In A Pickle  

Harbinger of death?

You’re in danger. Get out!

I bolted for the door while yelling at Len, “We got to go.”

He looked bewildered because we’d just sat down to eat at a fast-food restaurant in Canmore. Len asked where the fire was. There wasn’t one; it was my guardian angel telling me to flee.

A cold sweat and nausea hit me like a tidal wave, almost knocking my feet out from under me as I fled. Len called out that he would be right there, but I didn’t wait.

Patrons looked surprised as I crashed through the door hyperventilating; they probably thought I’d seen a ghost.

While I was standing by the vehicle, my attention turned to a huge raven on the restaurant roof. Perched on the edge, the fowl watched me with its beady eyes and cawed a shrill alarm.

The frenzied critter bounced up and down as it shrieked. I felt dizzy. An evil and foreboding sensation radiated from the scaremonger.

There was the unseen presence of something sinister. A dire warning came from this messenger of death.

Apparently, a solitary raven is a harbinger that warns of impending doom, or a life lost. These birds signal the aftermath of a bloody or intense battle.

All I knew was our lives were in danger and the bad-assed bird verified the angel's warning.

Jumping into the SUV, we took off down the highway. Sensing my fear, Len white knuckled the steering wheel and asked what that was all about.

“Something horrific is about to happen and we’ll find out what on tomorrow's six o’clock news,” I said.

Dread settled over us like a blanket as we watched Canmore disappear in the rear-view mirror. An invisible force was gaining momentum. It appeared as though the soul-stealing Reaper Raven was on our trail.

Len felt his energy draining, so I took the wheel. Terrified, we prayed aloud for divine protection.

Hours passed, and, after we made it back to my place, Len carried on his way and called when he arrived home.

Early the next morning, Len called and he said, “You will not believe this.” On the CBC radio news report there was a fatal shooting near where we were having lunch.

A deranged gunman in his mid-60s stepped out of his car and pointed a fake pistol at the RCMP standing nearby. It was like a Wild West shootout witnesses claimed, as they saw the officers fire 11 bullets with three hitting the suspect.

They identified the perpetrator as Jean Steven Boucher. He had committed several armed robberies days earlier with his replica 45-calibre Smith and Wesson. Boucher apparently chose suicide by cop.

It was unsettling to find out we were only a few kilometres away from the scene.

God only knows how close we came into being caught in the crossfire. Providence stepped in and spared us a terrible outcome because I listened to the supernatural messengers on that fateful day of Jan. 10, 2011.

An authentic Gunsmoke scenario was about to take place, and we got out of Dodge just in time.

Have you ever escaped tragedy by supernatural means? If so, please write to me at [email protected] and your story could appear in an upcoming article.


Finding peace with collage

Collaging through quarantine blues

Myths of a fairy-tale existence I had envisioned fell like dominoes when I created my first collage.  

It personified my shattered dreams of how I thought life should unfold.

I realized in the collage’s creation in 1989 that this Snow White must rescue herself; no one else would be able to.

Peace replaced turmoil while I clipped and glued eclectic magazine pictures unto a sheet of cardboard. The story it told entered straight from another dimension.  

I had a prophetic insight into a cut-out man; his hands hid his face as he wept. The picture represented a loved one; I shuddered, realizing he was going to fall apart.   

A disease called Alzheimer’s would destroy his life and eventually kill him.

Naysayers tried to convince me otherwise, but the proof was in the collage pudding. 

Even though subsequent collages weren’t that enlightening, I couldn’t wait to see what else I buried in my subconscious that wanted to be revealed. Each one created a paradigm shift as I came away with fresh insight and healing.  

It is this therapeutic value that interests mental health professionals and why they make use of them in their practices.  

According to www.artandhealing.org, Creative art therapy:

  • Heals mind and body
  • Serves to cope with loneliness and illness
  • Changes one’s perspective, mood and relationships
  • Improves overall wellbeing.  
  • Assists shut-ins, caregivers, and veterans to nurture themselves. 

Most of the world’s population has become isolated during the global pandemic. Relief by the collages artistic expression may be an answer.

During the second wave of COVID-19 lockdown, the Herculean collage once again played its restorative role in my life.  

I collected discarded leaves shed by the trees during the autumn winds. A precious few appendages wouldn’t shrivel and be whisked away to the landfill, instead, immortalized on canvas. Decaying foliage transformed into art with paint, glitter, and glue.

While crafting these nature scenes, I reminisced about childhood memories. My younger self was free falling into a soft pile of leaves and jarred by the sudden impact of the frosty Earth. Twigs and protruding rocks bruised my delicate skin.  

The experience taught me that appearances are deceiving; the landing is hard. Undeterred, I shook off the pain and carried on to jump another day.  

Snapping out of my reverie, I finished the project. 

I was to discover there were communities of internet collagers, and through a friend, I met in the Westbank Writers Group. 

Lorraine Robinson, author, artist and poet, has been collaging for decades through an online club called SoulCollage. Various Zoom meetings keep her busy writing, collaging, painting and connecting with the outside world.  

At 88.5 years of age, Lorraine is thriving in her solitary confinement of COVID-19 lockdown. Every day is an adventure for her. She makes lemonade from life’s lemons, delighting in digital grocery shopping and home delivery. 

“Remember your ancestors, their ability to adapt brought you here,”  Lorraine said,

Living in uncertainty, we need to be adaptable. The pestilence continues to make its deadly rounds, along with rioting, looting, and upheavals we see on the evening news.  A positive outlet is necessary to release all that negativity. 

The mighty collage may be an avenue to explore your new reality.  

Dig up old magazines, newspapers or digital images that speak to you and create your healing collage. Let your inner-self-discovery begin its journey. 

No artistic talent needed, just a desire to break free from the melancholy of the heart, collaging your way into a sweeter existence.  

Horse tramples dog

Pounding hooves shook the barn’s thin walls and stirred the dust. I stared out the stable’s window as the feral horse charged.   

Tig’ger was a herding dog and had tried to round up the horses, but the young mare was having none of it. Socks, the filly, lashed out and stormed after the retreating dog.   

A blood-curdling scream came from my lips as I shouted Tig’ger's name, warning her of the danger.

Socks kicked sideways, bucking as she ran, and struck out with her front hooves. Normally, the canine was fast and alert, but not this time, Tig'ger was oblivious.  

More than 294 kilograms of horse ran over the dog, trampling and crushing it with those powerful hooves.

Tig’ger let out a high-pitched yelp as she limped over to the fence and crawled underneath, dragging her leg behind her. I rushed over and scooped up our injured pet, put her in the car and raced to Burtch Animal Hospital. 

Dr. Jatinder Mundi did an x-ray, discovering Tig’ger had a dislocated hip. The femur head had pulled away from the ligaments that held it onto the pelvis socket.

The veterinarian inserted an IV line to stabilize Tig’ger, so she'd settle in for the night at the hospital.

We spent the next two agonizing days discussing treatment options. I was unemployed, money was tight, and euthanasia seemed to be the only solution.

However, Dr. Mundi and his team refused to give up on Tig’ger. He found an organization, Okanagan Humane Society, willing to help pay for the surgery. Family members also contributed to Tig’ger’s expenses, and the vet reduced his fees.  

Dr. Mundi cut off the head of the femur bone. Over time, she would grow a false joint, resulting in muscle, instead of bone holding the leg in place.  

Tig’ger would limp, but be pain free, and lead a normal life. The kind-hearted veterinarian’s dogged determination kept Tig’ger on this side of the grass.

Feb. 13, 2015 was a lucky day for Tig’ger when they discharged her. She spent the next month in her kennel on wheels, confined in order to heal. I pulled the kennel taxi everywhere to observe the dog and keep her calm.

To prevent Tig’ger from chewing her stitches, she wore a cone, and the vet instructed me not to allow her to walk or run. I put her on a short leash and carried her downstairs and outside to do her business. 

On weekends, Tig’ger went taxi strolling on Beach Avenue in Peachland, with her humans pulling the wagon, doing her bidding.  

Stop doting on Tig’ger, I was told by relatives, but I couldn’t help myself. I showered her with TLC. Because of that, I believe she recovered quickly.

Unbeknownst to me, her quick return to health was a godsend, as I was going to need her help.

Three months later, as I walked home from the barn, I encountered a bear, and froze. The giant bruin locked eyes with mine.  

The dog appeared out of nowhere, charging at the beast, lunging at her huge opponent. I heard barking, snarling, jaws snapping, as an epic David vs Goliath battle ensued. The bawling black bear turned around, bolting out the gate with Tig’ger in dogged pursuit. 

Our crippled, 16 kilogram mini Australian shepherd showed no signs of frailty. She’s taken on other dangerous critters with both two and four legs after.

Eighteen months post surgery, burglars broke-into our house. Tig’ger’s valiant efforts to defend the place left her traumatized. It’d been worse had she not made a ruckus. The thugs would have stayed longer, causing more damage. 

We sold the acreage and moved to the suburbs, thinking we had left our problems behind us. However, she protected me from a coyote pack with the same ferocity a few years later.

Tig’ger is a super-canine hero, my furry guardian angel.

Our precious pet, 8 ½ years of age, now sports a grey beard. She’s healthy and playful as a pup.   

“If I could be half the person my dog is, I’d be twice the human, I am,” Charles Yu wrote on an Internet post.

To that, I say Amen!


Chicken terrifies toddler

Dad swung the axe and lopped off the chicken’s head, which rolled into the tall grass. Death was quick and virtually painless.

As a youngster, I wondered if the hen was truly dead, or if she’d joined the ranks of the supernatural.

Snakes and snapping turtles can bite after being separated from their bodies, so it seemed logical that a chicken could cause harm, too.

This broiler, it seemed, wanted revenge on her killer and went after his grandson. Blood spurted from the headless chicken as it chased the terrified toddler. 

Three-year-old Ted screamed hysterically as he zigzaged desperately, trying to lose the headless bird. The fiendish female fowl seemed to have a heat-tracking sensor and dogged his every step. 

As his older and wiser seven-year-old auntie, I’d seen this rodeo before. I knew better than to be close to the action, unlike poor Ted. I crouched in the back of the truck, peeking over the edge, watching the gruesome pursuit unfold.    

Forget Sleepy Hollow’s headless horseman. To a tot, the bloody torso of a wing-flapping, sprinting bird could leave him scarred for life. 

There’s even a word for it: alektorophobia, an intense fear of chicken.   

Ted was a potential future candidate for a psychiatrist's couch, therefore his trauma needed quick resolution.

My brother, Grant, came to the rescue. He bolted across the field and snatched up his son while pushing the bird away with his foot.  

The young father cradled Ted before putting the clinging youngster into the back of the truck, telling me to take care of him.

"Don’t cry, Ted, you're OK,” Grant said as he tousled the boy’s hair. “Those chickens can’t hurt you.” 

He walked away, gloomy looking with his slumped shoulders as he left his son behind. 

After, a macabre scene unfolded. A multitude of gory chicken torsos bustled about. They flew a short distance before slamming to the ground. Others crashed into each other and bounced, while blood squirted from their necks.  

The poultry fled from their Grim Reaper, unaware they were already dead.   

To this farm kid, it was a live horror movie; I was spellbound in my front-row seat of the cargo bed. When my nephew finally stopped bawling, he inched up beside me to watch the action.  

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ted wipe his eyes and shudder. He was on high alert, watching for his tormentor, praying she wouldn’t return. Not all beheaded fryers are mean, I explained to him, hoping to ease his fears. 

In 1945, way before we were born, there was a famous bird, Mike the Headless Chicken, that lived 18 months after losing his head. The axe missed the jugular vein, so his blood clotted and the brain stem lived on.  

The farmer who had planned on having Mike for dinner felt for the bird when he found him with his severed head tucked under his wing. The rooster attempted to groom himself and pecked at the ground in search of food.  

Feeling remorseful, the man fed and watered Mike through the neck cavity, using an eye dropper.

The rooster lived in the henhouse with other chickens. They, too, felt compassion for Mike and watched out for him while he regained his strength. The flock treated him like he was a normal cockerel. 

Mike was no hen-pecked rooster.    

The farmer eventually sold Mike, and the broiler achieved fame and fortune as a circus freak. He made his clown owners a pile of money, to the tune of $40,000. They also featured Mike in Life Magazine and became a worldwide celebrity. 

He had lots to crow about, if he could have.

Sadly, the zombie pullet choked to death when the food dropper lodged in his throat cavity.  However, Mike’s memory lives on with a yearly festival in his honour in Fruita, Colo.   

Mike was amazing because he took the attempt on his life in stride and made the most of it. He enjoyed his undead stardom instead of getting nasty like your feathered menace did, Ted.

“Life is what you make it,” I told Ted as I rubbed my knuckles across his head. “You can become a little monster chick or the happy-go-lucky freak of nature, that I think you are. The choice is yours.”

More In A Pickle articles

About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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