Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter Games

My mom's eightieth birthday party is this weekend. I'm busy preparing for the big event so I've posted this story that I wrote years ago, I hope you find it entertaining.
When you live miles from anywhere and are sorely lacking in snow, winter entertainment requires ingenuity or maybe it's just enjoying what you have in a new light. One year while doing livestock chores, we stumbled across winter's hottest spectator's sport. For us it was more arresting than football, yes you heard me, football. Though brief, the action packed game is intense. A league requires only two to six players and little intelligence is required since little is available.

Nothing new about this sport just keep away with a few twists: the ball makes lots of noise; it comes in numerous sizes; and you must catch it before you can play with it. It's similar to football for it begins in a huddle but for totally different reasons. No plays are discussed. No teamwork is required and all the players remain playing until the conclusion of the game. The game's strategy is no more complex than mine, mine since the players all have pea sized brains. An A-framed shed just east of the sheep pen houses the action.

As game time approaches the referee, myself, steps into the playing facility with a self-waterer resting squarely in front of me. Six plump hens, yes hens, scramble into a hap-hazzard huddle around their water pan. Their beady eyes intently watching the waterer's metal base. From my aerial view, I watch as six white hen's knees flexed, wings slightly raised, and necks craning, poise for the countdown like the offensive line on a football team. "Hut!, Hut!, Hut!, I call then raise the watering pan to remove for refilling. In dash six strapping hens, bodies clashing, necks working like pistons, desperate to capture the mice sure to be lurking beneath the pan before they disappear into the wood shavings covering the floor.

Snatched, a mouse screams in a dog's squeaky toy voice, protesting being used as a ball. The feathery mouse carrier dashes off toward the other end of the coop with her trophy dangling from her beak. Blocking her path is a portly hen. The born quarterback fakes a left and drives to the right, alluding her opponent as she moves down the field. Two more feet and the wriggling mouse loosens in her grip. An opposing hen sees her opportunity, hustles in, and intercepts gaining the mouse. The new quarterback changes direction and streaks toward the opposite end of the coop with the fury ball compressed between her clamped beak. The flock hot on her tail feathers searches for an opening. The new quarterback senses their gaining on her and stretches her neck, her wings intermittently flapping, straining to stay in the lead.

Umph! A bosomy white hen slams into her with a shoulder block. The impact forces the new quarterback's beak open. Out drops the squealing mouse and squawks of outrage ricochet off the A-framed coop. A third hen retrieves the fumble and sprints off with five portly hens tottering from side to side in pursuit, all the while gaining on her. Worried, this third quarterback glances from side to side. The mouse squirms free and quickly disappears into the wood shavings into a mouse hole.

The games over. Hens-zero, chicken food devouring mice - one.

Disappointed, I return to refilling the self-waterer and position it for the next day's game. Okay, I'll admit that our t.v. viewing consists of salt and pepper commercials and videos. Football seldom appears on our t.v. screen therefore the game has little chance to gain popularity. Figure two shows a week fit to watch, and you can see television holds limited attraction for us. But don't let that cloud you judgement about our choice of entertainment. You have to see the hens in action to appreciate their skills and the level of viewing pleasure.
This story was written back when we had Mighty Mo Supers for laying hens, a breed that held the Guiness Book of Records for number of consecutive days laying an egg. The hatchery that raised them went out of business years ago. I have never since had chickens that were such mousers. Our chidren were young at this time and our television viewing was limited to what our antennae picked up, which was nothing in the summer and barely anything in the winter.

Today, we still don't think we're missing much not have cable or satellite television and yes, we occasionally watch DVD's and a t.v. show on Hulu but don't feel were missing out on much.
We think that life is the greatest entertainment of all.

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