Austin bureau chief Caren Jeskey has previously written on the theme, "Hail chickens." Today's could be considered a variation, "Chickens, hail."
It’s been an odd week. That’s saying a lot considering the past few months, nearly all of 2020, and every single day after the horrible night of November 9, 2016.
This is the most stressful time many of us have ever known. We’ve all been brought to our knees, vulnerable and faced with the fragility of life. Aware of the fact that we might lose everything at the drop of a hat— our businesses, our homes, the neighborhood stalwarts we’ve relied on, even our loved ones. We suffered through and pretty much survived our first oligarch. It’s been a bizarre ride, hasn’t it?
At least there are certain things we can still count on, if we are lucky. A hot cup of coffee in the morning. Snow storms in the north. The sounds of crickets lulling us to sleep in early spring in the south. The PBS News Hour, and Teri Gross on NPR. The Sun Times. SNL. The Austin Music scene coming back to life.
Each morning I sit in front of my laptop with a cuppa joe near a floor to ceiling open window. I enjoy the sounds of the wind, blue jays and doves, the crunch of feet on the gravel path a few yards behind my tiny house, and children playing in the park. The chickens bellow out an insistent opera back and forth to each other as they vie for scraps and seeds. The little ones cower and skulk, and sneak bites when they can.
Earlier this week I started noticing a rooster crowing nearby. Cock a doodle doooo! I figured a neighbor down the street must have acquired one of these dapper fellows. I heard the gent on and off for a few days and didn’t think much of it except “oh, Austin. You’re pretty cool.” Today he was a little louder, and much to my surprise I realized the calls were coming from our coop. How could that be? We don’t have roosters, only hens. A rooster would mess up the delicate balance of the egg laying ladies.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Blanche. Lately I’d found myself marveling at her dinosaur talons and noticing how quickly she was growing. She was gigantic, towering over the others. She was twice as large as her sidekick Thelma, yet they had come to us as a pair of teeny chicks.
Blanche was no hen. She was a young rooster, a cockerel.
I texted Wilson, my landlord, and filled him in. He responded “yes, I realized it too. We’ll have to get rid of her soon.” We are still calling her “her.” I decided to hang out with her a bit today, to get used to the fact that she is, in fact, a he. I could tell right away that she was different. Thelma seemed scared of her. When Blanche tried to straddle her, she shape-shifted before my eyes from the cute little hen I’d watched grow up into a domineering cock. When I let Wilson know what I’d seen he said “oh, no. We’ll have to get rid of her sooner than I’d thought.” Poor Blanche. This gang is all she’s ever known.
The hail lasted several minutes and I told myself “this will pass. Everything is OK.” When it was over I stepped outside to a lawn peppered with little white balls. I collected a few, the largest were green-grape sized, and popped them into the freezer. I’m not sure why, but it seemed fun, and the right thing to do. Something my Dad would have done when we were kids.
It’s been hard for me to sleep this week after I had the unfortunate side effect of “COVID Arm” after my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. 11 days after the shot I developed huge red welts that look like burns and itch like the dickens, first around the vaccine site and then in random spots all over my upper body. Today is day 19 after the dose, and I noticed some new welts pop up. I saw the doctor, and as I expected, they are a known reaction and will go away. (Or so they say). The angry welts kept me up for days, and now the hail prevented yet another good night’s sleep. As I drifted back to sleep with the help of Benadryl, the chickens and I stayed safe. At about that same moment, straight line winds knocked down brick buildings in Bertram Texas, less than 50 miles north of here.
And how was your week?
I WON’T HATCH
Oh I am a chicken who lives in an egg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplanes roar,
So I’m staying in here where it’s safe and it’s warm,
And I WILL NOT HATCH!