The mixed-up hen not fit for God nor men

The Compass - - SPORTS - MA­RINA GAM­BIN — Ma­rina Power Gam­bin was born and raised in her beloved com­mu­nity of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay. She now lives in Pla­cen­tia where she taught for al­most three decades. She can be reached at mari­nagam­bin@per­sona.ca

I grew up in the fish­ing com­mu­nity of Branch, where I was quite ac­cus­tomed to a small num­ber of farm an­i­mals. Along with a horse, a cow and some sheep, our sta­ble al­ways housed about a dozen hens. Where there were hens, of course, there was the res­i­dent rooster. Our lit­tle barn­yard al­ways boasted a fine rooster with a su­perb voice.

As chil­dren, we be­came quite used to the early morn­ing wake-up call of the rooster. He kept his sun­rise ser­e­nade brief and he chose a perch well away from the bed­room win­dow so that most times his crow­ing was barely au­di­ble. To tell the truth, nine times out of 10, we paid lit­tle at­ten­tion to him.

En­ter the mixed-up hen who changed our sleep­ing pat­terns for one whole sum­mer. Some 45 years later, I can still pic­ture that fool­ish fowl. She was plump and ruf­fled with speck­led grey feath­ers. She came to our premises as a give­away from an older res­i­dent of the com­mu­nity who could no longer tend to her flock.

On the first day that this child­ish chicken took up res­i­dence, she started her shenani­gans. Choos­ing a roost very close to our house, at two o’clock in the morn­ing, she com­menced to put on her own con­cert.

It was not long be­fore we re­al­ized that Henny Penny had a prob­lem. She thought she was a rooster. Some­where in her genes or in the re­cesses of her brain, her gen­der had be­come scram­bled. While all her sis­ters slept snugly in the sta­ble, she pro­ceeded to drive us crazy.

At any hour of the day or night, this mot­ley od­dity could be heard do­ing a noisy im­i­ta­tion of the op­po­site sex. There was no cluck-cluck­ing for this feath­ered fe­male. She was only sat­is­fied with sound­ing like a rooster. She would stick out her neck, puff out her chest, and let loose with her loud­est “Uhrr, uhrr, uhrr, uhrr, uhrrrrrrrrr.” She held her head so proudly that I am sure she ac­tu­ally thought she was wear­ing a rooster’s comb.

To add to the com­plex­ity of the sit­u­a­tion, the con­fused hen was some­times seen giv­ing the other hens a chase around the yard, while the real rooster watched in sur­prise. My fam­ily tol­er­ated the un­usual be­hav­iour of the hen for one whole sum­mer. Look­ing back, I won­der how she man­aged to cling to life that long.

My older sis­ter, who was fond of get­ting her beauty sleep in the morn­ing, fre­quently threat­ened Henny’s ex­is­tence. More than once, my sleepy sib­ling raised the bed­room win­dow to make a tar­get out of the hap­less hen. It was com­mon to see a shoe, a book, a comb or a bot­tle fly to­ward the dis­turber, along with some choice words.

The hen, how­ever, man­aged to sur­vive all this fury, un­til the Labour Day weekend. We had vis­i­tors and we needed some­thing ex­tra for the din­ner ta­ble. With a swoop of the axe, my fa­ther quickly be­headed her and a few of her com­rades. They be­came a tasty part of our Sun­day menu.

Af­ter the ex­e­cu­tion, life in the barn­yard got back to nor­mal. The rooster, I pre­sume, re­turned to his reg­u­lar prac­tices. The re­main­ing hens saun­tered around look­ing less ner­vous and more con­tented. My fam­ily mem­bers all re­sumed their nor­mal sleep­ing habits, and most of them can’t even re­mem­ber the frus­trated hen and her an­tics.

A lady who heard my tale of the loud-mouthed hen re­minded me of a say­ing which was some­times quoted by my late grand­mother. “A whistling woman and a crow­ing hen are nei­ther fit for God nor men.”

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