Friday, December 31, 2010


I first met Jim Bishop, Sr. when I was in high school. The Bishop farm was located several miles south and east of town. Jim would hire groups of young guys for some chickin' pickin'. (No, this was not some type of guitar jam!) We showed up at the Bishop farm around midnight on the chosen night and, for several hours, stuff mostly live chickens into crates and load them onto semi trailers. We entered the pitch black barn and by crouching low and feeling for legs, we would gather 10 or 12 birds at a time depending on the size of the chicken, and head out to the truck, place them in a crate and return for more of the same. The Bishops provided a lunch about halfway through the night and then we worked until the wee hours of the morning when the job was complete and thousands of the white creatures were safely in their crates.

The job was quite horrible, even foul, as we sloshed around in a great deal of chicken poop, the strong smell of ammonia burning our nostrils. A lot of the guys wore gloves, but I never felt comfortable doing that as I couldn't feel how many legs were in my hands with gloves on. So barehanded I went and the resulting scratches, pecks and cuts would be a colorful reminder the next morning of the lengths we would go to earn some pocket money. The birds were never very comfortable with their impending destiny and fought and struggled for their freedom. In later years we were replaced by professional crews that would travel from farm to farm loading the trucks. I'm sure these crews were not only faster, but I guarantee the mortality rate of the fowl went up.

Jim was very involved in cloud seeding. Cloud seeding is the attempt to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from the clouds. This is commonly done by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation, which alter the microphysical processes within the cloud. The intent is to increase precipitation (rain or snow), but hail and fog suppression are also widely practiced at airports. As a farmer, Jim was very interested in the reduction of hail, as many an Alberta farmer has lost their crop to this menace of mother nature. From time to time his articles, extolling the virtues of this technology, would appear in the Three Hills Capital, our local paper.

In the summer of 1979 Jim decided it was time to build a new barn and hired several high school guys along with his sons, Jim, Jr., Frank and Roy to help with the construction of his new edifice. I spent several weeks working on the project and my brother Dave stayed on for the entire summer. The barn was sided with a heavy gauge metal siding. This was applied with a long ring nail delivered by power nailers. These nail guns were powered by .22 calibre gun ammunition and packed quite a punch.

One evening, our family was invited out for supper to the George McPherson's. This particular day, Mom had set the supper time a little later knowing that my brother would be coming home from work and would need to shower and clean up. Dave arrived home and Mom encouraged him to hurry as she wanted us to be on time. When Dave came up from his shower, he held in his hand one of the 3 inch ring nails. Most notably with this particular nail was that there was blood up its entire length. With a slight grin on his face, he explained to us that as he had gone to remove his jeans to take a shower, he couldn't get them pulled down. They were nailed on! Nailed right into his derriere. He had pulled out the offending object and continued on about his business. Mom, a little incredulous at this tale, questioned him as to what had happened. He said that earlier in the day, he had felt a slight bit of discomfort as one of the other workers had bumped into him with his nail gun while they were up on the scaffold. Evidently, the gun had fired a nail and it had found its target.

Dave has an incredibly high pain tolerance and I can assure you that if that had happened to me, I would have yelped to high heaven and been off to emergency in a New York minute. He thought the discomfort was just from being bumped by the gun and went on with his day. Mom freaked out. She insisted that he go next door immediately to our neighbor, Dr. Ying, and get a tetanus shot. Dave went over, was given the shot and suffered no after effects. Miraculously the nail had missed any bones.

Dave still has the offending nail in a clear plastic pill bottle - a reminder of the day it was a real pain in his butt.

© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved


  1. I and my brother Rich were there that day! But as i remember it, Dave was working on the ground, taking nails out of some trusses that had blown down previously. Some of the rest of us were on the roof, putting up new trusses and sheeting the roof (I was sheeting, so I wasn't using the nail wasn't me!) But I remember it being told that someone on the roof shot a nail past their work, and hit Dave who was on the ground with his rear in the air because of the work he was doing. I just remember Dave telling how he was trying to take off his pants, and couldn't because they were nailed to his hind end. We had such a laugh!

  2. Seriously? I'd rather have a nail in my butt than have to deal with them thar chickens ...

  3. OH BAH HA HA HA this story is hilarious!!! Esp since the outcome was favorable:)