When I was three years old, we lived in a house on Caswell Avenue, in Knoxville, Tennessee. One morning I was outside in the backyard. Really, I was not far from the kitchen door. My sister, Melody, kept some chickens there. They were so pretty and colorful. Having lately been introduced to “Old MacDonald” and his farm animals, in one of my children’s books, I was open to the idea of petting their feathers.
In my ignorance of feeding time procedures and the habits of chickens, I unsuspectingly moved forward, both of my tiny hands outstretched in readiness. This three year old was going to pet the chickens. Cannot you see me? Unsupervised, walking forward with so much trust on my face? It was not an expression held there very long.
Upon their seeing I had no chicken feed in my hands, they searched their immediate surroundings. They pecked the ground with hope of gathering their morning breakfast. Unfortunately for me, I was as usual, barefoot. My ten tiny toes must have looked tasty, for it was with sharpened beaks that they tried to taste my creamy flesh.
Piercing shrieks filled the air and instead of running away, I was paralyzed by fear and I anguished because the hens were not listening to me. Instead they continued their assault. Only a few seconds went by before my Grandmother, Mama, burst through the door. She was brandishing her broom and I was surprised to see her move so fast! At age seventy-seven, she quickly scooped me up into her loving arms and rescued me. Taking me into her kitchen she cooed safety and kissed my tear stained cheeks.
Now sitting on top of the kitchen table, she took my feet into her hands to assess the damage. There were tiny peck marks and a bit of blood mixed with the dust from the backyard. She wet a cloth and wiped my face and then my feet. Grabbing a bottle of Bactine and some cotton balls, Mama cleaned the offended areas and after my feet air dried, she applied a few colorful star band-aids.
By this time, I had been quieted and settling down on her lap, against her very ample bosoms, she explained that I was never to do this again. I solemnly promised her I would never try to pet the chickens.
The day was fine after that. I continued reading about the barnyard animals and singing Old MacDonald song. But about a week later, I remember them chasing those chickens all over the neighborhood. One of our neighbors that lived across the street in an apartment, she had me visit her. I remember being there for some time before I was taken back home.
That evening, Melody was absent from the dinner table and we dined on my grandmother’s fried chicken. Being only three years old, I did not put two and two together for many years. You see, when I would grocery shop with my Father, we would chose meat from the meat department, but I did not connect the dots about beef, pork, chicken, bacon with barnyard animals I read about. Perhaps I would never have eaten meat had I known.
Well, today I see this story in the news and I ask you. Are you a chicken? It is what I will be asking when I shop at the grocery store. Take a minute to see to what I am referring.