Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Slick, The Chicken Hitcher

I know several people who have chickens. I find that, in general, they are inordinately fond of them. They tell chicken stories the way I find myself telling grandchildren stories. I try to catch myself before I whip out the latest pictures or talk about the glory of the little ones being potty trained. I realize that while I find them the most fascinating people on this planet  others may not. Chicken owners have no such boundaries apparently.
I have heard about the eggs hatching, the poopy butt checks, the number of little roosters that were supposed to be hens, the drama of hawks and other predators swooping in and snatching (or missing) them as they eat rocks in the yard. I have always had a hard time getting excited by these stories. I mean, chickens eat rocks. Rocks. In my opinion, enough said.
I am confessing all of this because I find myself at the age of 51 with a story to tell and that story involves a chicken. There are no pictures, I will spare you that.
The story begins like this; It is a beautiful summery Saturday morning. The birds are singing, the flowers are perfuming the gentle breeze and we are loading a saw with a blade that refuses to be straightened into the back of the truck. We are going to go pester my brother- in-law, Jack, who owns a similar saw into helping my husband figure out why the heck it is crooked and if it can be fixed or if we need to return it to the store from whence it came.
As we pulled up in the driveway he came ambling out of his garage with a chicken on his shoulders and a turkey on his heels. Both birds are adolescents and, quite frankly, I found  them less than attractive. The turkey threw itself on the hot concrete at my feet as if shot, spreading its wings out crookedly and laying it’s head at an impossible angle.  The chicken looked on from its lofty perch and pecked Jack’s ear as if to point out what an idiot the turkey is. I think the turkey must have had a stroke and the chicken is just ill mannered but Jack assured me this was not so.  Apparently, turkeys- like reptiles- enjoy sunning themselves. The chicken, Slick, thinks Jack’s ears are grubs. Overly dramatic turkeys and ear eating chickens not being my cup of tea  I go chat with my sister while the men folk fix the saw and talk turkey, literally

As we were leaving we stood around in the driveway chit-chatting about his and that and shooing off the chicken who keeps settling on the truck tires in the shade of the wheel  well. The saw is loaded back up, goodbyes are hollered back and forth a la ‘Waltons’  and we puttered off home.

By the time we got home it was over  90 degrees in the shade. A consensus was reached and we hopped back into the truck to go to the pool. Two hours were passed in sunning and soaking, the hottest part of the day idled away lovingly and languorously until our sinful enjoyment was brought to a screeching halt by a phone call. It was Jack, calling to tell us that we had run over his chicken as we left.  The way he pictured it the little bird was sitting on the tire, innocently enjoying the little bit of shade. As we backed out it MUST have leapt to its bony feet  and started running, sort of like a lumber jack in a log rolling contest. The chicken was obviously a superior athlete because he couldn’t find hide nor hair of it but he did see a chicken shaped grease spot at some distance up his road. I had an insane image of a plaid clad chicken with a teeny axe under his wing running for his life. This was quickly replaced by the image of a lovely pot pie just seconds into his tale. Sometimes my lack of empathy is down-right frightening.
I was horrified (and feeling guilty about the pot pie, savory looking though it was), my husband disbelieving, both of us saddened that SOMETHING had happened to Jack’s shoulder sitting pet. We sat around the pool for another 30 minutes but the fun had gone out of the day. We had killed Slick, apparently in a brutal and terrifying way. Back into the truck we went and drove home at a funereal pace to shower and change. After 30 minutes or so we came back out prepared to go to the grocery store and buy something (for some reason we all wanted chicken) for dinner. Realizing he had forgotten his wallet, my husband went back in and came out a few minutes later.

He was about halfway through the yard when he went to his knees saying ‘Oh My God’ over and over. Terrified, I ran to him, ‘What is it” I cried sure that he was pulling a turkey on me and stroking out at my feet. ‘It’s . Jack’s. Chicken.’ he gasped, pointing under the truck. I was afraid to look, knowing I would see little feathers caught up in the drive train or a rigored claw sticking out from the wheel well, baked by the sun and covered with flies..
I bent down to peer under the truck after preparing myself for the worst and Slick stared back at me with his beady little chicken eyes, very much alive and rather stuck on himself I thought. We stood there, struck dumb, all of us at this point were indeed monkey’s uncles, or sumabitches or darned.  It had been roughly four hours in terrible heat and Slick looked as cool and unruffled as If he had just stepped out of the coop.
Not being a chicken person I enlisted (okay, conscripted more likely) the help of our house guest in rounding up little Slick and made him ride back to Jack’s with the his body between mine and the fowl. Slick perched on my husband’s shoulder and looked out the window, turning and pecking his ear just as we pulled into the drive as if to say ‘thanks, grub’.
Jack was VERY happy to have his little bird back, the turkey stroked out at our feet , my husband proclaimed himself  the honorary guardian of the fowl and Slick had a hell of a story to impress the chicks with.