My husband embodies a panoply of old-fashioned virtues. Honor. Courage. Perseverance. Grace in the face of adversity. Although these virtues are to be valued in both genders, it seems to me they make a man manly. Kevin’s strong and daring and fearless. He’s not afraid of hard work or getting dirty. And he never complains. If something hurts, I don’t hear about it until it’s time to go to the emergency room. He’s as tough as they come.
Perhaps this is why I find it particularly touching that he loves our chickens. He picks them up and clucks at them. “Who’s your daddy?” he coos. He talks to them, and communes with them, and gives them special treats. He watches how they interact, and understands their individual whims. When one of them gets separated from the others, he helps her find the flock.
Just the other day, I was working in the house when Kevin walked in after being out in the yard for several hours. I had a question for him – I don’t remember what it was – and I started to ask it when he interrupted me mid-sentence. “Hold on, “ he said. “I promised the girls some corn.” He got a scoop of corn out of the fifty-pound bag on the porch and scattered it outside the porch door.
“Did you just interrupt me so you could give the chickens corn right this very instant?” I asked when he came back in.
“Well,” he said, obviously not having seen it in this light. “I did promise.”
There was a stretch last year when Kevin’s job was particularly stressful, and weeks would go by when the only time I would see him relaxed and happy was when he was hanging out with the birds. “Hell will freeze over before I’m jealous of a chicken,” I said, “but I hope the time will come when you can again find happiness in other things as well.”
He loves all the chickens, but he loves Blondie best.
He loves our chickens. In fact, he would be the perfect chicken-keeper but for one shortcoming: he plays favorites. He loves all the chickens, but he loves Blondie best.
Blondie is a buff Orpington, and she seems to be the most curious and intrepid of the flock. She’s the first to trot over and see what’s going on when we’re working in the yard. She’s the one who always pecks the shoelaces of our visitors. When I cleaned out the car, she hopped in to investigate.
All this has endeared her to Kevin, and he has singled her out as his particular favorite.
This weekend, our friends Mary Ann and Rick came over for lunch. It was a beautiful day, and we were all sitting in the sun talking when the chickens came around to peck at the corn that we’d scattered. Kevin pointed out Blondie, and sang her praises. After she’d had a little corn, he picked her up tucked her under his arm.
“They like a little chest massage,” he explained to Rick as he rubbed the base of Blondie’s neck. “Who’s your daddy?” he said into her ear.
And then she shat on him. All over his shirt and shorts. We must have laughed for five minutes. You’d have thought we were in junior high.
Mary Ann told me the next day that Rick re-enacted the scene several times that night, using their cat, Gracie, as a stand-in for Blondie. “Who’s your daddy?” He’d say. “Do you like a little chest massage?” And then he’d make a farting noise and two intelligent, sophisticated adults would collapse in helpless laughter all over again.
This is what chickens do to you.