[lit-ideas] Sunday Chickens

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2014 11:52:49 -0800

        Wensleydale had blood on her breast again, indicating some level of 
disagreement about something.  Out in the wider yard, there's little indication 
of what the problem might be beyond the fact that the chickens this week seem, 
well, chicken.  I don't know if they were spooked by any particular threat 
while we were gone last weekend--the storms raining bits of tree down seem a 
likely culprit--but the true cause is lost to history; it will never be known.  
The net result, however, was that the chickens passed the first couple of days 
this week cowering in their coop.  With the door wide open, they waited for me 
to emerge with coffee or, during a break from work, engage them in 
conversation.  At such junctures they came running out and gathered round my 
feet.  They pecked at my shoes.  They seemed to have lost or forgotten the art 
of foraging.  Weird, eh?
        This led to crowding around my legs, both in the sense that there was a 
crowd when I looked down and in the sense that they behaved in the unruly 
manner of some crowds.  One example:
        "Hoi," said Cheddar to Pecorino, "I just uncovered that bit.  You're 
shoving dirt where I'm trying to eat."
        "It's a big yard," said Pecorino, "choose another spot."
        "You choose."
        "No you."
        When I returned to work after this I glanced to my right and saw 
Wensleydale, pressed up against the glass, looking in with her beady and 
inquiring eye.
        "Funny," she seemed to be saying, "he's got his own source of light.  I 
bet he really does control the weather."
        Druids are hard to sway.

        Chickens are not the kindest of creatures.  But they don't goad one 
another.  In a moment of reflection it occurred to me that the one game 
chickens do not play is chicken.  They disagree over policy and theology, but 
nothing suggests malicious egging on, encouraging another to cross some 
dangerous path or to walk in broad daylight where hawks could pick you off.  
Maybe these are Pacific Northwest liberals, poulets de grunge, hipster chicks?  
They look out for one another.

        The other thing that strikes me while in this reflective mood is that 
the chickens have never boarded the "Neverbudge," the forty two foot long 
Chriscraft that serves officially as a garden folly.  When we originally were 
considering where chickens might be kept, the "Neverbudge" came up.  I vetoed 
the idea on the grounds that once poo got into the scuppers, it would be nigh 
on impossible to get it out.  Since the chickens have had their freedom of the 
yard, however, I've taken no steps to prevent piratical poultry going aboard.  
If they wished they could cross the poop deck and...poop.  But they don't.  I 
decided to ask why they don't.
        "Reminds me of Baal, that does," said Cheddar.
        Rocky was impatient with this, "Baal?  Baal?  It's not a cow."
        "What is it then?" Cheddar challenged.
        Mimo offered, "Looks a bit like a whale to me." 
        "Reminds me of Hawaii," said Pecorino.
        "You've never migrated," Rocky objected.
        "I could though.  And if I had been to Hawaii, I think that thing might 
remind me of whales."
        "That's pure speculation," Wensleydale pointed out.
        "Maybe we could eat it?" Appenzeller was being practical.
        "Stem to stern is how it's done," Rocky opined.  
        "How would you know?"
        "You can't eat an idol," said Cheddar, certain of at least this.  "It's 
bad luck."
        "Really?" I asked.
        "Says so in the Bible," said Mimo.
        I was surprised, "How does a chicken know what's in the Bible?"
        "Jehova's Witnesses came to the door when no one was home.  They tossed 
a tract over the fence."
        "Not, strictly speaking, a bible, then?"
        "Not, strictly speaking."
        "Mormons," said Cheddar.
        "Where?"
        "Nowhere.  I just felt the urge to say it."
        "I think we should move away from the idol."
        "Very good idea, everyone move away from the idol."
        "Eric," said Cheddar.
        "Who's Eric?"
        "I've no idea.  I felt the urge to say that."
        "Must be something she ate," said Pecorino.
        "Must be the snow."
        "Could be must."
        I intervened, "That's something elephants suffer.  You're not 
elephants."  No one listened.
        "Don't talk to me about snow.  I've had snow up to here."
        Rocky was feeling competitive, "I've had it up to here."
        "We're all veterans," Wensleydale offered, in conciliatory tone.
        "Vegetarians?"
        "No, veterans."
        "I don't want to be a vegetarian."
        "No one said 'vegetarians.'"
        "We should move away from the idol, it's got an unusual aura."
        "I feel it.  Kind of tingly?"
        "Cheddar, have you been considering theory again?  You know that it 
addles your brain."
        "I do so feel tingly.  In this foot particularly."
        "Try eating a little moss.  It's supposed to be good for whatever ails 
you."
        "Or seaweed."
        "Where the Eric are we likely to get seaweed around here?"
        "Compost pile," said Mimo.  
        "Compost pile."
        "Last one there's a sissy."
        And away they ran, leaving the theological debate about the import and 
significance of the folly entirely unresolved.  But the good news is this was 
the beginning of their return to independent foraging.

David Ritchie,
Portland, 
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