According to the grapevine, word has gotten back to Charlie Brown Road that, in last week’s column, I had been giving chickens a bad rap. As usual, the grapevine has gotten so twisted up in barbed wire, saw briars, poison ivy and spider webs that it‘s probably impossible to tell where it started. If it had any grapes, they’d be too sour to eat.
The truth is, I happen to be a big fan of chickens and raised them throughout the first 35 years of my life. I gave up raising chickens because we’ve lived so close to the woods, over the last 40 years, that raising chickens was scarcely more than a feed lot operation for coyotes, foxes and red tail hawks. I’m pretty sure a golden eagle caught at least a couple of Rhode Island Red hens when we lived near Crab Orchard. At least I actually saw a very large bird, with no white showing, flew off with the chickens, that weighed over 5 pounds each, and I don’t believe a hawk could have packed either one of them.
The hens had been among a mixed flock of 35, assorted, straight-run, baby chicks and an array of chicken growing paraphernalia I had ordered from McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. The original plan was to keep the hens as egg layers and butcher the roosters when they were large enough to fry. In the process, I intended to teach our city-born kids the ins and outs of subsistence farming.
Unfortunately, by mid-summer, all 16 roosters had been given names such as Jasper, Jonesy, Baby Doll, etc., and some of them would come running from the field if one of the kids called them by name. It became very obvious that no chicken butchering was going to happen anywhere near our house.
Loretta had, like me, grown up on a small farm where raising and butchering chickens was far more common than buying one, already slaughtered and dressed, at the grocery store. However, my wife had spent the last 12 years or so in New Jersey where, apparently, nobody has ever wrung a chicken’s neck, scalded off the feathers, cleaned out the entrails and cut it up in frying pieces.
My then recently acquired kids, although they loved the stuff, had no idea where chicken came from and they had no intention of learning. Their mother had absolutely no intention of teaching them or admitting that she had ever be a participant in anything so barbaric.
The next year (spring of 1984) one of our hens, an incredibly friendly, well petted, and gentle White Jersey Giant, named Polly, hatched off about 20 baby chicks from eggs we had collected from our hens and those of a couple neighbors who had breeds we had not previously grown. That experience turned out to be a remarkably fun and educational adventure for the kids and me but it still didn’t put any meat on the table even though we had far more chickens than they could individually name
I wound up giving most of the roosters to neighbors who, at that time, still had absolutely no qualms about killing fresh chickens nor getting them ready for the frying pan. After we moved in 1986, I sold off several of the laying hens and gave away the rest, including Polly, to a neighbor, the late Molly Helton, because I knew she’d be glad to have me visit them. Molly also kept us in eggs for a few years before coyotes made off with most of her chickens. I assume that Polly was also eaten by coyotes.
This week’s reading recommendation is Charles Todd a mother and son team from North Carolina and Delaware, respectively, who have coauthored more than 30 best seller mystery novels. They are as popular among European readers as they are in North America.
Written between 1996 and 2020 and set during and just after World War One, over 20 of the books feature Inspector Ian Rutledge, a wounded veteran of the War, who solves mostly murder mysteries even though he is seriously handicapped with post traumatic stress syndrome.
Eleven other titles, set during the same time frame, are centered around the sleuthing exploits of Bess Crawford, a young nurse stationed on the France/German front lines. I have forfeited a few hundred hours of sleep because I found it nearly impossible to lay a single title down and I have read every single one of them at least once. This is as good as contemporary fiction writing gets.
Your reading experience will be greatly enhanced if you read both series in the chronological order they were first published. Google Charles Todd.