One afternoon one June, two of the Barred Rock hens, Joy Pristine and Mimosa, walked over to the vegetable garden, where Anna Wensleydale was weeding.
The Wensleydale flock is composed of several different varieties of chickens, but of the lot the Barred Rocks seem to be the friendliest. It was one of the Barred Rocks, for example, who, one year during the height of the dreaded Black Fly season, the four weeks or so in spring when the tiny, biting pests seem to reign supreme in Cranberry County, suggested to Peter and Anna, “Why don’t we assign a couple of us to stay with each of you, follow you around whenever you’re out of doors, catching the little rascals before they have a chance to chew on you? After all, we enjoy eating them, and, from our perspective, the two of you make a fine lure!” And, in fact, the idea worked so nicely it has since become standard practice.
“Do you mind if we join you?” Mimosa asked Anna, as she and Joy Pristine came up to their human friend.
“Of course not,” Anna replied.
“You’re weeding, I see,” Joy Pristine observed.
“Yes, it’s endless,” Anna explained. “For every one I pull out, a half dozen seem to sprout in its place.”
“We’ve noticed,” Joy Pristine said. “In fact, we sometimes wonder why you keep doing it.”
“You know, Anna,” Mimosa suggested, “a few of us scratching about in here could easily relieve you of this task. Plus, it would give us access to some nice grubs and other delicacies.”
“If only,” Joy Pristine added, “Cantachiaro would let us.”
“Cantachiaro? What’s he got to do with it?” Anna asked.
The two hens exchanged a furtive glance, as if they had just gotten caught at something. Then, Joy Pristine explained, “Cantachiaro has said that we are to stay out of this part of the garden. He thinks we hens haven’t got enough sense to tell the difference between vegetables and weeds. Confidentially, Anna,” here, the chicken paused as she looked about to confirm she was not being overheard, then came in close, and in a whisper, said, “in some ways, Cantachiaro is living in a bygone era!”
“Cantachiaro?” Anna asked, in disbelief, as much as regards the fact that she was having this conversation about a chicken as regards the substance. “The rooster is living in a bygone era?”
“Oh, yes,” Joy Pristine insisted. “He’s terribly old fashioned. In some ways, even a chauvinist. A pig is the word you humans would use, although I’m sure I don’t know why. We expect it is the old world in him; you know, his continental heritage.”
Mimosa guessed from Anna’s expression that the human was growing increasingly discomfited by this report, so she interrupted to reassure her. “Please do not misunderstand, Anna. Cantachiaro is as kind and gentle as we could want him to be. What Joy Pristine means is that, on certain subjects, he is a bit of a stuffed shirt.”
“A bit?” Joy Pristine responded, with humor. “That bird’s got enough starch in him to open a laundry!”
The two hens laughed.
“I don’t know what to say,” Anna said. “I had no idea.”
“There’s no need for you to say anything,” Joy Pristine offered.
Mimosa agreed. “Cantachiaro’s really a wonderful rooster, Anna, and anyway, we’ve got him well in hand. And besides,” she said, “this is not what we wanted to talk to you about.”
“Oh?” Anna inquired. “What then?”
Now, the two birds exchanged an uncertain look, as if they were unsure which of them should start.
“You tell her,” Joy Pristine urged Mimosa.
“You want me to?” Mimosa asked.
Joy Pristine nodded.
“Very well,” Mimosa said. “Anna, you might not think that chickens concern themselves about such things, but recently some of us have got to thinking that we ought to be planning for the future.”
“For the next generation,” Joy Pristine interjected, quickly.
“Yes, for the next generation,” Mimosa continued. “As we hope both you and Peter understand, none of us minds laying eggs for your table. In fact, we are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful family, and to share in providing for its health. But now we would like to set aside a dozen or so eggs, and allow them to hatch.”
“That’s a wonderful idea!” Anna exclaimed.
“You really think so?” Joy Pristine asked.
“Yes, I do,” Anna confirmed.
“But, wait, that’s not all,” Mimosa cautioned.
“Yes?” Anna said.
Mimosa continued. “Each of the hens that chooses to share in this undertaking will offer an egg for the nest. But we have decided that only one of us shall be the mother. For the sake of the chicks, you understand.”
Anna nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“And by unanimous choice,” Mimosa concluded, “we have selected Joy Pristine.”
Anna sensed that if chickens could blush, Joy Pristine was blushing then.
“And,” Mimosa concluded, “Joy Pristine has agreed, but on the condition that she and Cantachiaro be married.”
“Married?” Anna said, betraying her surprise. “You want to get married?”
Joy Pristine spoke for herself this time. “Perhaps it seems silly to you, Anna, but it is important to me.”
“I don’t think it’s the least bit silly,” Anna said, picking up the bird, and caressing her, to reassure you. “It’s just that, well, you kind of caught me off balance. It’s an excellent thought. No, it’s better than excellent, it’s perfect! I love weddings.”
“You do?” Joy Pristine asked, happily.
“Absolutely,” Anna said. Then, she asked, “But after what the two of you have just told me about Cantachiaro, are you sure you want to marry him?”
They all laughed.
“The Cranberry Tales” is
Copyright © by The Laughing Cat
All Rights Reserved
For copyright information, please click here