August 11, 2010

The Chickens are Coming Home to Roost

Sometimes when we drive to work together before 8 a.m., husband and I barely speak, or simply speak at each other in monosyllabic grunts . This quiet time reflects nothing on our long-term, happy relationship -- it reflects that we are not morning people.
I, for one, have not had any coffee yet for I am too lazy to get up and make it, and too worried about hard water build-up to make it the night before.
This week the drive has been melancholy, as we opened the garage door both our glasses steamed up from the heat and humidity. This heat is weary and making us both a little cranky. Correction, a lot cranky.
Monday we drove past some new neighbors, and a peacock was strutting in their front yard. Full frontal plumage, in all the requisite peacock colors.
I looked at husband out of a half-opened eye and grunted, "Was that what I thought it was?"
"Hmmm," the man of a few morning words said, "A peacock."
Nothing else was said, though I thought it was odd to see a peacock in the neighbor's yard. However, it has been so hot and I'm so sick of it that I'm starting to hallucinate most of the time.
We could have seen The Rolling Stones performing in the neighbor’s yard and responded with more monosyllabic grunts.
Tuesday morning, blast furnace effect redux in garage. Driving past the same neighbors, we see ten or twelve laying hens in various colors on the front lawn.
This is generally something you don't see in our neighborhood. Granted we are not a gated community, we have no fancy brick sign with a name like River Oak or High Point Farms or Monosyllabic Manor on it. Most of the homes in our neighborhood are thirty years plus in age, and while custom home and nice at the time, they have aged. Doctors and lawyers don't live here anymore. Teachers and social workers and factory workers live in this great Unnamed Suburban Neighborhood.
We still retain some of the grace of a once upscale neighborhood. Nearly all the mailboxes are mounted in brick and we all have concrete driveways. Yards are well maintained and generally well landscaped. You don't see refrigerators on the front porch, junky trucks in the driveway, decorative trolls in the front yards, or even barns. Most people have decorated yard barns that look like real barns, red or brown with white trim.
But chickens?
Chickens lay eggs, I'm told. My father was a high school agriculture teacher and I seem to remember that's where eggs come from.
Going off the grid does seem to be a popular conversation piece here in the Flyover States, and people here have an abundance of guns, generators, and gardens.
But chickens?
I'm missing something here. And I thought the chickens might be missing something also, because I had not heard a rooster yet. Maybe the peacock knows something we don't know.
Once again, the ag teacher's daughter needed an explanation. Calling on a physician customer at lunch yesterday, I mentioned the strangeness of chickens in our suburban neighborhood and the lack of a rooster.
The physician said, "What about the eggs?" A nurse had to explain to both of us that Americans eat unfertilized eggs, and thus no rooster is needed in the equation. Some Asian countries eat -- and even pay more for -- the treat of fertilized eggs. In this country, we call those chicks.
I suppose the next thing will be the neighborhood chopping block. For readers not privileged to witness the extermination of hens, there are five easy steps:
1. Neck on chopping block (Thus the origination of the phrase, "running around like a chicken with her head cut off.")
2. Feet up, neck down on clothesline, draining blood
3. Feathers plucked
4. Chicken cleaned
5. Fried, fricasseed, baked, broiled, grilled, name your poison
Voila! Sunday dinner chicken at the hands of one wicked grandmother and her hatchet.
Tomorrow it is going to be 98 degrees with 110 heat index. God knows what we will see at the neighbor's house. What's next? Two of every species? I hope so, we could use the rain.