud by then.
The farm owner’s wife tried to breathe into her chick’s mouth, and the poor thing’s chest inflated unnaturally until she pushed the air out with her fingers and did it again. She had me breath into it, with my mouth on its cold little beak. I wondered about the salmonella risk, and about the risk of damaging the little thing’s lungs. From under my shirt, slowly, mine started moving more forcefully, it finally cheeped and made its way out of my sweatshirt and I put it back in the crate.
Hers didn’t make it and she threw it in the fire.