Cheddar’s cousin is currently appearing on television in a Geico ad. She’s
seen riding the rails, an entertaining embodiment of the free-range chicken. I
think it’s best not to mention this to Cheddar; she's had a busy week,
organizing Oktoberfest. Normally when I go to open the door to the coop,
they’re standing in whatever light dawn has brought, whispering like
churchgoers before a service, but on two occasions this week I caught them
practising a dance. The chicken dance.
“What’s that all about?” I asked.
“Wensleydale appeared to me in a dream,” Cheddar volunteered, “and did say unto
me that, this being somewhere around October, I should organize a Fest.”
“What do you know from Fests? Will there be beer and pretzels?”
“Thank you for offering."
After the Roseburg massacre I found myself thinking, “There but for the grace
of Fate…” Art students tend to be non-violent types, but it only takes one.
My way of dealing with the tragedy was to talk the chickens into forming a
well-ordered militia. I gave them small sticks to represent muskets. They
struggled mightily with "slope arms” and saluting, and they have a tendency to
mill when they should be drilling, but the Homeguard has to begin somewhere, no?
On a sunny day I took the camera out to record their bathing ritual, which is
more complex than their dancing—some of you will find pictures on Facebook.
Mimo and Cheddar scouted the drop site, but it was Appenzeller, Pecorino and
Cheddar who first settled. Mimo complained. They all rose and politely
allowed her to choose the best spot. Pecorino was the only one not to find a
new site and spread wings. She circled, wondered aloud, “Ahem. Is there room
somewhere for me?”
“There’s hardly room for us,” said Mimo.
Pecorino demonstrated her ire by preening.
The others ignored her.
She walked up and down muttering.
Appenzeller challenged her with contented noises, “Sunbathing is really my
Pecorino eventually chose a site and settled down, which caused Cheddar to
rise. “I was quite happy and now you’ve ruined it.”
Appenzeller noticed that Rocky had found a piece of melon rind, so she got up
and wandered over to see if she could get her beak in edgewise. (Rocky is
presently at the apex of the pecking order.) Rocky left the food and went
across to the sunbathers, to utter a cheery, “What-ho. Why are you all lying
there when there’s food over here?” Peccorino decided this might be some kind
of threat and decided to retreat. Appenzeller meanwhile, was tucking into the
food, which caused Rocky to leave off bothering the bathers and return to the
more serious business of hogging the melon.
Rocky, “You can’t have that. It’s all mine.”
“As you wish,” said Appenzeller, stepping back out of beak range.
Pecorino thought it might be a good time to remind everyone that Mimo had
earlier been caught hogging food without license of the apex. “A certain
little red hen discovered mellon rind and seeds…”
“And seeds,” said Cheddar coming up.
“…rind and seeds and didn’t tell anyone what she’d discovered. Where’s the
justice of that? I think we should convene a meeting.”
Mimo wandered over, ready to defend her actions. “I might have had something
stuck in my throat.”
“Too much, possibly,” said Appenzeller. “News of which you suppressed.”
It turned out that no one was interested in a meeting.
Peace descended and there was a little preening before Mimo proposed an
expedition to explore the Humbolt Passage.
“The Humbolt Passage?” Cheddar was baffled.
Mimo nodded towards where she intended.
“Ooooh,” said Cheddar, excited but completely uncomprehending, “the Humbolt
And off they went. “We’re going to explore the Humbolt Passage,” said Cheddar.
The others followed, just in case Mimo was on to something.
When I looked over, they were all dancing again.
Alas, there are no photos of that.
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