"Eggs”clusively Yours….Poultry Portrait of Lyndon
11/23/2010 8:57 AM
|Believe it or not, we do a few things other than create websites. One of my passions is writing. Here’s a story I wrote a few years back for the Thanksgiving season. Enjoy!
"Eggs”clusively Yours….Poultry Portrait of Lyndon©
I was five years old when I first saw him. My kindergarten class had just taken a field trip to the Western Hatcheries in Dallas, Texas, and the guide handed him to my teacher, Mrs. Stewart. We all glared at the ivory-colored oval in awe.
“Now boys and girls, inside this shell is a baby chicken. We have to keep it warm just like its mother would for the next few weeks. If we all do our part, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see it hatch!” she announced to the class. She held the egg up to the light and let each one of us have a look at the tiny developing creature on the inside.
Everyone “oohed” and “ahhed” as Mrs. Stewart carefully placed him in a small padded box. Now, we were all “city” kids and none of us had ever been around fowl. In fact, the closest we had ever gotten to poultry of any kind was when Tommy Newman had chicken pox two months earlier. But even at five years old we knew all of the chicken jokes. Now they didn’t seem funny. We were suddenly pre-schoolers with a purpose. Our mission was clear. We had to bring a living birdie into the world. We took this overwhelming responsibility very, very seriously.
The hatchery gave us an incubator where the precious ellipse sat for the next two weeks. We took shifts, and sacrificed our recess time, so that one of us was always on watch. We didn’t want to miss the blessed event. Mrs. Stewart told us that this kind of attention was not really necessary, but we insisted.
|Francine Worley was on duty when the fireworks began. She ran screaming and crying out to the playground, “It broke, it broke, somebody broke da egg!” We all ran into the classroom ready to let her have it if she had killed our baby, when we saw a tiny beak emerging from the top of the oval.
“Oh, children, it’s hatching!” Mrs. Stewart proclaimed. We stood silently and watched the miracle occur. A miniature, slimy creature emerged from the shell.
Mary Parker announced disdainfully, “I think we done something wrong. Him’s sick.” Mrs. Stewart smiled and assured us that when we returned to class the next day our “baby” would look all fluffy and cute like the adorable chicks we had seen at the hatchery. We wanted to believe her.
She was right. Overnight, the grotesque mass of bones and down was transformed into a feisty yellow ball of fluff that was absolutely adorable. We kept the little peeper in a shallow cardboard box at the corner of the classroom. Each one of us was assigned a duty of feeding, watering or cleaning the box daily. But most of us just wanted to touch the critter and we were constantly bickering over who got to hold it.
The end of the school year was rapidly approaching and Mrs. Stewart announced that a drawing would take place to determine which lucky kid got to permanently take home the feathered wonder.
“Boys and girls, you must bring a note from home letting me know that your mother approves of your name being placed in the drawing. The winner will be chosen the last day of school,” she said. We squealed with delight at the prospect of actually owning the class prize and all of us vowed to be on our best behavior at home so that our moms would allow us to put our names in the pot.
My mother reluctantly wrote the note the morning of the final school day. I overheard her tell my father, “Don’t worry honey, there’s twenty kids in the class. The odds of her winning are very slim.”
I didn’t understand anything about odds but knew that by the end of the day that chicken would be mine. I had already picked out a name. “I’m gonna call it Linda,” I proudly told my mother. “We’ll see,” she replied.
I felt the exhilaration of a lottery winner when my name was drawn and announced. I strutted like Miss America down the runway as I exited the school carrying the box containing Linda. My mother was waiting in the car at the end of the pick-up area and I saw the look of terror on her face as I proudly approached. ”I won, Mommy, I won. Meet Linda,” I exclaimed as I got into the back seat of the car. “What am I going to tell your father?” she moaned.
I picked up my new baby and handed it to my mother. She sheepishly grinned, “I guess we’ll figure out something.”
Since we already had a dog that stayed in the back yard, the garage became Linda’s coop. Week by week I watched the yellow down change to white and Linda grew.
It soon became evident that something was wrong. Every morning at 5:30 a.m. Linda began to crow. He was not the fairy tale hen I had planned for, but a huge cocky rooster who would strut around the garage as if he owned it.
My mother suggested that I come up with another name for my pet. After a few days of disappointment at the realization he couldn’t lay more eggs for me to nurture, I brilliantly decided to call him Lyndon after Vice-President Johnson. I had visions of parading Lyndon on a leash around the neighborhood to impress all of my friends. However, those lofty dreams became nightmares as Lyndon grew into the most ferocious beast on the block. Not only did he announce each new day to a group of irate neighbors, he chased my little brother around the yard and attacked my mother’s red toenails with a savage pecking frenzy that would make even Cujo shudder.
My mother said that unless something was done very quickly, Lyndon would be Sunday dinner at our house. She called my grandparents in East Texas who raised a few chickens in their back lot. They agreed to let my executive bird join their flock.
It took us three hours to corner Lyndon and coax him into the cardboard box that would transport him to his new home. When we arrived, my grandfather - who we called Occa - was waiting for us. He gently lifted Lyndon’s traveling quarters from our back seat and told me to come with him. Behind Occa’s garage was a fenced lot that was home to about twenty white chickens.
“Your bird will like it here Pookie,” he kindly told me.
With that he opened the box and Lyndon shot out in a feathered fury. I watched as he pranced around the chicken yard, as if he had lived there his entire life. Occa assured me that Lyndon would be happier now. I wasn’t so sure that Lyndon could survive without my maternal care. After all, I was the one who brought him into the world and he needed me. My mother told me that Lyndon was staying and that was that. As we drove away I tried not to cry as I hung out the back window of our station wagon. “Bye Lyndon…I’m gonna miss you!”
My thoughts of Lyndon were soon replaced with excitement about beginning first grade. We went through all of the rituals of buying supplies, new shoes and clothes. I became totally absorbed in all of the fresh adventures and friends of elementary academia.
By the time Thanksgiving came I had almost forgotten about Lyndon. But as we drove up to my grandparents’ house I dashed out of the station wagon to see about my bird. I combed the back lot and couldn’t find his proud head among the feathered flock.
“Where is he?” I asked Occa as he walked up to join me.
“Miz Beulah took him Pook. He was just too mean around the other birds. He darn near tore me up each time I tried to keep him away from them,” he answered.
I noticed that Occa had fresh scabs on the top of his hands. I felt bad, really bad--bad for Lyndon, bad for my grandfather… and bad for Miz Beulah. She was a black lady who had six kids and no husband. Occa said she was really happy to get Lyndon.
When I got a bit older my mother told me that Lyndon was the Thanksgiving dinner for Miz Beulah’s kids that year. Deep down, I guess I knew that was where Lyndon was headed, but the razor-sharp cruelty of facing the realities of life and death does not exist for a five-year-old child.
Now I know that, mean as he was, his life served a lofty purpose. He was the Chanticleer of my childhood fairy tale existence who taught me about the cycles of life. He taught me that things don’t always turn out the way we expect them to—a hard lesson to learn at any age. He taught me, that no matter how noble-minded my intentions may be, I can’t fix everything. And finally I learned that no matter how vicious and bad any creature may appear, good can result from their existence.
Every time I hear a rooster crow I think about Lyndon--how he pecked through his shell and came into this world with a purpose, to feed a hungry family and to teach a little girl some lessons about life.
God doesn’t make mistakes.
John and I wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving holiday!