A Coincidence of Chickens

I hadn’t penciled in much time during this past week for chickenology, but when artist and blogger Gary Myers posted this Portrait of Henri Groulx and a Rooster on his site, my schedule changed. 

Myers found the photograph at an ecletic, almost indescribable photography site called Luminous Lint.  Taken at a Parisian photo studio around 1920, the portrait is at once humorous, arresting and puzzling. As Gary says, “In these all so politically correct times, it’s kind of refreshing to see this French kid with his cigarette dangling.  That world-weary look on his face and the confidence of his stance as he sits with legs crossed say that he’s six years old and he’s seen it all.”

Entranced though I was by Henri Groulx and his rooster, the image brought to mind another chicken-loving child – Miss MaryFlannery O’Connor.  Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925, Flannery eventually gained fame as a writer. But at the age of five (or six, depending on the source you choose) she taught a chicken to walk backward and achieved a different sort of fame. Word spread, and it wasn’t long before the Pathé Newsreel Service was on her doorstep, eager to record the feat for the admiration of the world.

Characteristically droll, Flannery later said, “I had a chicken that walked backward and was in the Pathé News. I was in it too, with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax.”

I knew the story of Pathé filming Flannery’s chicken, but never had seen the newsreel. When I mentioned the story to Gary, he became curious enough to go searching, and discovered the Pathé archives online.  Miss Mary Flannery and her chicken finally are available to us all.

(Click the image above to be taken to the Pathé Archives video)

In her essay “The King of the Birds”, originally published in a 1961 issue of Holiday magazine and later reprinted in the book Mystery and Manners as “Living with a Peacock”, Flannery provided more detail about the chicken-filming episode.

When I was five, I had an experience that marked me for life. Pathé News sent a photographer from New York to Savannah to take a picture of a chicken of mine. This chicken, a buff Cochin Bantam, had the distinction of being able to walk either forward or backward.
Her fame has spread through the press and by the time she reached the at­tention of Pathé News, I suppose there was nowhere left for her to go—forward or backward. Shortly after that she died, as now seems fitting.
From that day with the Pathé man I began to collect chickens. What had been only a mild interest became a passion, a quest. I had to have more and more chickens. I favored those with one green eye and one orange, or with over-long necks and crooked combs. I wanted one with three legs or three wings but nothing in that line turned up.
I pon­dered over the picture in Robert Ripley’s book “Believe It Or Not” of a rooster that had survived for thirty days without his head; but I did not have a scientific temperament . I could sew in a fashion and I began to make clothes for chickens. A gray bantam named Colonel Eggbert wore a white piqué coat with a lace collar and two buttons in the back. Apparently Pathé News never heard of any of these other chickens of mine; it never sent another photographer.

Perhaps the film crew had moved on to Poplar Bluff, Zanesville or Elmira. During the 1920s and 1930s, performing chickens could be found across the country, playing small pianos, plucking at typewriters and dropping coins into cups. Some were lucky enough to tread the boards in vaudeville; others worked the edge of dusty country roads.

In Uptown Chicago, on the corner of Broadway and Wilson, there were reports of a fellow whose chicken would ride on his shoulder. It’s possible the man was Anderson Punch, sometimes known as Casey Jones but mostly known as The Chicken Man. Born in 1871, he still was performing around Chicago on his 101st birthday.

His act was simple. Sometimes the chicken would dance. Sometimes he’d have it walk across a tightrope.  It would drink beer from a bottle cap, collect dimes and bring them to him, play dead for a while and then hop aboard for a ride, clambering up to nestle under his hat. The descriptions are marvelous.

The old black man with a beard and a cumulus of snow white hair walked along with the rooster atop his ancient, ruined fedora.  He would draw a crowd by pulling out his old squeeze box from a battered tin case and playing, the chicken riding on his head the whole time. After the onlookers each put down a dime for the show, the old man took the bird off his head and laid it on the pavement. Covering it with a cloth, he told it to “Go to sleep. Go to sleep.”
The rooster would lie there silently while he played and kept up a steady patter in a high-pitched, toothless voice, telling how he had trained 37 roosters during his years as a show-man. Then he would remove the cloth. The chicken would wake up, scratch-dancing around the sidewalk to the music. The rapt crowd watched as if hypnotized.

It was, as they say, a living.  His reputation became well enough established that, when he landed in court, he was back on the street in no time at all.  And, as he once said “I’ve had some lean times, but I never had to eat one of my chickens.”

It could be tempting to assume that Henri, Mary Flannery and The Chicken Man are nothing more than historical curiosities. In fact, the tradition – and usefulness – of performing fowl only increased after B.F. Skinner introduced the world to operant conditioning and some enterprising souls took it to the next level.

As it turns out, chickens are quite the tic-tac-toe players, easily trained with nothing more than a Skinner box, some flip-flops, steppers, timers, switches and a little knowledge of basic game simulation. Don Burleson, who studied under Professor Emeritus Frank Logan, former chair of the Yale department of Psychology, says that Professor Logan taught him how to automate the Skinner box. As Burleson puts it, “once you know how to devise the learning tool, all you do is plop in the chicken, and it learns to play tic-tac-toe all by itself.”

Perhaps the most famous of the game-playing chickens is Henrietta “Ginger” McClucksky. An Arkansas native, she showed a natural inclination toward tic-tac-toe and an ability to win consistently. After years on the county and state fair circuits, she got her big break when the Atlantic City Tropicana Hotel and Casino called.  With casino mogul Dennis Gomes her proudest supporter, “casino players lined up by the dozens to play tic-tac-toe against Ginger in the Tropicana’s $10,000 Chicken Challenge. Her contract was extended – six months, nine months, a year. She had scratched and clawed her way to the top…”

In the end, it may be film director Werner Herzog who should be given the last word on the oddity of performing chickens. In his peculiar film Stroszek (1977), he tells the story of an ex-prisoner named Bruno, a prostitute named Eva and an elderly man named Scheitz who set off together from Germany to begin a new life in Wisconsin. Eventually, they take possession of a magnificent new 40-foot Fleetwood mobile home and begin to learn the  hard lessons of life in America.

In his review of the film, Roger Ebert notes Bruno’s certainty that the arrangement can’t last.  He’s convinced the papers they signed at the bank will require them to make payments on the trailer, and he’s right.  When the reposessed Fleetwood is towed off the land, Bruno is left bereft and hopeless, staring out into the forbidding winter landscape of Wisconsin.

Given his circumstances, a turn to crime isn’t surprising.  But this is “Stroszek”,  and other surprises await. Rifle in hand, Bruno and Mr. Scheitz set off to rob the bank. Unfortunately, the bank is closed, so they rob the barber shop next door of thirty-two dollars. With their getaway car still running, they walk across the street to a supermarket, where Bruno has time to pick up a frozen turkey before the cops arrest Mr. Scheitz.

Left with the turkey and some choices to make, Bruno drives to a nearby amusement arcade, where he feeds in quarters to make chickens dance and play the piano.

The last sequence with the chicken ended up being shot by Herzog, not for any high artistic purpose but simply because his crew members despised the dancing chicken so much they refused to take part in the filming. When it was over, Herzog declared the chicken “A Great Metaphor”  – though for what, he wasn’t sure.

I’m not certain about Chicken As Metaphor, myself.  On the other hand, from Henri Groulx’s portrait to Mary Flannery’s newsreel, from the Chicken Man’s street art to the casino owner’s gaming, there’s something compelling and Herzog-like about these stories.

It might be coincidence. Then again, it might not.

To leave a comment or respond, just click below. And please – No Reblogging. Thanks!

95 thoughts on “A Coincidence of Chickens

  1. Linda; This is wonderful! I’ve had a number of chickens myself, but none had any interesting talents- other than laying eggs and sometimes, Roger the Rooster would chase the occasional unwary visitor. But, during their free-range time, it was always nice (and something of a surprise) to open a curtain and see a chicken perched just outside the window, calmly staring back at you.

    One of my favorite James Herriot stories (All Creatures Great and Small) was during his early Vet days when he was still living with Sigfried and their chickens escaped, only later did they notice a tree in the distance with lots of odd-looking birds sheltering in it and it was only after some consideration and head scratching as to the identity of these exotic birds did they realize that they were their missing chickens!

    Thanks for a fun and informative read! ~ Beth

    1. Beth,

      I had a rooster in Liberia. His name was Mr. McBawck, and he’d roam pretty freely during the day. Just before dusk I’d call him, and he’d come into the screened-in porch at the back of the house and roost on the bicycle handlebars. If he didn’t get in before dark, he’d hang out in a tree, but we both liked it better when he came in.

      I can only imagine what it would be like to see a whole tree full of chickens. There’s at least one rooster and some peacocks down by one boat I worked on this summer. I can hear them, and it does sound like they’re in the trees, but I haven’t been able to spot them yet. When I first heard the peacocks, I thought someone was being murdered.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I had no idea chickens had been such troopers through the years!


    1. Julie,

      If you click the link up above for Holiday magazine, it will take you to the entire article O’Connor wrote. The first paragraphs are about chickens, but then she writes about her peacocks, which she did love.

      I laughed when I read it – I kept seeing your birds perched hither and yon, or getting into the same kind of mischief she writes about in the article.

      Glad you liked it!


  2. The photo of Henri Groulx and a Rooster is brilliant. Love it.
    I’ve never seen a chicken dancing before. Who knew they were so smart. It makes me feel even worse than ever about factory raised chickens which spend their entire lives squashed in small cages …

    1. dearrosie,

      Isn’t that photo great? When I went over to Luminous Lint, I found an entire gallery of children’s photos from the 1800s and early 1900s. There was much more variety than I’d anticipated.

      I knew chickens weren’t exactly dumb, but I didn’t realize they were so trainable. And I didn’t realize so many people in cities are battling to keep them now, for companionship as well as eggs. Many towns will allow them, but often they limit a person to three hens and no roosters (or whatever). Makes sense.

      Free range is better, no doubt – though I’ve had a few friends whose hens ranged a little too far and never came back!


  3. Linda, I just started some new larger pieces of art and one just happens to be a woman holding a chicken… I promptly sold it to a woman in Salina, Kansas who had a pet chicken when she was 10 years old. She had named it Owen. My etching reminded her of Owen.

    I have been thinking of doing some smaller chicken etchings and lo and behold here is your post on Chickens.
    Coincidence or not… To me, this is a sign to do them… Thanks!!

    1. Debbie,

      And don’t forget this gal and her chicken!
      How many years has it been since I bought it from you? Quite a few, and I still enjoy her every day, holding sway over my kitchen. Who knows? Maybe my totem is a chicken! (Or a strong pioneer woman.)

      I love the thought of a chicken named Owen, and I love even more the thought of you doing more chicken etchings. From the unknown French photographer to Gary to me to you – it’s not quite collaboration, but it’s more than coincidence!

      So nice to have you stop by. Did I ever tell you I found a vintage postcard with the original image of St. Helen Bonham? I framed it, and now it’s next to your piece. Lovely to have them both.


      1. For the last few days, thanks to your “Chicken Post”, I have been blissfully drawing chickens for a series of etchings…. and I am about to continue today. I have read everyone’s comments on their experiences with chickens and it has kept me going and smiling as I drew some more.

        May I just add that your blog on chickens has been much more pleasant than the news about people glorifying the eating of chicken to show their political stance on certain subjects, if you catch my drift. I hate to even mention it as not to taint the serenity of your space…. LOL

        It makes me happy to know that you still enjoy my work.
        Thanks so much. When I get these done, I will post images of the end result of our line of coincidental inspiration …

        1. Debbie,

          I’m tickled to death to have encouraged your creativity. It is amazing how many people either have experience with chickens, opinions about chickens, or a taste for chicken, for all that.

          Speaking of – the posting of this during the Great Chicken Dust-Up was purely coincidental. I confess I was in line that day, primarily because of a love of the 1st amendment. I don’t care if someone believes stripes and polka dots shouldn’t be seen together – as long as they let me wear my truly ghastly 1950s stripes-and-polka dot combo. Besides, in the process I finally discovered a really good lemonade, which is my preferred summertime drink. Surely you’ve heard that famous saying – “Politics may come and politics may go, but Good Lemonade is forever!” ;-)

          I was thinking about last year while I was tracking a couple of fires in Oklahoma last night. I’m so glad you escaped that horror, and that all is well. And I’m more than anxious to see what new art you have for us!


  4. My my my. I’m apparently quite sheltered when it comes to chicken lore! I’d no idea they could be so trained — tic-tac-toe?! I’d always thought chickens were quite lacking in the brains department. Learn something new every day. Especially here :-)

    1. nikkipolani,

      It’s probably more accurate to say chickens are easily conditioned than to consider them “smart”, but it’s a fact that they tend to be observant, capable of remembering this or that and have quite different personalities. And they certainly do form bonds with their owners.

      If you want dumb, head for the turkey farm! (Or so I believe. Now I need to check out whether all my received wisdom about those birds is simply more prejudice.)

      In the link to the tic-tac-toe training regime for chickens, there’s an interesting discussion of the nature of tic-tac-toe itself. Apparently it’s perfect for children, because they think it’s a game of skill, when in fact it’s a highly determined game – making it perfect for chickens!


  5. I remember hearing about dancing chickens when I was a kid. What a hoot this post is. Quite nice that Chicago’s Chicken Man never had to eat one of his chickens. :) So funny.

    1. Bella Rum,

      That’s right – for a fowl-dependent street performer, eating your chicken would be like dipping into your principal instead of living on the interest. ;)

      I never heard of dancing chickens myself, unless you count a couple of memorable incidents when a potential Sunday dinner got away from Grandma!


    1. Wendy,

      Apparently they can be clicker-trained just like a dog. In the process of researching this one I came across the site of a woman who had a coop like yours. She’d go out in the evening with her clicker, call “the girls” and they’d march right up the ramp into their coop. I wish I’d kept the link.

      You’ve been so busy with the alligators and such – you still in the chicken business?


      1. Well, I made that comment about chickens off the cuff, but I do have some experience with training my own chickens (not to do tricks mind you) but with a voice call that I learned from Alida in the movie Belizaire the Cajun! I turned them loose every day, and trained them to come in before dark and march right up into their roost, too! I’m not really busy with alligators, but busy nonetheless;however, still have Lady Gray and her offspring. Earl Gray? Well, all I can say is the stew was good.

        1. Now I’ve got another film to watch. I’d never heard of “Belizaire”. I suspect the library doesn’t have it, but I’ll check and then look elsewhere if they don’t. I saw it described in one review as a “romantic comedy”. If it is, I’ll bet it’s not quite as “fluffy” as some others of the genre.

          I’m glad to hear you still have Lady Gray. Sorry to hear about Earl. I asked my grandma once why her chickens didn’t have names. She said she didn’t want to name something that was going to end up on the table.

          1. Other folks are more upset about Earl than I am : ) Oh, Belizaire is produced by a La. man — Glen Pitre. It is one of my all-time favorite movies! Some folks can’t understand why, but maybe you will get it. Sort of like Beasts of the Southern Wild. Those who get it, LOVE IT. Those won’t don’t, HATE IT. And ne’er the twain shall meet up at the movies and share popcorn!

  6. Morning Linda, the only famous chickens I know, are those trained and fried by Colonel Sanders, and let me tell you, they are licking good. Made him famous the world over with KFC. Seems there’s a tendency of people squeezing money out of chickens.

    Can’t deny that fried chicken is good stuff. Thank you for the stories. I’ve also seen dogs, cats, and horses sharing the limelight in Tinseltown.



    1. Omar,

      My mom favored KFC herself, especially if it came with a double dose of potatoes and gravy. It still can’t beat my grandma’s fried chicken, though. How she made it so crisp but not greasy is a mystery to me – probably a combination of that cast iron skillet and lard.

      I’ve never seen a trained chicken in person, but I did once know a cockatiel that would whistle “Yankee Doodle”, and then spread out his wings and scream, “I’m an eagle!” It was hysterically funny – I wonder what chickens would say if they had a voice?


  7. Thanks for that exquisite first photo. Thanks for Luminous Lint. Thanks for the chicken post. And thanks for bringing up Herzog. I can’t say I enjoy all his films, but his work has to be seen. I love that about his crew refusing to film the chicken. That’s pure Herzog legend.

    PBS has a wonderful documentary about a man who lived with turkeys. THAT has to be seen to be believed. You will never look at ANYTHING the same ever again.

    1. Martha,

      You’re welcome, times four! (And thanks to Gary Myers, too, for doing my leg work and finding that archived newsreel of Flannery.)
      Wouldn’t you love to come across a photo like that kid and his chicken in your family history research? Put that pair on a front porch, and geneology would get even more interesting, fast.

      I’d not seen “Stroszek” until I came across the clip I included while I was searching youtube for dancing chickens. I beat it down to the library and checked it out – it’s a wonderful, strange film.

      I just was mentioning turkeys up above. I’ll check out the documentary. Thanks for mentioning it!


  8. When I was growing up, chickens in backyard coops were a common sight in most towns, but I never encountered one that could serve more than two purposes: one having to do with eggs and the other having to do with — well, you know.

    My “aunt” Jenny kept chickens, and she often told me that they were the most stupid of animals, though the daily news almost never failed to contradict her. Well, those maligned chickens are more than vindicated by your wonderful account. They weren’t stupid. They simply never got a break!

    1. Charles,

      You never fail to provide a smile. The daily news is a rich source of cautionary tales, and more often than not the chickens look good in comparision.

      Show business is a hard business. Who knows how many yard hens are out there scratching their life away, swapping tales of Ginger and wondering if there’s a way to get to Broadway without landing on somebody’s plate accompanied by two sides and a roll?

      On the other hand, at least a few of them made the big time!


  9. Oh, and if I remember correctly, many of the chicken “dances” were created by heated surfaces that were uncomfortable and downright painful for the birds.

    1. Martha,

      I did read about that. Apparently,once Skinner and his techniques became better known, the hot-plate technique became less common. I’m sure fewer chickens were harmed in the production of the dances, and doing less harm certainly would have been better for the bottom line of the chicken-owner!


  10. I found my sister’s chickens to be quite entertaining and got several blog posts out of them. She got rid of them when her husband died, though. She was tired of taking care of them and it was costing her more in feed than she was getting in eggs.

    1. Ellen,

      Oh, that silly old cost-benefit analysis – if I’d done that more often through the course of my life, I’d have been faster to get rid of a lot more than chickens.

      They are entertaining creatures, even when they’re just busy out in the yard. Now I’m curious about your posts. I’ll come by and have a look!


  11. Only on your blog can we read about all these forgotten/unknown pieces of history. You’re right, this sort of chicken feat cannot be repeated or filmed nowadays as they would be politically incorrect. I mean, even the possession of shark fins is now an offense in Cowtown. Chicken rights are safe and well protected I’m sure.

    Metaphor? … for the fun and harmless (both chickens and men) simple joy of bygone years that are now wrongdoings for they violate animal rights … while we can watch in the comfort of our home a human being dismembered or crowds of people being slaughtered in public venues such as a movie theatre. Times sure have changed… we’re much more civilized now.

    1. Arti,

      Got your tongue in your cheek just a bit, eh? To paraphrase the old folks, civilized is as civilized does.

      The irony is that farmers, street performers, hobbyists and even animal lovers with only a single chicken or rabbit often have far more experience with animals than the politically-motivated crusaders. Farmers who depend on their cattle or chickens for profit have a vested interest in treating them well and maintaining their health. People like Flannery, who keep chickens as pets, develop relationships with them and care deeply about their well-being.

      I don’t mean to diminish the importance of cleaning up ag operations that are overcrowded, sometimes filthy and lacking in any respect for the animals. We’ve all seen the photos and read the articles, and they’re awful. And we all know about the puppy mills and people who obsessively collect animals they can’t care for. But not every animal trainer or owner is insensitive at best and cynically profit-driven at worst.

      Free the chickens! that’s what I say. Let them dance and play tic-tac-toe. Maybe we should dance along with them.


      1. BTW, Werner Herzog into chicken feats … I’m all mesmerized. Funny his crew wouldn’t participate… just shows who’s the auteur.

        1. Doesn’t it, though? I’ve known someone who was terrified of chickens – maybe that was part of the crew’s reluctance. Still, that little vingette from Ebert is nearly as mysterious as the portrait of Henri and his rooster!

  12. I find this to be a very “you” post, as some of your other commenters have noted.

    Thanks for directing us to the blog of Gary Myers. I think I’d followed your sidebar link to his blog once before, because the fact that he’s in the Finger Lakes seemed familiar just now. (I lived in that region for half a year in 1971, and I found it quite an impetus for my early photography.)

    Thanks also for the link to Luminous Lint, which I assume is an alliterative reference to the fiber in photographic paper.

    As for gallinaceous fowl, I don’t have a lot to contribute, except to say that on some of my visits to the Philippines I found it difficult to keep sleeping in the early morning because of nearby roosters crowing their heads off. Too bad their owners couldn’t have trained them to be quiet.

    I do remember the strange ending of the movie Stroszek. A few decades ago I saw that and several other films by Herzog, but I’ll have to admit they didn’t do much for me then. Perhaps I’d have a different reaction now, perhaps not.

    1. Steve,

      That’s me, all right. Tic-tac-toe playing chickens, pimento cheese sandwiches and the radar signature of bats – oddments run amok.

      Thanks for mentioning the probable source of “luminous lint”. I never would have thought of that. While I had a bit of darkroom experience at camp, I came so late to photography that it had all gone digital. In fact, I had to revise one of my posts when I spoke of a photo being “developed” rather than “uploaded”. World-views change slowly.

      I was one of “those” rooster owners. I mentioned Mr. McBawck, my Liberian rooster. He had a bad habit of beginning his crowing about 4 a.m. I lived next to a surgeon who often kept erratic hours, and sleep was precious to him. Needless to say, there were discussions.

      Eventually, he purchased McBawck for the grand sum of $25. Strangely enough, the rooster disappeared not long after, and there was chicken on the surgeon’s table the next weekend. Waste not, want not. ;)


  13. I enjoyed reading these stories from much simpler, calmer, dare I say “less progressive” days. I wonder today, in our big cities, how many people have ever touched a chicken or (probably very darn few) filched an egg from beneath a laying hen.

    1. montucky,

      My first thought was, “But some of these stories are quite current. Herzog made his film in 1977, after all.” Then I remembered – that’s 35 years ago. Oops!

      But your point’s well taken. One reason the various animal exhibits and “petting pens” are so popular at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is that they give kids (of all ages) a chance to touch and sometimes hold exotic animals – like chickens and bunnies.

      When I was a kid, we often went to Kentucky to visit friends of my parents. They lived on a farm, and one of my favorite activities was going out to “pick eggs”. They tried to teach me the difference between gathering eggs and picking apples, but the lesson never took.


  14. “Here’s an old fowl that walks backward to go forward so she can look behind to see where she went.” Something about that rings so disconcertingly true.

    I was half afraid to read how the Skinner box works, especially after watching the dancing chicken, whose moves reminded me of a cat on a hot tin roof, not that I’ve ever *seen* a cat on a hot tin roof. Regardless — were the training techniques humane?

    1. Hippie,

      That line about walking backward stopped me, too. It reminds me of the old line about the centipede that tried to figure out which foot to move next – poor thing ended up paralyzed in the ditch, unable to go anywhere.

      The Skinner Box isn’t particularly lethel. In the simplest form, there’s a lever that dispenses a treat for desired behavior, and other means of “punishing” undesired behavior. Sometimes the “punishment” simply is the withholding of the treat, and sometimes it’s more direct, like a slight electric shock. But they’re not a chamber of horrors.

      In fact, training a chicken to play tic-tac-toe is simple. From the link: “The electronics [in the modified Skinner box] simulates game after game of tic-tac-toe, so that a chicken will sit through hundreds of games each day. When the chicken makes a correct answer they get a treat, a wrong answer produces no reward.”

      Whether being denied a treat is humane is an open question, of course!


    1. Anne,

      I’m laughing like crazy, because it just occurred to me – Do you suppose a chicken walking backwards might be an example of (drum roll, please!) poultry retrograde? ;)


  15. Oh chickens! I actually remember seeing a picture of the headless chicken (all black and white only back then).
    We also would see tic tac toe chickens in old gas station/tourist traps when traveling west as a kid…we always begged for money so we could play them – but never got a chance.

    Chickens around here had chicken coops – I’ll never forget the first time I saw chickens fly up into a tree at dusk to roost for the night – I’d never really seen chickens fly with a plan or purpose before then..(.flying at your head if you had to feed them or look for eggs didn’t count – that was just mean. Bad chicken. Bad..no wonder you get your neck wrung!)
    Nice read – thanks

    1. phil,

      Am I envious? Oh, yes, I am. You got to see tic-tac-toe chickens! All we got to do was look for weird license plates and read Burma Shave signs. Well, and collect those felt pennants that inevitably had a mountain or an Indian Chief on them, or run a penny through one of those penny-flattening machines.

      I had the same response the first time I saw the Muscovy ducks at Skipper’s fly. Somehow it never had occurred to me they could do that. Perhaps, like most chickens, they just never really wanted to do that. As for “bad chicken” – I did get chased by a rooster once. I’m told I went over a wood rail fence like an Olympian. Bad chicken, indeed!


        1. Ah, ha! There’s one of the upsides of only-childhood – no need to share the back seat. I even could stretch out and have a nap in peace – nothing better than being carried home from a trip, listening to the tires underneath and parents murmuring up front. Pure heaven.

  16. Linda, this is what I adore about The Task at Hand. I come here, never knowing what to expect and always leave learning something I never expected to know about a topic I never expected to be delightful and fascinating!

    I have so very little personal experience with chickens, most of which is Easter chicks at the pet store and remembering my dad’s dear childhood friend Pedro who turned up on the dinner table and turned him off chicken for a number of years. Now my chicken memories will be entwined with backward-walking birds!

    1. jeanie,

      The truth is, I never know what to expect around here, either. The strangest things can start me in one direction or another. WIth this one, it was looking at that 1920’s photo, figuring out that Pathé showed up in Flannery’s life about 1930 and suddenly wondering, “What was it about chickens back then?”

      One little side note is that, after they showed Flannery and her backward-walking chicken, the Pathé newsreel went to show several animal “walking backward” by reversing the film. I’m sure people were as amused (and perhaps even amazed) by such tricks as we are when we play with our new technologies.

      I never had one of the colored chicks, but I remember seeing them at the feed store. I think most of them met a sad end long before they could grace a dinner table. It’s just as well that tradition has disappeared!


  17. What struck me about the picture of the boy and rooster was the size of the rooster relative to the size of the boy. If I’d have been the boy, I would not have been looking at the camera!

    “. . .a cumulus of snow white hair . . .” — Wow! How that one word choice transforms a hackneyed cliché into such a vivid word picture. (Pardon me while I put my socks back on. . .!)

    My dad, with his penchant for colorful expressions (“You beat a hen apeckin’.”) and for giving my brother and me silly nicknames, referred to my brother as “Buff Orpington” from time to time. Never having seen it in print, I always thought it was one word, spelled with an “f” instead of a “p”, and that he’d made it up. Imagine my amusement when I discovered it was a breed of chickens. That are blond. Like my brother.

    Belonging as I do to the southern fried realism school, my relationships with chickens have historically involved flour, hot grease and paper towels.

    And while we’re riffing on chickens, there’s Jo Anne Worley’s catchphrase from the old TV show, “Laugh-In” – “Is that another chicken joke!?”

    1. WOL,

      That is a big bird, isn’t it? I’d love to know the story behind the image. I did notice the bird is banded. That’s not just some rooster that wandered in from the street.

      I finally got myself together and did a search for “Henri Groulx”. The photo’s all over the internet. One poster suggested it might be one of the earliest photos of Hunter S. Thompson as a child. Now, that’s funny.

      Of course I had to run off and see what a Buff Orpinton looks like. I came across a photo of one fella holding one of his, and I swear that chicken looks as big as the rooster up above. They’re beautiful birds, too – what my grandma would have called a fancy chicken. I don’t know what breed(s) she had, but they were plain white. I can imagine her saying, “No matter the color of the feathers, they all taste the same.”

      I’d forgotten Jo Anne Worley. Lo and behold – the “Laugh-In” anniversary show’s on YouTube, in five segments. We can enjoy the anti-chicken joke militant again!


      1. Your Grandma probably had Leghorns. (Remember Foghorn Leghorn?) Don’t know what kind my grandma had (the one that kept chickens. The other one crocheted) but I vaguely remember some “redheads” and black ones. I wasn’t allowed near the chickens because of the snakes. Never mind that they were almost always chicken snakes. An “almost” in copperhead country kept everybody on their guard, and mothers of young children on the border of hysteria. The latest in a series of black nondescript dogs, all named Coal-y (as in coal-colored), seemed to know instinctively that I was the one to shadow. Whenever we’d visit, we’d always have fried chicken, cooked in a large open iron skillet. I think I was 7 or 8 before I realized just how fresh that chicken was.

        On the subject of Foghorn Leghorn, one of our local TV stations used to run whatever old 1930’s and 1940’s movie cartoons they could get their mitts on — all the old Warner Bros Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Harmon-Ising, Popeye, the occasional Betty Boop, etc. — in the 3-5 p.m. time slot for the after school crowd to keep them out of momma’s hair while she was making dinner (which, according to the 1950’s time table was to be on the table at 6 o’clock on the dot). Those cartoons were aimed at adult movie goers, and were clever and sophisticated. They were an education in themselves. Even today I’m still discovering gags and figuring out references I missed the first 100 times through.

        1. I certainly do remember Foghorn Leghorn! And one fine-looking chicken he was! As a matter of fact, I might set him against one of those snakes – well, a chicken snake, anyhow.

          I’ve never encountered a copperhead. Rattlers and coral snakes, and lots of corn and grass snakes up in Iowa. The closest I ever got to a snake was in Liberia – a black mamba thought it might make its way into the house while I was holding the screen door open to sweep out some dirt. I got him, but it wasn’t bravery – it was pure reflex. He had his head across the threshold and I just pulled the door closed. I still don’t know how I managed it. Maybe it was from watching Grandma separate all those chickens from their heads…

          I don’t remember after-school cartoons at all. It may be that I wasn’t allowed to watch until I had my homework done – or I could have been up to something else. I may be enough older that they weren’t on yet, too. My biggies were Howdy Doody and Shari Lewis, with her puppet named Lambchop.

          Speaking of Shari Lewis – I finally figured out the reason the character Hushpuppy in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” seems so familiar is that Hushpuppy also was the name of one of Lewis’ puppets. It is an amazement, the things we remember. If only I could find my car keys…


  18. When I lived in North Carolina, one of the chickens destined to contribute drumsticks, thighs and a breast somehow jumped off the truck and wandered around the neighborhood. My daughter had a couple of friends stay over that weekend. I have video of the chicken they named “Daisy” enjoying jumping on the trampoline with them. I think she cheated using those wings to achieve higher jumps.

    The cats didn’t bother her. We fed her for a few days until she wandered off. The chicken farmer’s mother-in-law swore she didn’t turn Daisy back in to the chicken farm. But she had a yellow rod through her beak (Used when they transport them? I wasn’t happy about it, but she could eat and drink with it.) that proved she was a chicken on the lam.

    1. Claudia,

      Well, there we are. You win the crazy-chicken prize. Imagining that chicken having a go at the trampoline with your daughter and her friends is pretty funny. Of course, the next thing I imagined was a pillow fight with the feathers still attached, rather than plucked and stuffed in a bag, but that’s entirely warped and I apologize for bringing it up. (Sort of…)

      I don’t know about that rod. I did some quick browsing about chicken transport and swore off industrially-raised chicken all over again, but I did find some great photos showing some ways to market that weren’t quite so foul. Check out the last one especially – love that the eggs produced on the way to market belonged to the train crew!


  19. Oh my goodness. If there’s an antique photo of a wee little lad (albeit French) who can smoke a cigarette at 6, I guess there’s something to that crazy camp song “Boom, boom, ain’t it great to be crazy?” It goes like this “I had a little chickie that wouldn’t lay an egg, so I poured hot water up and down his leg. Poor chickie cried, poor chickie begged, poor little chickie laid a hard boiled egg.”

    I need to ask our farm neighbor across the road what she knows about these creatures since she insists on getting a few each year, but sadly they escape or fall victim to prey during the night. It just seems to me they should hang around a little longer than they seem to do.
    To think Flannery O’Connor’s little newsreel perhaps gave the idea to filmmakers to put moving pictures in reverse! You really have your fingers on the pulse of when certain moments in time were first born.

    Again, I loved all of this! Thank you.

    1. Georgette,

      It’s funny to think of it now, but that wee little lad wasn’t the only one. As late as the 50s, while the boys were behind the barn smoking their cornsilk, we were on our bicycles, heading down to the gas station that had a penny candy counter. We’d buy packs of candy “cigarettes” – white, with pink tips to mimic the flames. We didn’t pretend to smoke them, though. We just ate them. They were candy, after all!

      I’ve never heard your camp song. I like it a lot. It reminds me of our old joke: “What did the baby chicken say when he found an orange in his nest?” “Oh! Look at the orange marmelade!” Gosh, we had a low bar for what was funny – but we were six, ourselves.

      I know a few chicken owners, and it’s a constant battle to keep them safe. Apparently everything in the world thinks chicken tastes pretty good! I’ve also read a couple of stories about roosters who were equally good at defending their hens. Chicken chivalry isn’t dead!


  20. Oh my goodness! I have been out of the chicken loop! I hadn’t ever heard or read these chicken stories. That first picture, Portrait of Henri Groulx and a Rooster, is a hoot. I sure laughed seeing it. I do love photographing roosters yet do not get around chickens or roosters enough. Now, I have stories in my brain due to this delightful post. LOL Chickens… of all things.

    Thanks, Linda, for a delightful read!

    1. Anna,

      Don’t be chicken! Get out there and photograph! Tell stories! You and Preston both do wonders with horses and cattle – I can only imagine what you might come up with, chicken-wise.

      I seem to have been sensitized to chickens since writing this. A friend and I drove down to a little town on the bay for dinner last night and there were chickens everywhere – black ones, red ones, and some pretty buff-colored ones. Of course they’re living free of the constraints of homeowners’ associations – but even in my area, you can sometimes hear a rooster.

      There’s one chicken mystery I haven’t been able to solve yet. I’m sure you remember the “Do-Bee” and “Don’t Bee” from Romper Room. One of my teachers used to try and mold our behavior by using a couple of characters called “Chicken Do” and “Chicken Don’t”. I’ve not been able to find anything at all about the pair. I’ve about come to the decision that they were her own inventions. They were memorable, I’ll say that!

      Glad you enjoyed the stories, and young Henri, too!


  21. The basketball-playing chicken in Don Burleson’s video is named Michael Jord-hen. And then there’s Henrietta “Ginger” McClucksky, and that wonderful quote from Anderson Punch: “I’ve had some lean times, but I never had to eat one of my chickens.”

    Our affection for barnyard birds is strangely heartwarming. Thank you for this post, Linda.

    1. Charles,

      Of all the phrases I never thought I’d search for, “strange names for chickens” is right up top. But, I just did a search, and was highly rewarded. “Click, Clack and Cluck” for a trio of hens. “Large Marge”. Two roosters named “Omelet” and “Benedict”. And a George Foreman admirer who named his flock, “Chicken, Chicken, Chicken, Chicken and Chicken”.

      Heartwarming? Yes. Strange? Yes. But I find myself developing this strange urge to raise a chicken….

      Glad you enjoyed it!


  22. I had a chicken that ran backwards but it was due to a head injury and I was relieved when she started walking forward again. I’ll be happy when my hens start laying eggs — no other tricks required. As for names, I was going to name them after coffee beans (like Kona) but they have emerged to have personalities that have led to calling them Curious Georgey, Broke Toe Tilly, Backwards Betty, and Big Buffy.

    1. Maery Rose,

      Now, that astonishes me – not only that an injury could cause her to run backwards, but even more than she healed up and put it in forward! And lucky you, to have some eggs in your future. I am able to get some fresh ones now and then. It’s amazing how much better they taste, and how they improve baked goods.

      I love the names you’ve given your hens. They do reveal personality sometimes, or physical characteristics that make it so clear what their name should be. I hang around with mallards more than chickens, and over the years there have been plenty with names: Little Duck, Broken Wing, Ron and Don the Ducky Boys, and Big Mama. Big Mama was the best. She was normally sized, but one summer she successfully raised seventeen ducklings!

      So nice to have you stop by! You’re always welcome!


  23. There I was, still wondering what came first, the chicken or the egg and deciding that both are only good for one thing, namely eating, when up comes your post telling me that, apparently, chickens are born entertainers, particularly when teamed up with an eccentric owner!

    A delightful post.

    1. friko,

      They are entertainers, and entertaining – and heaven knows there are a lot of eccentric chicken owners out there. Just for grins, I did a search a minute ago for “the secret life of chickens”. As it turns out, there was an hour-long program that aired on BBC2 called – “The Secret Life of Chickens”! You can find a synopsis here, on the BBC site!

      Glad you enjoyed the post – and thanks for the tip on the Pelargonium. It’s on my list of things to explore after work tonight.


    1. Ginnie,

      And the best part of your comment? I can see my grandmother, standing out in the middle of her chickens, watching one or the other of them do this or that while she wiped her hands on her apron and said, “Well, I declare…”

      As for all this coming from a chicken in a portrait, it reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s wonderful observation: “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

      I suspect you agree!


  24. Sorry to be such a poor correspondent. Finally have got myself over here, and so, so glad I did. This is brilliant. How fortunate we are that you took time to delve into chickenology–clearly an extraordinarily rich field of study!

    1. Susan,

      I’m surprised again by the power of a chance phrase to stir the neurons into life. You mention being “a poor correspondent” (which you’re not) and I’m suddenly right back here. It’s not the most elegant Proustian moment, but I surely enjoyed remembering the song.

      The very word “chickenology” makes me laugh, and anything that makes me laugh is worthy of more exploration. Glad you enjoyed it, too!


  25. chock-full of so many interesting tidbits of history. at first i was thinking how much time the folks in the 20’s & 30’s had on their hands and then realized that if they were living and/or able today, they’d be social networking:-)

    the chicken who walked backwards reminds me of brady, our irish setter who is now 5 months old. when he begins to enter a room where he isn’t permitted or rather at a time when he’s not permitted, i say, “ut, you get back” and he walks backward through the doorway.

    1. sherri,

      Subtract social networking, television and the internet and there would have been a lot of “disposable time”, I suspect. On the other hand, subtract microwaves, automatic dishwashers, washer/dryer combos, etc., and the time required to complete the basic tasks of daily life increases, too.

      It’s a fact that a lot of entertainment was home-based, too. Chicken-training. Watching the dog. Music of all sorts. Conversation. Reading. For the kids – throwing a ball. Jacks. Playing with the dog. Stealing watermelons. (Oh, whoops! But still – entertaining, especially for the old geezer on the front porch with rock salt in his weapon.)

      Love the story of Brady. I can just see him, almost embarassed by his puppy over-enthusiasm. Shoot – he just wants to be with you!


  26. Interesting post. The next time you are in the Bayou State, ask if there is any local watering establishment that offers the “Chicken Drop” game. I’ve never been to one, but I understand that they are a hoot, or maybe in this case I should say “Cackle.” J.

    1. J.,

      OK, I had to go look. Seems the most famous game is at Ambergris Key, but I’m sure there are more if I kept searching, including those in your fine state. At least it doesn’t involve dropping live birds from helicopters. I seem to remember that being tried with turkeys one Thanksgiving, with truly bad results.

      There’s a related game played up in the midwest, and here in Texas, too, if you get far enough out of the city. It involves a cow and a much larger game board.

      Thanks for – uh – dropping by!


    1. Juliet,

      The nice thing about chickens is that even when there aren’t moorhens or heron about, they’re a little window into the bird world! One thing I’ve learned over the course of writing this post is that they certainly can be beautiful – striking, even. I may have to put a chicken judging competition on my list of things to do when the next fair rolls around!


  27. Hi Linda,
    I got to read this one in your blog header. Too funny!!! I grew up on a farm with plenty of chickens and roosters.
    They are funny animals!
    Thank you for the big smile!

    1. Patti,

      You know as well as I do – you can take the girl off the farm, but the affection for that life never dies. And there’s nothing more fun than introducing someone who’s never been around chickens to their – uh – peculiarities!

      Besides, if you start to get overrun with the things, they taste pretty good, too!


  28. I love that picture a the top and think it looks very ‘Maggie Taylor esque’. The chicken stories are a hoot but I really loved your lead in sentence!! ….my schedule changed…

    The humor and clean clarity of your work is sooo refreshing!!

    1. Judy,

      I’ve never heard of Maggie Taylor! Now I have. Even better, I’ve seen some of her art. My goodness! I was especially fond of Midnight Swim. I can’t wait to get a few minutes to do some more exploring. My first impulse is to say she’s a mix of Dali and Edward Gorey, but that’s not a final conclusion.

      Is there an “illusionist” school of art or photography? That would do as a label, too. More exploration is needed.

      Humor and clarity – high praise, that. Thanks!


      1. I do look at Maggie Taylor as a surrealist and illusionist and as having qualities that range from the playful to mystical to slightly disturbing. As I understand she used to be much more camera oriented in her captures for her multi-layered compositing but now uses a hi res flat bed scanner or scanners for capturing her various found objects to compose with. I do think she is brilliantly quirky and one can easily get lost in the details of her compositions.

        Her husband is Jerry Uelsmann. He was doing surrealist photography way before Photoshop. His darkroom skills are unmatched. Poking around the work of both of these artists is so fun and thought provoking. Maggie’s work is the intro of the show Ghost Whisperer. I first saw Maggie Taylor’s work at the Art Basel Show in Miami a few years ago. I saw The Girl in the Bee Dress and connected it with the show as soon as I saw it.

        I am in fact so enthralled with the idea of scanning things, that for my pending family project for scanning our personal archive..I have chosen a scanner that will allow me to play as well do the preservationist thing. Can’t wait. If you like Photoshop ultimately you will want to create composites with your pictures. I think anyway. I am just playing but here is one I just did for my delightful, one and only, grandchild. Most likely I have mixed up myths: do only elves have pointy ears and only fairies have wings? Her name is Elise which at the LOTR website I obtained her elven name is Isawien! See – it gets contagious!!

        I think the Luminous Lint site has some stuff on surrealist photography too, was poking around that yesterday but couldn’t find the boy with the chicken!! Maggie Taylor does use old tin type images in her work. One of the things that makes the children’s pictures so unreal is that they had to still for so long for the exposure that they take on a certain defiance!! Thank goodness we have high shutter speeds today!!

        Forgive the ramble in a post reply.

        1. Judy,

          Rambles are not only allowed, but encouraged. I like to think of it as mental gunkholing.

          I did have to laugh at your off-handed comment about liking photoshop. I have photoshop elements, and I have Corel Paintshop Pro. Can I figure out either one of them? Fat chance. I can do basic editing, and I have a whole sheaf of papers printed out that explain how to do textures with Corel, but it’s very much a teeth-grinding, “put tab A in slot B” kind of experience. I do think the missing ingredient is patience, and I’ve found a couple of videos that were helpful for specific things, but….

          The truth is that, for me, PicMonkey does just fine. I love good photography, and have an eye for the occasional good capture, but when it comes to really learning the skills – I’d rather mess with words. Besides, just as with Plato, there are true photographers who sometimes are generous enough to share their work!

          I found quite a good WSJ article about Uelsmann’s work. It helped get a sense of what he is about, and how amazing it is that he was able to accomplish so much in the pre-photoshop days.

          I particularly appreciated this final paragraph: “Ansel Adams will have an exhibition later in the series and, although he is considered a straight photographer, those familiar with his technical brilliance know how much his prints owe to manipulation in the darkroom. In the end, all artful photographs are mediated, either as Adams did to appear more natural, or as Mr. Uelsmann does to establish an independent domain.”

          I’ve gone round and around with a friend about this. She insists she’s a “pure” photographer and that she never, ever “manipulates” her photos. I tell her she’s manipulating as soon as she selects a subject and settings, and chooses what appears in the viewfinder. I fully intend to send her this piece. Then, she’ll send me something she’s found, and we’ll agree it would be fun to sit down with a glass of wine and talk about it some more.

          But beyond all that – your granddaughter is beautiful! I’m no expert on ears and wings, but I love the elfin name, and the sense of serenity she seems to project. How wonderful it must be to have the talent to capture the essence of a person, as well as their surface image!


          1. Well the sin of editing has long been on my mind. Except that I reconciled it early on. When I bought my first digital camera I did get the sense that some people felt using Photoshop was cheating. But, as I learned I realized that the digital darkroom aka Photoshop went hand in hand with the digital capture. After all, film photographers use techniques to get their effects too. What Uelsmann did without Photoshop does stand apart. “Straight” photographers did perfect darkroom skills to achieve their photographic art. Another great line from Ansel Adams is: ” Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” Irreverent perhaps, you get the idea. It is art. And, actually many times I’ve treated a photograph it is to get on screen what I actually saw which made me want the picture, not to necessarily alter reality. Even though I am not ashamed to say that sometimes I might do that if vision strikes.

            One of my favourite personal themes for my own attitude is what I call the “Life of the Image.” Photography does not just document and it does not just capture a frozen moment. The life of the image is what it took to capture it…did you hang upside down on the side of a cliff, did you snap it quickly and jump up before the alligator got too close, did you stand up on top of your car in the middle of traffic to get the right angle??? I started taking pictures when looking at someone else’s made me want to stand where that photographer stood. Its the story, the adventure..the life of the image!!

            Remember too that even documentary photographs are often taken with an agenda…sometimes things are included in a scene for the message. Standing in a different spot might deliver a less loaded message. So I think those who object to Photoshop feel that it is an issue of truth. You can lie in many ways, Photoshop is only a tool. I can remember having to plead with a camera shop to crop a photo back in film days…let alone heaven forbid…enhancing the color or light.

            Lastly (well for now this is a great topic), if the concern is laziness…as in I didn’t set my camera right and so the picture is too dark or too light or too……..I’ll fix it in Photoshop. Someone should not neglect the basics and should keep learning the skills of proper photography and composition and secure the best possible capture. Photoshop should not be considered just a rescue effort. It is a creative tool to achieve your vision from your digital negative!!

            So just enjoy the gift at your fingertips!! Unless you had access to a darkroom and all the chemical supplies that went along with it, you probably never got to create with your photography before.

            1. Oh, I like this theme, but it does funny things with the threads. I keep the limit at six so we don’t have one word at a time going down the page. You always can just start a new comment.

              Actually, I did have darkroom experience – at summer camp, and when working on the school newspaper. That red light, the smell of the chemicals, the trays – and watching the image slowly emerge. It was magic! Let’s see – development, stop bath, fixing – then maybe a wash? And then hanging them up to dry!

              I truly love your comments above. I’ve found I gain more inspiration from conversations with photographers and painters than with writers. I don’t know why that is, except that I’m fascinated by the creative process.

  29. Good heavens, woman, where do you get these stories? Never heard of a chicken plucking piano keys, or putting coins in a cup, but when I had chickens, Henrietta was my favorite. I thought they were indeed peculiar and entertaining creatures. No one could ever convince me they didn’t have some sort of … chicken intelligence. Once a neighbor’s dogs destroyed my tiny flock of chickens, including Chuck the Duck. I was devastated…and have never had chickens since then. I buy my eggs from the lady down the road.

    1. Martha,

      People always are asking, “How do you find this stuff?” I take it as a sign I’m becoming more Southern. As Miss Mary Flannery herself once said, “Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” ;)

      Chickens are fun, but vulnerable. Everyone who’s raised them seems to have at least one story like yours – too bad you lost your duck, too. I know ducks are intelligent – they can spot a soft touch a mile away. All you have to do around here to sort out the new arrivals from the mallards who’ve been here for a while is walk out on the dock. The ones who’ve discovered those tall, awkward humans carry bread will come running.

      The egg lady I used to buy from has disappeared from the farmer’s market. I hope she’s back in the fall, when the new gardens come in. There’s not much local to be had right now.


  30. Of all the times I considered pets as a child, a chicken never came to mind…trained or otherwise. I guess, given the patience and inclination, most any animal could be trained. All those examples of marvelous chicken antics makes me think that, given the importance of the brain for training, I am somewhat skeptical of a rooster living more than 30 minutes much less 30 days without a head. I know they can run around for a while after decapitation but very long is doubtful…to me anyway. I guess I would have to tell Mr. Ripley…Not! :)

    It’s nice that Mr. Punch never had to eat one of his performers. I mean, I could never eat an animal with whom I had a relationship. A story from my youth. I dated a young woman while in community college from a Portuguese family (I am not sure whether the nationality matters, but it was the case here) and one Sunday in April I visited and we were all playing with their pet bunny. A few weeks later I visited and no bunny. I asked where he was and found out that he had been Easter dinner.

    I think the chicken in Stroszek may well be dancing to Sonny Terry.

    1. I had a pet rooster in Liberia. He roosted on my bicycle handlebars at night, inside a screen-in porch. Unfortunately, he really enjoying crowing from about 3 or 4 a.m. on, and the on-call surgeon next door didn’t appreciate it. Peace in the community was important, so I sold him Mr. McBawk. The next Sunday, McBawk was dinner. Sigh.

      I was greatly surprised that I was able to train my cat in some important ways. She won’t go out onto the patio, for example. She’s learned that she’s not to go through that door, and she doesn’t. She’ll sit right there and watch, but never makes a move. Of course, she was a good kitty by nature: never clawed furniture or jumped up on tables. She won’t eat human food, either. The ony thing I can’t break her of is nibbling on the African violets. They look pretty bad around the edges, but I’ve put them up beyond her reach, and may give them away once they’re recovered.

      Love the Sonny Terry suggestion. Or it might be T-Model Ford. Either would do.

    1. I’d forgotten about this post, and just enjoyed it all over again. Like you, we had those chicken-filled fairs, and of course those also were the days of baby Easter chicks. Thank goodness they’ve stopped dyeing them pink and green and giving them to children as gifts! Dyed eggs are just fine, by dyed chicks are something else.

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