The first few weeks at the farm we realized we had inherited some farm animals.
There were two cats skulking around, one huge, multicolored, and soft looking, the other little more than a dark shadow we glimpsed on occasion. Those two cats had been living in that old farm house these last few months, very independently, making entry through a glassless window. My bet was that the huge soft-looking one was a terrific snake and rat killer. He also liked his privacy; he tried his best to ignore that we were intruding. Once he no longer has the house to himself due to our ministrations to improvements, that big fat one took refuge under the house.
Okay, so that didn’t last too long; the cat vainly turned his back on Neil and Bob every time they climbed under the house to screw a jack a bit tighter. It was weird. I think that cat was willing the weird humans to go away and given failure to accomplish, he eventually lit out for greener pastures. That or the neighbor killed him. The other darker, slimmer cat remained a passing shadow. He too, has left the premises or incurred the fate our neighbor met out to the other.
Then there was Chicken Janet. I am not one to love chickens. I didn’t grow up thinking they were good animals. My dad hated them because basically, a chicken will eat anything, I mean anything, and Dad thought that meant they had to be nastiest things people decided to cook. He probably wasn’t too far off, because despite the highly politically correct place they now hold in the acceptable food chain fit for human consumption, it’s well known they are virtual reservoirs for the dreaded Salmonella. They singlehandedly have created a cottage industry for antibacterial kitchen wipes. Chicken Janet was different though. With great glee, my brother named her that. It was one of those moments, where you can’t quite decide if someone naming a wild chicken after you, is a good or a really bad thing.
Let me explain.
We noticed chicken Janet running across the yard, small and glossy black. I didn’t know chickens came in black. Actually I wasn’t sure she was a chicken or a rooster. We spent the first campfire night, discussing the possibilities of her gender and after rigorous arguments of city logic, we decided. She was a hen. She was cute in a chicken sort of way. Running very fast, like someone was about to chop her head off, she would zig zag from one corner to the next, ducking in and around bushes. It wasn’t immediately clear where she was trying to get to, but eventually as night would fall, she would manage to flap into the tree next to our Cajun kitchen and begin her evening roost.
I began to look forward to seeing Chicken Janet. The whole idea of free range began to take on a different meaning to me. Between the cats and now chicken Janet, I thought, these animals are pretty robust, self sufficient farm types, good attribute in animals for city people like us. Chicken Janet apparently had figured out how to defy the raccoons and coyotes that I know are residents in the woods. Chicken Janet was a survivor. Now if I could just figure out where chicken Janet was laying her eggs, I could gift my mother with something she is always dreaming about, REALLY free range fresh eggs for breakfast.
Husband and brother, for some weird reason, thought this was really funny. They clearly thought the idea of me finding a free ranging chicken’s eggs was.. well, ludicrous, and constantly made fun of my desire to attempt Chicken Janet egg discovery. But despite their imagined obstacles, I began to look forward to visits from chicken Janet and I confess to wanting to know more about her.
The world of chickens is big and complicated as it turns out and to know about a chicken means there are a lot of words and descriptions revolving around the following: a chicken’s ability to produce eggs at all costs, the state of her immune system (think Salmonella), and attitude. (Apparently chickens can be nasty in disposition.)
After some searching and conversation with anyone I thought might be tuned in to chicken world, it became clear she was a Rock Hen. The description fit my Chicken Janet perfectly; independent, good for free range, with one of the most robust immune systems of chickens known, and pleasant.
Armed with this information and a plan to find the eggs she was bound to be laying, I told Mother and the guys.
My brother looked at me with. He had named Chicken Janet for the similarities he had observed in her and me. The big sister Janet who is always telling her younger brother, how healthy she is, moves to a farm and gets a chicken who mirrors her personality. And so he said it, to reinforce the obvious.
“Well, it IS ‘Chicken Janet’ isn’t it?”
Of course, swimming around in my head is the thought that Chicken Janet never seen doing anything but running around like a “chicken with her head cut off”. Neil’s moniker for chicken Janet, is a thinly veiled, although good- natured, classic brotherly taunt.
They all ganged on me after that.
My beloved mother, who generally has a soft heart, joined in on their constant teasing that Human Janet was going to formulate a plan to locate free ranging Chicken Janet’s eggs.
“Janet, how in the world do you think you are going to find Chicken Janet’s eggs?”
“It can’t be that hard.” I responded, “I will use the power of observation.”
The next day, Neil had the first task of farm duties and told me to go stand at the back of the house and tell him where the lowest point of the house was because that area still needed to be jacked up.
Looking at the ground, I stood at the low spot. Mother and Bob were looking on.
“It’s low here.”
“You sure?” Neil said.
“You sure?” Neil asked again.
“WHAT ABOUT LOW DO YOU NOT GET, NEIL?!” my voice escalated to its highest feminine volume.
“Yes, this is the lowest spot, jack the dadblasted thing up. I can see it sagging!”
“Take another look, Janet, just one more to make sure.”
“Geez, Neil, its going to be a long Saturday if you are going to ask me to do something over and over and over.”
Bending over in laughter, Bob and Mother are looking on as Neil gets closer and closer.
“Place this line on the ground right where you think I should put a jack,” Neil said.
I bend over, mover a bit of pine straw around and glare at Neil.
Something registered in my brain. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something. There sitting in the straw was an extra large, store bought egg, shining white under the morning sun. Looking up, the three of them laughing so hard, their voices and glee filled the old farm grounds. They must have been a dozen eggs all around everywhere I had been that morning.
I feigned hurt, made sure I let them enjoy my humility, but secretly I smiled. I thanked God for that the fun and memory.
You know people love you when they take the time to tease you.
If you are wondering, it turned it was mother that found evidence of Chicken Janet’s egg laying propensity. She found them, cracked open not far from where Chicken Janet would roost, the victim of raccoons who thought they were a tasty evening snack. And unfortunately, Chicken Janet either lit out for less populated places or ended up on someone’s dinner plate. We haven’t seen her for a month. That’s the way life is; things change.
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book. ~Irish Proverb
A merry heart doeth good [like] a medicine:
but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22