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The hen that cackles has left the coop


“Sorry Ma’am! Sorry Ma’am! Sorry Ma’am!”

A wide-eyed, 30-year-old man stood in disbelief, apologizing.

In a split second, up and down the aisle of the Southwest airliner, fifty heads turned backwards to look.

I expected my Sweet Al to jump up and shield me from all the stares.

He didn’t; he sat there with his head turned backwards, and he was looking, too.

Apparently, I didn’t slide the “Occupied” lock over completely.

That was how we began our yearly trip to Grass Valley, California. It was a small thing, but it seems to me something crazy always happens when we travel.

It’s always hard to leave home. I love the predictability of our lives and the heart-warming little things in Pagosa. But, it is necessary to get out of our comfort zone in order to enjoy our oldest daughter’s family.

Once we got there, we settled in as if we’ve lived there for years, and we didn’t want to leave. We are nesters at heart.

We left with four suitcases, bought one and came home with five. Some things don’t change. That’s another story.

Upon our arrival in Grass Valley, we heard the news: Keith, our son-in-law, announced, “I opened the doors to the chicken coop and the chickens are free to leave.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “I look forward to having fresh eggs. There is nothing like them.”

“Those eggs have become too expensive. We were getting one egg a week. Chicken feed is expensive. We’ve had chickens for twelve years and I’m tired of messing with them.”

The four chickens stayed around the house for a couple of days, and then began to stray. One chicken found its way back into the open coop and continued to eat the scraps from the table. A pile of feathers in the front yard indicated that one chicken didn’t live long to enjoy its freedom.

The other two chickens were on the lam.

When our son in-law came home from work the next day, there was a bright orange sign on the mailboxes at the end of their road. It read: “Found Two Chickens.” It had an address and a telephone number to call.

I asked, “Are you going to call and get your chickens back?”

“No. I don’t want them. I know the house and they have children, and they will enjoy the chickens.” The chickens were half a mile down the road.

My Sweet Al had been going to the chicken coop every day to find that one egg.

No eggs. Al said the chicken that stayed has been singing.

I told him I’ve never heard a chicken sing.”

“Well, it has been.”

I surmised that it was probably happy to have the chicken coop to itself, or maybe it was hard to leave home. She was getting food scraps every day, the door was open and she was not venturing out. Maybe the world was too big out there for her and home wass too comfortable.

Our daughter drove passed the mailboxes and came home to report the sign for the two lost chickens was gone. Her husband admitted he took it down.

We are all creatures of habit: Some are comfortable staying in a cozy nest. Some are off for a new adventure.

Final brushstroke: The chicken that cackles has flown the coop, and someone else is enjoying a fresh egg once a week. There is a song in the air: “There’s no place like home.”

Artist’s quote

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” — Robert Brault.

Readers’ comments

E-mail your comments to A copy of “Spirit of the Red Candle, Journal of Mary Magdalene” is now on the newly-released shelf at the Ruby Sisson Library.

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