Chickens

Do you have chickens in your back yard? A lot of people do these days. It seems to be part of the back to nature trend, going green, eating whole foods, doing it yourself, and making do with what you have. My cousin John had chickens in his back yard. He called them the girls. When John died, the girls probably mourned. They looked forward to his daily pre-dawn feedings and gathering of eggs.

John learned how to care for chickens when we spent summers at our grandmothers in southern Indiana. Grandma had a handful of hens and a rooster who shared the hen house at night and roamed the yard by day. I learned pretty quickly not to go barefoot in the yard. In the early evening, we kids took turns carrying a pie plate full of chicken feed out to the fenced in area that enclosed the hen house and their own private scratching yard. We were a little afraid of them, especially the rooster, so wed reach over the fence and fling the feed.

I dont know how Grandma decided which one would be our dinner one Sunday, but Ill never forget the drama that played out in the side yard. There was Grandma, probably in her 60s at that time, with her foot firmly planted on the chickens head. How she managed to swing that ax and not slice off her foot, Ill never know, but the next thing I saw was a headless chicken flopping around the yard. A fried chicken dinner in those days didnt come in a Colonel Sanders box.

A few years later, when Grandma had had enough of raising chickens, my cousins Carolyn and John and I were playing in the empty chicken house. Inspired by the neighbor boy, who practiced preaching in the outhouse, we thought it would be more fun one Sunday to have our own church service in the hen house than to go to the church down the road. We made grape Kool-Aid, and arranged soda crackers on a plate for communion and set up folding chairs. We took turns being the preacher and the choir. Knowing us girls, we probably made John be the congregation. Grandma must have thought it was amusing to listen from her chair on the back porch. How I wish we had video cameras back then. Id love to hear our sermons and singing. Ill just have to make do with my own remembrance. Both Carolyn and John are gone now, but I hope they are smiling as they look over my shoulder as I write this. Grandma too.

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