Today, Auntie Ruth reclaimed her agrarian roots: Her deep, deep rural consciousness stirred from decades of slumber. She visualized the vast plains of the Central Valley and the sweat on the farmer’s brow. The rustling of cattle, the long lines of barbed wire, the hoe, the horse, the furrow, the beauty of water and things a’growin’, y’know, like, out of the ground. Why, just thinking about farming made Aunt Ruth completely exhausted.
Yes, this week, Auntie Ruth has been charged with taking care of her neighbor’s chickens.
There are things to know about chickens. You can eat their eggs for breakfast—and, with seven chickens to watch, each good for up to two eggs a day, you can feed the entire neighborhood eggs for breakfast. Should the chickens start to eat their own eggs—happens when the eggs get broken—you have to give up your vegetarianism, cut off the chicken’s head and feed the neighborhood baked chicken. And that’s more work—better to pick up the eggs.
Chickens think of corn as crack cocaine. Auntie Ruth isn’t sure exactly what kind of corn it is; she just takes these kernel-looking things out of a crusty plastic bucket, throws them on the far end of the pen, and the chickens go ape-crazy for it, peckapeckapeck, allowing Yer Auntie to sneak in the other side of the pen and snatch that one errant egg lying alone at the bottom of the chicken pen. This, after going back to the house to put on shoes and socks, because one can’t bandy daintily about in a chicken coop in Birkenstocks, given all the chicky dung (which, according to Wikipedia, can make an excellent, if concentrated, organic fertilizer).
Chickens seem nice. They gather at the door of the pen when Auntie Ruth arrives. They seem happy to see her, even though she hasn’t been formally introduced and doesn’t know any of the chickens by name, but she does know that the red one is the nice one you can pick up if she, like, escapes.
But mostly, chickens harken back to a time when eggs didn’t come with egg cartons. When eggs came to the table still warm from a squatting mama. When eggs didn’t need an entire dairy industry trucking eggs this way and that at $4 a gallon. Yep, chickens were an eco-animal long, long ago, before Al Gore was born. Comforting, ain’t it?