I opened my eyes, scratched at my beard, and rolled out of the rack. Then I threw on some cargo pants and checked my 9mm before I strapped it on. Then did a quick function check of the M4 as I headed for the front door on the way to the head. I passed Karl hovering over the coffee machine.

I offered a “G’morning.” 

I got an “Ugh,” as a reply. We were at 6500 feet, four clicks from the Pakistan border in the tribal areas of Afghanistan (c. 2005). I understood Karl’s need for morning java, you’ve got to have your priorities straight.

I stepped out the from door of the hooch, spread my arms, and took in a deep breath of mountain air. Oh yeah! 

Our terp (interpreter) was screwing around with something just around the corner of the hooch. Curious, I walked over, “Saed, whatcha doing?” 

He glanced at me over his left shoulder, “Feeding the chicken.” 

“Chicken?” I could see one of our spare cots lying on its side, propped up against the outside corner of the hooch. As Saed stood up I could see he had a scrawny hen with a noose around its leg, the string tied to one of the cots legs. The chicken looked at me, as if to say, feed me or beat it. 

Saed was feeding the chicken from a small cardboard box, as I read the printing on the side of the box I started laughing, “You are feeding that scrawny bird dry Ramen chicken noodles. That’s just wrong!” Saed looked at the box, looked at me, and he too started laughing. The chicken was chowing down. No moral dilemma there.

I yelled at my buddy, Karl, to come out and take a look at this. Karl sauntered out, looked over the situation. 

He rolled his eyes, “Jeez”, went back inside to his coffee. Karl had a lot of experience, but was not a speech maker. No problem, I was glad to be working with him. 

About this time, Speedblade came out of the agency hooch, looked us over, shook his head, and went back inside. Speedblade was okay. He carried around an old beat up Kabar, hence the nickname. Since there was some doubt about real names we tended to make up our own.

In answer to my original chicken question, Saed told me he wanted us to have fresh eggs, so he parlayed for the hen. The problem was there were a lot more roosters than hens running around. I’m no livestock guy, but this presented a problem, I knew you needed a lot more hens than roosters. Not the other way around.

We had a couple of down days … so, I kept my eye on the makeshift chicken coop. It seemed like every time I came out of the hooch there was a different rooster jumping in or out of the coop. One time there were two roosters racing neck and neck on a beeline for that poor hen. That hen was entertaining gentlemen callers at all hours, and the roosters were too tired to give more than a half hearted cock-a-doodle-do at dawn.

A couple of days later, after another morale boosting rocket attack, Saed told me he had traded the hen. When I asked him what he traded for, he wouldn’t tell me. Just got this shit eating grin on his face. Hmm, what’s up with that? Never mind, don’t want to know, approaching the TMI level

Featured image courtesy of the author.