Alexey Savrasov. Summer day. Chickens in the backyard, 1874
Have you ever listened to someone and realized that a book could be written based on the stories that were told to you?
Have you ever felt yourself absolutely helpless and shocked after learning that such a person left and took the whole world with herself and nobody ever will learn hundreds or thousands of stories that make a history of mankind on its normal, human level?
I met her in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1992 or 1993.
We spent just several hours together, and then there were several letters. She was Russian, in her 80's and her name was Tamara. As a girl, she lived in Manchuria, China, where her parents worked on the Chinese Eastern Railway built (1897-1903) on the border between Russia and China.
(The Chinese Eastern Railway was a single tracked line providing a shortcut for the famous world's longest railroad, the Trans-Siberian Railway from near the Siberian city of Chita via Harbin across northern inner Manchuria to the Russian port of Vladivostok).
When the civil war (1918-1922) started in Russia, her family fled to Malaysia, then somewhere else and finally came to Alaska. In Anchorage, she lived for the rest of her life, never changing her citizenship and speaking good Russian. All the Russian old-believers from the area, many of them fishermen, knew her and used to bring her salmon, and respected her highly. She told me a bit about her life, I didn't write it down and only several things are still in my memory. One of those things was about how her mother raised chickens while they lived in China.
There were two tricks she used which helped her to keep them healthy through the severely cold Nothern China winters.
Locals couldn't understand how she managed not to lose any of her birds when everyone else did.
She shared her secrets with them. Now, I am sharing them with you. These are her secrets. First: when the cold season would come, she took her chickens one by one and dipped their feet in vodka. Second: From time to time, she used to give them finely chopped raw meat. Don't ask me how these two things made chickens stronger, more cold resistent and healthier. I don't know more than you, but this is what Tamara's mother did.
I doubt that the 21st century chicken growers need to use these tricks with their own birds. I just wanted to tell you something that is more than a hundred years old and that is like a grain of sand in the world's history. For some reason, I didn't want this tiny grain of sand to get lost forever like so often happens with billions and zillions of other grains which disappear every day without a trace after their carriers leave us.
The chicken pictures in this post were taken in the Russian countryside, very close to Manchuria, where I was born.