Archive for August, 2014

I knew something was wrong the moment I walked into the poultry house. There was an unusual amount of dead laying about. The chickens were laying down with their heads stuck way out and just hassling and not moving around much, other than to get water. My brother-in-law, Lavon and I picked up about 300 dead out of the 6 poultry houses with grown birds that Saturday Morning. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of a disaster.

It was the first weekend in August in the year of 1980. The weather was the hottest I’ve seen since moving here. The temperature in the middle of the day was 108° Fahrenheit, and the humidity was 100%. There was no wind to speak of and no rain or relief in sight. This was the days before we had water misters and only three 4 foot fans in the each house. Our chickens were a week away from loading out and they were heavy. The last thing we needed now was to lose any, now that we carried them this far.

We worked in the houses until noon, picking up the dead and trying to provide as much ventilation as possible by letting the curtains down to their lowest point. After lunch we were back in the houses picking up more dead. I then started spraying the ceiling up and down the houses with water one at a time to try to cool down the birds. Nothing helped. By dark we had most of the dead out and called it a day, praying that tomorrow would be a cooler day.                                                                                

I was back in the houses at day light and I was shocked at what I was seeing. Dead chickens lay everywhere. My heart just sunk. We had worked so hard to get them to the right weight for market and to see it all die right before my eyes was almost more than I could take. But I started to work trying to save as many as I could and remove the dead. The first thing I did was take the food away from them, because that just added heat to their bodies. Lavon came in and we started picking up the dead. Later my father-in-law, whom we called Uncle, came by and I told him we would not be at church that morning. We were members of First Baptist Church in Lee Florida where he was the pastor. He went and called Cherry Farms to see if they would move up the load out to that night. But that was not to be. There was nothing left to do but pick up dead. My wife BJ, and daughters, Missy and Terri, were right there with us.

At noon that Sunday I drove out to Corinth Baptist Church, about a mile away, and waited outside for the people to come out. I want to see if my friend Richard Williams could come and help remove the dead. Ray Burnett overheard us talking and said he and his boys would come too. That started a chain reaction as others said they would help. What happen then is something that I will never forget as long as I live. From this small country church, 30+ people showed up at our poultry farm and started picking up dead chickens. Even their pastor Jimmy Deas and his wife Sherry were there working. I had men on our front end loader plus Ray’s, digging pits to bury them in and a half a dozen pick ups trucks backed up to the doors being load. Men, women and children walking up and down in every house picking up the thousands of dead. Many of which had started to decompose and when you grabbed their feet, the skin would come off, (someone said their socks came off), but no one held back. Some used rubber gloves, paper towels or just bare hands, and the dead were removed and buried.

Before this day I really like this community. After this day I was in love with this community. In the time of our need, the community showed up in mass. The only way I can explain it is the fact that we all live close to one another’s trials, because life is never really easy for any of us. In spite of our differences at times or even the apparent aloofness in some, at times like this we were one.

All in all we lost about 25,000 chickens, the equivalent of 1 and 2/3 houses. A real disaster at the time. I had never seen anything like it, but it happen again years later, only this time it happen to my friend Ray and his family. It wasn’t as bad as ours but a disaster still. Again the community turned out to help, as they have many times during floods, tornadoes, you name it and they will come. Yep, I love this community. A year later my whole family joined the church that was the center of it all.


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