A few weeks ago I finally got off my ass and did what I’d meant to do for the past year – sponsor one of the rescued farm animals at Peaceful Prairie Farm Sanctuary. I got an email almost immediately, thanking me and inviting me to a picnic/fund-raiser they were having the following Sunday. Life being what it is (ironic, generally) their picnic was on the same day as the first Brunch Revolution that Joy and I were putting on. Arriving late to the picnic would be the best I could do, but it would be worth it – I would meet John Lee!
John Lee, pictured to the left, is the rooster I am sponsoring. I really knew nothing about roosters when I sponsored him, and even now I’m not sure what made me decide on a rooster. Maybe because roosters are seen as having so little value by the farmers, even compared to the commodity-only value other animals have. Also, who thinks of cuddly when they think of roosters? I figured that people are more likely to sponsor the pettables, like goats and cows and the more obviously cute like ducks, and so I would go against the grain, sponsor someone who might be otherwise overlooked.
I soon learned that roosters are often regal, like my new friend John Lee. That they have a strong instinct to keep the peace, and that they know enough about conflict resolution that you can’t help but to wonder what is wrong with humans that we can’t learn from them. Michele and Chris, the chief caregivers and owners of Peaceful Prairie, call John Lee their peacekeeper and wonder what they’d do without him to keep the order among the chickens rescued from Katrina.
These chickens were not only saved from Katrina, they were saved by Katrina. 5 weeks old when the hurricane hit, they would have been killed 2 weeks later if Katrina hadn’t come through. Having been raised in the horrible conditions typical of all boiler chickens, they arrived at the Sanctuary with no social skills. John Lee has been teaching them what it means to be a chicken.
John Lee himself was rescued from a “family farm”, where he was allowed to live at birth having mistakenly been identified as a female. Had it been known from the start that he was male, he would have been killed immediately – only the egg producers are allowed to live. When it was discovered that he was male, he was tossed into a cage with about 6 other roosters, left without food and water, to die. John Lee was lucky – though some of the other roosters had already died, he was rescued and has since come to live at Peaceful Prairie where he is free to live his life according to his natural instincts.
For John Lee, this means taking care of, and protecting a flock. When he first got to Peaceful Prairie, there were no “unclaimed” hens available, so he appointed himself protector of a “flock” of pigs. The little 5 lb rooster stood guard over twelve 600 lb pigs!
John Lee is just one of many many animals at Peaceful Prairie. While enjoying a BBQ Seitan sandwich (courtesy of Three Little Figs market!), I met Sherman, a cow who not only loves people, but apparently loves (vegan) people food! He really wanted to give the sandwich a try. When that didn’t quite work, he decided to browse the silent auction.
Sherman has an interesting story, one that I know only a few details of. I know that he was rescued after successfully hiding from the slaughterhouse-bound truck loading. That is just one detail of his life that highlights for all his fellow cows just how sensitive and intelligent these giant creatures are. Another Sherman story is of him standing forlorn at the gate for days after his companion, Daisy, went to a new home at a sanctuary in Tennessee. Daisy wasn’t always nice to him (you can see that one of his horns looks a bit funny – Daisy did some damage!), but Sherman loved her nonetheless. And he missed her fiercely when she left, waiting for her to come back, mourning her absense.
He was a sweetheart, no doubt. Not all the animals were quite so happy to have humans among them. The other cow kept his distance, wanting only the occasional companionship of Sherman. The ducks were also not sure they wanted to me around. I tried to take their picture, and they came running! Not to say hello, but to drive me off. One bit at my knee several times (didn’t hurt at all – they were gentle bites), until I finally got the idea.
There are a lot more stories to be heard and learned at Peaceful Prairie, and I look forward to my next visit. Hopefully soon, with Joy and Ron!
I can’t imagine anyone who could care more about these precious animals, than Michele and Chris. They have a dedication that I admire, and would find near impossible to emulate. I’m so glad I finally made the effort to support them, John Lee, and the Sanctuary in general.