E S S A Y So, I’m driving home about 5:00 last Friday night, and have safely made it across our busiest road, the one that leads from our small town west into the wilds of the nearby rural county. Because it’s Friday it’s particularly busy, with folks hurrying home to a good meal, a football game at the local high school, or simply to start a relaxed weekend. I’m within a minute of home when I have to jam on the brakes to stop for not one, but two waddling fowl. In what I’m fairly sure must have been a daring escape from a nearby farm, a cheerful multi-colored duck and his traveling companion, a fairly complacent white chicken, leisurely stroll across my path without a care in the world. One can’t help but ponder just why these fine feathered friends are out on this beautiful autumn evening. Have they indeed escaped the confines of pens at Farmer Jones’? And if so, just how far has their journey brought them tonight? While there are still plenty of rural areas within ten or fifteen miles of our little town, that seems quite a long distance for these two to have traveled without being either maimed or killed. Where exactly are they headed? Are they simply strolling or deliberately heading for the feed store about three blocks up the road?
If so, I totally get it. I myself am a regular visitor to our local wine and cheese shop for the Friday wine tasting…who doesn’t want to get out at the end of a long week and sample the newest and best of the local cuisine?
I swear, I could not get these two out of my mind, so cheerfully making their way uptown, totally oblivious to the myriad dangers that lurked enroute. Were they okay? I asked myself during the night. Had some kind soul with an extra chicken coop in the yard felt sorry for them and taken them in? Was their farm family worrying about them too and searching for them in the Friday night dark? When I mentioned all of these concerns to my daughter, she showed scant sympathy for either the fowl or me. “But Mom,” she logically pointed out, “Haven’t I seen you eat fried chicken more than once, and don’t you ALWAYS order duck when it’s on the menu in a restaurant?” Guilty as charged, I’m afraid. And yet…I’m still wondering a week later HOW duck and chicken are, WHERE duck and chicken are, and indeed IF duck and chicken are at all. I choose to believe that they’ve found a happy place to settle themselves and their wandering days are thankfully at an end. And if this seems both naive and optimistic, well, consider that I work with children, I read a fair number of stories aloud to them that anthropomorphize animals, and let’s face it…I’m an eternal optimist. I’m in your corner, wandering barnyard fowl, I’m in your corner….
Barbara Tulli is a retired elementary school librarian in Virginia. Now she devotes more time to writing, reading, traveling and sleeping past 5:15 AM. Read more at her blog Just Beyond the Tracks.