Life on the farm was pretty good for a small boy and his brothers. Too young to really run any large machinery like the combines or big tractors, we were relegated to barnyard and farm chores. We actually enjoyed doing them and appreciated having jobs that had a beginning, an end and generated a feeling of accomplishment.
Want us to pull weeds in the garden – no problem! Rocks need picking in the back 80, let us drive the small tractor and we were on it. Cleaning manure out of the barn in the spring – not a favorite, but we understood the need.
However, ask us to collect eggs from the old clucks in the hen-house on the farm and we found places we’d rather be.
Gathering eggs from the young chickens wasn’t the problem. These were sociable hens that understood the pecking order. You could easily reach into their nest while they were on it and collect the egg(s). These birds understood the order imposed by the old rooster and played their role. On the other hand, approaching a cluck required nerves of steel, a steady hand, and a willingness to take one for the team. Those squat fowls knew as soon as you entered the coop that you were in their to take their most treasured possession.
As soon as you opened the hen-house door, those “old bitties” would start a low-pitched moan that would grow in intensity as you got closer. Those she devils would stare you in the eye with a cocked head as if daring you to “Bring it on”. As you got closer, the wings would rise a bit and their shoulders would straighten as they leaned forward in a pecking stance.
Just as you worked up the courage to grab the eggs, the wings would start flapping and a gawd awful clucking scream would be issued. A grown man would cover his eyes for protection; a young boy just turned and ran. Once you were on the run, the chicken had you. Its beak found every uncovered piece of skin on your ankle and you paid the price for your insolence in blood. We would dash for the house praying that mom was coming with her broom and her commanding yell of “Shoo you old hens!”
A soothing voice, a glass of milk and my mom at our side, we settled down and awaited the next chore my folks required.