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Thursday, March 09, 2017

I am gutted. The Head Troll is dead.

I am in shock, and I'm gutted.

The Head Troll died in my arms today.

Last night when I did feedings, she was sitting quietly in a corner, very unlike her. After all, she is in charge of lining everyone up in order of their heights, so the fact she had not done this for the breakfast line concerned me. I called over to her when I put hay down, and she came to eat with everyone. But I had an inkling,

This is the beginning of the end.

This morning the flock, and White Dog, Birdie and Sophie were all at the fence line waiting for me, but no Head Troll.

I found her in the same corner, upright, and she called to me. Her voice was a bit weaker than normal, but she did get up and came to find food. I decided to bring her into the front barn since the temps will dip again tonight for a couple days, and because I could feed her separately. By the time she walked the 200 feet to the barn, she stumbled, and I had to carry her inside.

I really thought she'd go right then, she was calm, and on her side. But she rallied enough to want to sit up. I knew that Frankie [her given name, The Head Troll is her working name] would go out on her terms, just as she had led her life in the barnyard. What I felt from her heart to mine though, was she waited for me this morning. In some ways, this surprised me, but then again, she and I have a working relationship in the barnyard. I sat with her and said my tearful goodbyes, shared with her all the things she achieved in the barnyard-the parades, the garland festivals, the pumpkin story nights, the celebration of Obama's inaugural night, the burials of so many and all the funerals she helped me coordinate. The Head Troll was not one for mushy scenes, and I apologized for the tears.

"How am I going to get anyone to do anything, without you?" I asked her.

I opted to take her inside the hen coop, for peace and quiet away from little Opie and all the goings on, but she could still hear the sounds of her life, which I think is really humane in any creature's death-be it man or animal. To die with the familiar sounds of compares fading in and out all around you, must be helpful.

I left her for only a short time, about twenty minutes, and Martyn was working nearby. When I came back out, she tried to raise her head, and she tried to speak, but she was nearly gone. I was able to hold her head in my lap and say my final goodbyes. Within ten minutes, I watched the final breath. Once again, she surprised me-she had waited for me to return. Always independent and determined, I was touched and humbled she had waited. But it made sense. It wasn't so much she was scared I don't think, or that she had to see me again, I think it was the organizer in her, it was her way to make sure I knew that on her last breath, it would really be up to me, not her, to keep order in the barnyard. And she knew I would do the right think taking care of her body, just as she had watched me bury so many animals.

"I will never live up to her skills," I said right before she died.

Of course, this is not just the death of one of the original Misfits-it is so much more than that. It is another part of a former me, dying right along with her. For months, I've been telling Martyn, I'm not sure who I am here, and each death of an old friend strips me barer. She was perhaps my strongest muse, the closest to me in personality I would say. While Pino shows us his tender Buddhist side, Paco is the worrier with a heart of gold, The Head Troll forged on like a force of nature-to get the task at hand done-efficiently and without too much patience, or complaining to the public. If she needed to gripe, she did it in the privacy of her stall, with a cocktail. She did it her way.

I knew she was old, I had been reminding myself and followers of this for months. I knew she was getting thinner. But she went from normal one day, to making it clear her number was up–so suddenly. Then again, that too is just like her. Like my mother who was playing golf one day and dead a few days later-I think both knew it was time, why fight it.

In fact, holding The Head Troll today, when she still could stand, I knew she was dying, because The Head Troll is not one for mushy exchanges. She is not a hugger. She showed her love like many of my Minnesotan relatives have-through hard work and consistency in showing up on time and with a house gift. Holding her was a really beautiful experience though-it was as if after all our years together as stoic partners, she finally let her guard down, and asked for my help,

"Can you just be with me while I pass, just to make sure it goes okay?"

Frankie came to us back before I had a blog, she came with Paco and both came to Oregon via New Hampshire. Frankie was unfit and thin when she arrived, and her ear tips had frozen off in the winter at some point. Her horns had not been properly removed but were sawn off. In time, she broke one off while trying to get grass on the other side of the fence. As I sat with her today, stroking her beard, I could hardly stand the idea of not having those little chopped off ears around.

I am stunned from this. I know, I should be used to it. She was 16 at least, Martyn always said she was 30 which always made me laugh. I feel like the universe is stripping me of so much lately. I have always believed in the power of the universe and the wisdom of it-it is not a judgmental thing they have done, nor do I believe I'm being punished. But I do feel all these passages of the last week-my elderly friend and riding mentor, the piglets which I feel were my responsibility, Scooby Keith-I feel it is a clearing of some kind, from the past life I had in Oregon. There is something out there that is so big, that the land around me is being prepared for that planting and harvest-and that means clearing...culling.

I don't like knowing The Head Troll is gone, but I can't change it. I did get a chuckle that she died a day before my birthday. She could have waited a day for the dramatic effect. But knowing her, she didn't want my birthday to be tied into her death, she wanted me to take all day to be with her, and mourn, and clear the way for my birthday celebration with little Moose tomorrow. She would also point out that it is garish to remind people of your own birthday, especially on the internet as it suggests one is looking for gifts and gifts should come from a place of desire not manipulation.

And that reminds me of all the birthday parties she organized at the old Apifera. There will never, ever, be another Head Troll. It saddens me she is gone from the barnyard, and that she is gone forever from my stories.

I will make her a funeral like no other. She deserves that.

{You can read all of the things The Head Troll has participated in over the years}