[lit-ideas] Sunday Something

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2014 11:23:53 -0800

Mac was concerned.  Our trips to the park had fallen off.  The chickens weren't 
delighted with the idea of being herded.  The fact that he'd defended the 
homestead against all for nigh on thirteen years had, of course, been noted but 
was it enough in the broader border collie scheme of things?  Was he earning 
his keep?  I put on my wellington boots; he eagerly jumped up, "I'll come," 
wag, wag, wag.  Outside, I checked the chickens' water, distributed wood 
shavings below their sleeping perch, looked for eggs or signs of intruders.  
Apart from the fact that there were no eggs, all was well.  I stepped back; Mac 
brought his ball to my feet.  Four chickens came and stood about a foot behind 
him.  I picked up the ball, moved a careful few feet sideways and away from the 
girls, doing my level best to avoid fouling the fowl.  "Cheddar?"  I called and 
then made what I think is a good imitation of the chicken-locating noise.  No 
response.  I repeated.  Nothing.  I listened for the sound of feet disturbing 
freeze-dried leaves.  Nada.  I threw the ball.  Mac went tearing down the 
hill...and like a grouse disturbed by a beater, up flew Cheddar.  "Blawk. 
Blawk!"  She was voluble in her condemnation of loutish behavior, pointing out 
that the garden has plenty other spots in which to charge around like a bull in 
a china shop, so why had I set the dog on her?  "Sorry," I offered.  Mac came 
up with the ball, tail wagging, wanting a dozen reps.

The wind swung around to the east.  There came no Poppins, arriving from the 
sky, but instead ice and snow, accelerating through the Gorge.  I hadn't 
noticed any change when I put the girls to bed.  In the morning they were 
fluffed up and very vocal; the door to their roost faces east and though the 
outer wall will take some force out of windy gusts, they'd undoubtedly passed 
some grumpy hours.
"Bit parky," said Rocky, going with understatement as she led the file past my 
Mimo stalked forward, "One might even call it cold."
"Water's fresh," was the best I could muster in my defense.  "I'll be sure to 
close the inner door this evening."
Peccorino muttered as she passed, "Chicken God of the Year finals are this 
Cheddar confined herself to, "I haven't forgotten yesterday."
Which left Appenzeller, still eating at the trough.  "And how are you?" I asked 
"My vote... might be bought."  

A little known fact is that some of the moves we associate with contemporary 
soccer were originally learned from chickens.  Shielding the ball, for example. 
I had just put new water out for the chickens--theirs was frozen--when I found 
on the kitchen counter leftovers from "Blue Hour," one of Portland's fanciest 
restaurants.  (L. was invited to a dinner there and asked for the table's 
scraps to be scraped into a cardboard box).  Since the glob of food was mostly 
vegetable, it seemed more appropriate for chickens than dog or cats.  The girls 
tucked in as soon as the gift hit the ground.  The hidden prize, it turned out, 
was a piece of salmon skin.  Peccorino grabbed it, ran, and then did her best 
to shield and swallow simultaneously.  Rocky and Appenzeller pressed the 
"ball."  The standard defensive move was a kind of a spin, just like a soccer 
player, keeping one's back to the opponent.  Rocky was the first with a 
successful tackle.  Off she went, but she then lost the "ball" to Appenzeller, 
who proved more adept than the other two at the spinning swallow.  Cheddar and 
Mimo, eschewing sport, meanwhile tucked into the sweet potato.

On reading Betjamin

In England you see
we have degrees of degree.
When he says, "I got my First"
it means that the consequence of his intellectual thirsts
proved at the salient moment to be 
exactly the examiners' cup of tea.

That things disappear is a fact of life.  If they are chocolate, you may assume 
the culprit is near and dear.  If they are a biography of Augustus Pitt Rivers 
and a study called, "The Edge of Empire," you may choose to cast the net 
further out including, possibly, cleaners who should know better than to move 
the columns of books that support one's work.  Another fact, however, is that 
things sometimes appear in the most extraordinary manner.  "How," I wondered, 
"to show students that structure in writing is not a problem merely of coming 
up with a thesis statement and sticking to it like a toddler gripping the 
caregiver?"  While wondering, I visited the local public library and idly 
sifted the free bin, within which I found only one issue of a magazine I 
thought I might read.  Here I should explain I'm not being professorial or 
snooty about magazines--our house is currently over-run by them; for reasons 
not clear to either of us, they arrive in the mail addressed to one of our 
cats.  Possibly Sonsie won some sweepstake draw and wished to disguise his 
identity?  I picked out the lone copy of the "New Yorker," thinking a quick 
whiz through the cartoons would occupy moments while on phone hold, but no, 
came time for lunch I opened it at random and therein found an essay by John 
McPhee.  It's subject was structure in writing.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon  

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