Exploring new ways of seeing, new ways of being with an open heart and an open mind
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Barnyard Babies Grow Up
I grew up on a small farm in north central Minnesota. We had several cows, a few pigs, a couple of horses, a dog, more than a few cats, and a whole bunch of chickens. We did not call it a hobby farm. Every spring we would go to the local creamery and pick up the chicks my dad had ordered. That would be baby chickens. On the way home I sat in the back next to them. They were in a lightweight, rectangular cardboard box with individual cubicles. My job was to leave the lid on the box and keep them alive, or so I thought. I took it as a point of personal pride if I could get them all to their new home safe and sound. I don't remember being traumatized by dead chicks, so I must have done alright with that chore. I did not, however, strictly follow all the rules. I peeked into the box. More than once. I might have even reached down and touched their little yellow softness. More than once. The sound alone coming from that box made them completely irresistible.
We would put them in an enclosure in the barn with a very low-hanging light to keep them warm and chick-like. It was our favorite place to hang out in the springtime. We kept a close eye on them, very close. More than once Dad had to tell us to back off and keep our distance. The end result was, of course, chickens, which were not nearly as cute and cuddly looking. We eventually lost interest as spring rolled into summer.
One summer afternoon, Jane and I decided to spread a blanket on the ground inside the barnyard. I have no idea why we did that. The closest I can come is that it was another day of looking for The Perfect Place to Have a Picnic. This time, with a less-than-happy ending. Looking back, it was very fitting. Mid-way through our sandwiches, Jane asked if I'd heard about periods. I said, "You mean, like at the end of a sentence?" Turns out she was not referring to punctuation. Not even close. The news was stunning. How could I have been raised on a farm, with animals that must have been copulating with a fair amount of abandon, and not gotten more information along the way? I must have asked. The answers had to have been less than satisfactory. I probably ran off into the woods to find The Perfect Place to Build a Fort. I might have, at that moment, re-dedicated myself to that effort, had I all the information. I was, apparently, deep in la-la land, and never even noticed when two older sisters might have provided clues. Mom must have spent a fair amount of time hiding the evidence. I suppose good old shame came into play. Hide all evidence that we are women. Hide all evidence of the impending future.
So, of course, when it did show up, it took me completely by surprise, and embarrassment. Especially when the teacher called me out of the room to tell me that my mother had found the clues I'd left at home. Now I was going to have to wrangle that confounded feminine belt gadgetry all by myself. Damn it. How did I get so lucky? It was sixth grade. I was 11 years old. I still had years of running around in the woods left in me.
But, I went down the hall to the bathroom. And came back a woman.
And that's when things really started to get weird.
P.S. I found the chicks at the Fryeburg County Fair in Maine this past fall. This guy over here, to the right? Well, that's.....another story.