There are eight -yes - eight puppies this new Mama must tend to. Ron and Vicki, my Hosts during the past two days, picked one to take home as soon as they are weened.
I made it to SOSO, MISSISSIPPI, to be received as an old friend. Actually, I met Ron, Vicki, and Sandra - Vicki's Sister - as I walked up SR 28 a few weeks ago. Seemed a natural thing that I stop by on my return to Florida.
Many hours were shared inside this 'back porch" screened in room looking out on the trimmed lawn, the bird feeders, the garden which seems to produce something new all year long, and the dense forest surrounding the house...the forest where SAL BATREE lies hidden away from prying eyes.
Ron and Vicki's home. I was invited to stay for two nights - longer if I wished -. Found that Ron and I have much in common, chatting for hours on end about subjects most would not sit still to listen for 5 minutes.
Rose Of Sharon, growing - it seams - wild in the front yard.
Not too far from Rose of Sharon - and in the middle of the lawn, is this mound of delicately processed soil. Beneath the mound lives a CRAW FISH !!!...yes, the same little fellow the miniature of the LOBSTER. I simply could not believe that these "fish" lived on land far from water, so Ron pulled up You Tube, Google, and Wikipedia which give an astounding series of videos on the Louisiana Industry of raising and marketing CRAW FISH.
Every morning, a handful of chickens - a couple roosters like the gent above standing guard - produce a dozen or so eggs...fresh eggs hot out of the chicken for breakfast...which Ron had on the table before he called me out of sleep in my own bed with King Size quilted mattress...Yum.
Lunch and Dinner were mostly of veggies and meats grown at home or by neighbors in SOSO.
For many years, Ron owned and operated this "Chicken Farm". Today, his Son Ron, JR, operates the same ranch, but with many more times the number of chickens...with a few head of cattle roaming around the stunningly green pasture grass - made so healthy from the "Hot" nutrient filled EXHAUST AIR pumped through the Chicken Houses...some of which are seen above.
Two new Chicken Houses, the fans easily seen. At the far end of each Chicken House is a ground to roof mesh curtain with three to four rows of horizontal water pipes dripping a continuous stream of water onto the screen. The large fans pull the water-laden air into the Chicken Houses to cool the rapidly growing chickens
A "flash" photograph of one half of the 500 foot long by 50 foot wide chicken house.
Chicks are delivered from Ron's Client - a competitor to that famous "chicken man" when the chicks are only four hours old. Each Chicken House receives 31,000 chicks.
The chickens in the above photograph are four (4) weeks old and already weigh 4 pounds. At seven (7) week they will weigh 7 pounds, at which time, Ron's client comes to claim his full grown chickens, which we all know so well.
The entire operation is automated. The client furnishes not only the chicks, but also the feed with is complete with vaccines, nutrients, hormones. Two pounds of feed per chicken per week produces one pound of chicken per week...one of the fastest growing living animal.
Ron is experiencing superb mortality rate with his charges...loses something like 2% over the entire 7 week period. He raises four to five groups of chickens per year.
Ron now has eight (8) of these chicken houses - 30,000 chickens per house x 8 houses = equals a lot of chickens to look after 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
and, Ron JR seems quite pleased with it all
Please say HELLO to Ron (Jr) Gavin, chicken rancher supreme.
I might mention here that Ron Sr gave me his book SAL BATREE, which takes place in SOSO, MISSISSIPPI. Ron, Jr. is "Curtis", a leading character in his Dad's book.
The subject of the book is a SWAMP with historic background, lying totally on the Ranch property of Ron, Sr. I have enjoyed reading SAL BATREE, and have met many of the characters in the book - all of whom are real live family and neighbors with changed names. The places are also all real. I have also visited most of them.
One can find the book on FACEBOOK : SAL BATREE; or by going to www.JR GAVIN.COM, or from the Library of Congress Control Number 2009910733.
Ron has published a Sequel to SAL BATREE, entitled "THE MARK", which I received as a gift yesterday. I am already 1/4 through it...some might find it disturbing...I find both books fascinating.
When full grown - in three weeks - this 500 x 50 foot room will be wall to wall with fat chickens, with little room to move about.
Ron Sr. expressed his feelings - he raised chickens in four of these same houses while Ron, Jr was learning chicken ranching from his Dad - that some changes are being considered to benefit the conditions under which the chickens spend their 7 weeks - the total time they will live.
SOSO, MISSISSIPPI to the casual tourist - like me - looks like a sleepy little village.
Ron Sr. yesterday took me on an in-depth tour. I was blown away. One of the homes only a few blocks from SAL BATREE is pictured above...one of many high quality / expensive homes hidden away off the beaten path.
One residential street in an up-scale neighborhood.
This is a local Cattle Ranch...as beautiful, neat and trimmed as any I saw in all of the USA.
The rancher's cattle know just what to do with their small lake - now nearly filled with water - on the hot early Fall day.
Ron asked me to take a walk with him around his property. No problem...as Ron picks up a deadly looking Machete. We have to cut a trail, I ask...no, Ron replies...I carry the knife to defend against the Rattle Snakes. Vicki told me only two days ago one was on SR 28 in front of their driveway...and, when I last visited, Vicki said the day before I got there, there were two (2) COPPERHEAD snakes in the front yard.
Make sure you keep CLOSE behind me and step where I step !!! No Kidding !!!
Like glue, I walked into the snake infested forest behind Ron...his machete swinging out whacking this branch, probing behind a log or tree root a foot or two away.
These two gorgeous guys are Ron and Vicki's Rat Terriers.
Ron says...com'on guys we're taking a walk into the woods...the two of them led the way, scouting ahead and beside us sniffing out snakes.
They did their job well....I returned without any viper teeth in me; in fact, my record is still clean...having walked over 10,000 miles of "mostly" snake infested forest, desert, and bayou, and am still looking for my FIRST snake.
Vicki says...how lucky can you get...they are all around here.
Ron led us on a slow deliberate walk the 1/4 mile through his forest along a "road" which he "mows" once a year in October.
Along the way, Ron named every tree and plant we came upon, such as this Poison Ivy - the three (3) leaved stinging plant.
and, these huckleberry bushes.
plus many varieties of Mushroom - which Ron admitted he did not know the names.
Quite a variety, Huh?
Then, too, we met up with webs hanging between trees at least 12 feet apart. This fellow's web was easily 4 feet in diameter. Ron let them be as they eat tons of bugs, as we ducked beneath or around the silk threads leading up into the tree branches.
This spider is about the size of the back of my hand...about 3.5 inches across.
So, at last, we come to SAL BATREE.
This swamp has a Beaver Dam at the far end - behind the tree line -. The dam is at least 300 feet long says Ron. The swamp is alive with Water Moccasins (very poisonous snakes ) and a few alligators.
Today, we could not even see any water. It is either dried up - as many waterways are, or perhaps the beaver dam broke...In any event this is the first time Ron has seen the water plants reaching over 10 feet above the normal water level.
With Ron Gavin's permission, I post this photograph which is the cover for his book SAL BATREE. This neighbor was wading near the shoreline of the swamp where the next photograph was taken by me yesterday.
SAL BATREE lost in a forest of grasses.
Ron took a different route back home...trying desperately to roust out a snake for me.
After that long walk in snake infested forest and swamp, Ron and his buddy have earned a rest on the swing rocker.
It is now Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 7:30 pm. SPIA, SAM & ME are settled down in the parking lot of a WAFFLE HOUSE restaurant - one of my favorite breakfast places just outside the Florida city of PENSACOLA.
Tomorrow, we will drive on I-10 the rest of the way to LAKE CITY, FLORIDA, then take SR100 the 30 miles South to STARKE, FLORIDA, the home of Harre, who has kindly invited us to stay while we prepare for our final dash around America.