Monday, May 13, 2013

A Chicken's Funeral

Franz's symbol of wisdom
Recently a bit of local news reached my ear. Not a major story, but in my mind one I could mold into an entertaining tale.

To me a chicken is a farm animal. It does not mix with our flower boxes in front of the house. I don't like the residue they leave on the sidewalk, or the porch. I know the white portion of their droppings does wonders to speed up growth in a young man's mustache. However, I don't need that help any longer.

Several of our neighbors raise chickens for eggs, I never was convinced it is worth it.

To give chickens names and become pets, a whole new understanding comes to mind. I have a hard time understanding folks my age talking to chickens and calling them by their name. I guess it is the same as talking to yourself; at least the eye contact is there. When children talk to animals it gives me a warm feeling. I can see a child squatting to feed Darlene the Hen popcorn. I can also appreciate a young'un wanting a chicken eat part of a biscuit out their hand, or having a conversation with the cackling fowl.

Many-a-youngsters have gone to the henhouse in all kinds of weather to collect the eggs. Kids learn to feed them regularly connecting work with the reward.

Most chicken families start out with a dozen chicks. By the time they raised them to adults, everyone had gotten tired of the stink in the house. When they are introduced to the henhouse the folks soon find out that there are at least four roosters in the bunch. Maybe they keep one rooster. The other three will face one of two characters; 22 or AX.

Now the family is down to eight cluckers. No doubt the fox is going to get his share. Down to seven cluckers. The 'possum and the weasel are on high alert and both are going to win a stake. Down to five cluckers. The neighborhood teenager, texting and driving, is sure to whack one. Now down to four cluckers and one cock bird.

You can see after all this drama that the children now have become attached to the survivors to a point where they not only gave them names, but learned to identify them by their cackle, walk, and color of feathers.

Well, Darlene the hen one day overreached her assigned area. She stretched for a forbidden fruit, slipped, and hung herself in the crotch of a lattice fence. Dead as four o'clock.

I surmise at least one of the three children did a little blubbering. The oldest boy, ever the frugal one, suggested they put her in the crockpot.
"Absolutely not," the mother said. "We don't know how long Darlene has been hanging there."

"Dad! . . . Dad! We have to have a funeral for our faithful family member," Nat bellowed out.
"Okay. Get Jon the shovel, he is old enough to dig the hole," Dad said.
"Not just a hole," Bella the youngest cried. "She was my favorite. Us kids want you, Daddy, to have a funeral for Darlene just like they have at the graveyard at church.

Jon lovingly dug the hole. One foot square and one foot deep.

"A little deeper Jon," Dad said. "Deep enough so a dog won't dig her up."

The sun began to set. The sky shimmered pink and purple. The somber procession to the graveyard began. The deceased was placed in a red hearse. Jon the oldest, eleven years old, slowly pulled the three foot wagon to grave site. The younger children, walking single file, hands clasped, followed. Once at the open grave they sat on three chairs they brought earlier to the gravesite. Smitten and heartbroken they quietly waited for their Dad to begin the service.

"We are gathered here to put Darlene, a faithful friend and member of our family, to eternal rest. As the head of our household I'd like to express my deep condolences to the rest of the brood." Dad reached to his face and, unbeknownst to the others, wiped his smile to again match the solemn occasion.

Dad continued. "At this time I'd like to ask the rest of the family present to say a few words."

"I know you'll be happy again in chicken heaven. I'll miss you," said Bella.
Nat piped up and said, "Thanks for your service."
Jon, the oldest, always with the final word said, "Thanks for the omelets. . . Amen."  

Thursday, May 2, 2013


This short story is from my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." this story has been expanded and will be published as part of an e-book in the future. 

Being a sickly youngster in the middle to late forties the American Red Cross sent me and many other children to summer camps. This story took place at the last camp I attended.

The boys slept in one large hall on single beds. After being told to get into bed, we were allowed to talk and swap stories with a neighbor for a few more minutes. However, the second the light was turned off, all words had to cease immediately resulting in total quiet.
My bed was near the front and close to the light switch. One night, the instant the lights went off, I, being in the middle of a sentence of some tale, finished my words one-second after dark. The counsellor called on me, made me get out of bed, grabbed my arm, and led me away.
I remember having to walk up one flight of stairs with wrought iron rails on the side. Once up at the chosen landing, the counsellor told me to wait there while he stepped into a room.
He returned shortly with a triangular split piece of firewood. He laid the wood on the floor, sharp edge up, and told me to kneel on it. Very adamantly, finger pointing at my face, he told me not to get off or make any loud noises for half an hour. He made sure my bare knees were squarely planted on it. He warned me not to rear back onto my haunches; if he caught me doing so, or getting off the log in any way, he’d make me stay on that sharp edge for an additional 30 minutes.
Outside of his room, there in the hall, no way to ease the unrelenting pain, I suffered. At first I thought I could tough it out. The only solace being that I truly despised that man. All the wishing that he would fall over dead did nothing to my pain and  agonizing mind. I slobbered and huffed in torment. . . .I heard a lady friend in the room with him. Sounds of pleasure and giggles came to my ears. I knelt there and faced the partially open door. I, a beaten slave.
Seconds felt like minutes, and minutes like hours. Suddenly the door sprang open. He checked on me with a smirk on his face. I must have been a pleasing sight, kneeling there, looking up, quiet tears streaming down my cheeks from the unbearable pain. Satisfied, he said nothing and went back to his room.
Frightened anew, the conviction to obey his orders, stabbed even deeper into my heart. I dare not get caught trying to ease the suffering.
How much time had elapsed since this horror began? . . . Did he keep track of time? . . . Will he remember me out here in the hall? . . . Does anybody love me? . . . Will this ever end? . . . God have mercy on me!