The Story of Chicken

For reasons you’ll soon understand, I’m a little afraid of roosters. But I met this nice one a few weeks ago and he wasn’t mean. I wrote a haiku for him: Rooster Ballet Haiku.

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That experience reminded me of The Story of Chicken, and I promised to share it with you soon. Now is the time.

It’s a Shared Memory

Shared memories make family stories the best. Usually starting with “Remember that time…” and requiring all who were involved to chime in to get the facts straight, family-memory stories gain a patina with age and become the stuff of legend.

Such is The Story of Chicken.

But alas, I am the only remaining member of our nuclear family of four and I realize now how much a family story relies on all of the voices. I will do my best to honor Chicken, and face correction from Mom, Dad and Steve when I cross over to the other side. Or perhaps they will speak through me as I channel them now. Let’s get started.

Grab a Coffee

Oh, and by the way, grab a coffee or a cold drink and be prepared to “sit a spell,” as my paternal grandmother Mema would say. The Story of Chicken is not short.

We Lived at the Beach

My childhood home of memory is the beach house on stilts we moved to when I was nine and my brother Steve was six.

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Steve and me around the time we moved to the beach

The Canal City subdivision in Gilchrist, Texas is a tiny community perched on the Gulf Coast on the Bolivar Peninsula and a perfect place to grow up; I’ve shared with you before here on the pages of Glover Gardens that Steve and I were always planning to write a memoir called Surviving the Perfect Childhood. The Story of Chicken would have been a chapter.

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Our beach home, as it looked in the early 2000s; the canal is just beyond the grassy lawn

Grandma Brought Us Her Unwanted Hatchlings

My maternal grandmother, Ruth, was a biology teacher at Yates High School in Houston, two hours north of us, and had run a class project to hatch chickens and ducks. The project was successful and produced adorable fuzzy little creatures – but none of her students in that very urban area of town wanted to take them home to raise. Neither did my grandmother (or rather, my grandfather).

A beach house with a canal behind it – our home was the perfect answer to Grandma’s dilemma. A Saturday visit from Grandma and Grandpa brought a couple of shoeboxes full of fowls, and we were enchanted. We named the ducks Wynken, Blynken and Nod (after the song and poem; here’s a link to Carly Simon and her sister singing it back in the day). Sadly, I don’t remember if the chickens had names. This is where another family member would have chimed in!

A Storm Took ‘Em All, Save One

There was a week or two of fun with fowl as we watched the ducks swim in the canal behind our house and the chickens run around pecking the ground and chasing each other. And then came a storm. It was either a very bad thunderstorm or a very mild tropical storm that swept over us from the Gulf, and when we emerged the next morning after hunkering down inside all night, all of our fowl were missing from their nests in the garage except one little white chicken.

Always very tenderhearted, Steve was only 7 at the time and was very upset about the loss of our little flock. He became very protective of the remaining chick, naming him Chicken and treating him like a lap dog.

Chicken Grows Up to Be a Big, Big Boy

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Chicken looked like this Brahma, only uglier and meaner; photo from www. chickensforbackyards.com

Spoiled by Steve and fed table scraps, Chicken grew to be a mighty rooster. Huge, mostly white with ugly black mottling and a scary-looking red comb, he was formidable and aggressive, strutting around the yard proudly, chasing away possums and armadillo and scaring our cats into hiding.

We had the front house along the beach highway and beach-going strangers pulled over several times during Chicken’s time with us to ask what we were feeding him! Did I say he was big? It doesn’t sound believable now, but I swear he was 3 feet tall. Sadly, there are no surviving pictures of Chicken. But maybe he was a Brahma; they get really big. I read that they were re-introduced in the 70s and it would have been just like my grandmother to get a rare breed for her students to hatch.

Chicken Loved Only Steve

While carrying Chicken around and cradling him like a huge football, I distinctly remember Steve saying many times in a singsong voice, “Pet him, Mama; isn’t he soft?” Steve really loved Chicken, and Chicken loved Steve right back. They went together like peanut butter and grape jelly, or “PB&GJ” as my Mom would have said.

But there was a problem: Chicken was a one-person rooster. He tolerated Mom, most likely because of those facilitated petting sessions, but he absolutely loathed Dad and me. With a passion. And folks, you don’t know what passionate loathing looks like in a rooster until you’ve had a giant, angry one chase you.

Running the Clothesline Gauntlet

Our dryer was often broken and we had a clothesline downstairs strung between the pilings holding up the beach house. (I think we might have been poor during that period, but Steve and I didn’t know it.)

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Our home at the beach in those early days; the clothesline was strung between the pilings (although not in this photo)

To retrieve my clothes from the clothesline, I had to take a broom with me to fight off Chicken, and Dad often used the pitchfork for the same purpose. Dad also used his briefcase like a shield when he got home from work to make the trek from the car to the stairs. Why was this necessary? Because when he saw Dad or me, Chicken would square off, put his head down, and come running at us to peck at our legs. Hard. I still remember the frightening sound his heavy, red rooster feet made as he thundered across the grass:  thoomp, thoomp, thoomp, thoomp. I had to practice positive self-talk to get ready to go out and face Chicken: “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”

Once I only had the pair of socks I was fetching from the clothesline to fend off Chicken, and he drew blood on my legs. That was the beginning of the end of his days with the Harvell Family of Canal City in Gilchrist, Texas.

The Chicken Round-Up

Dad put the word out about a giant, available and (probably) virile rooster at The Corner, the local café where all the retired men met for coffee each day. He soon got the word that Houston, the telephone man (yes, his name really was Houston) was in the market for a rooster. Score! My clothesline experience was about to improve!

Houston met Dad at our house one afternoon to collect Chicken. I was home when this happened but Steve was not…probably by design. Dear Readers, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen two grown men, one of them in a business suit, chase an irate rooster with a fish net. Chicken gave them a workout! I think they might have had to use the cast net as a last resort. Of course I was rooting for Dad and Houston, but I did enjoy the spectacle. So did Mom, although it was several years before she’d admit it.

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Net for sale on Amazon; imagine trying to catch a chicken with this!

Chicken Rules the Roost

What happened next was always best told by Dad. Because Steve was really worried about Chicken settling in to his new life, Dad checked in with Houston a few days after the big intervention and resettling. Houston said,

Well, Frank, I thought I was going to have to get rid of him before my black lab killed him. The first day Chicken was here, that dog chased him all over the yard and wouldn’t leave him alone. But from the second day forward, Chicken got the upper hand, and if you drive by you might see him chasing the dog. I thought that dog had a little more fight to him, but I guess he’s no match for Chicken.”

A Happy Ending, and Some Input from My Sister-in-Love

Apparently Chicken was happy with his hen party, and Mom and Dad told Steve he left to start a family. Steve isn’t here to tell his side, but my “sister-in-love”, the marvelous woman he was married to for many years, tells me that Steve loved telling The Story of Chicken.

Steve talked about that damn chicken all the time. He said he’d love on it and call it a pretty Chicken. He also said you and Frank had to give yourselves a pep talk before you went outside knowing that chicken was waiting to ambush you and attack. Made me laugh every time.”

She went on:

I have a mental picture of Frank in a suit taking a last sip of coffee and a couple of deep breaths as he peeks out the window and then rushes out the door and down the stairs fighting off the chicken, using his briefcase as a shield.”

I love that my sister-in-love remembers this story from my brother’s retellings, and I think that The Story of Chicken will live on. Don’t you?


More about my brother and me, our shared perfect childhood and the complicated world we landed in later can be found at:

© 2018 Glover Gardens

(Another) Haiku for Dad, On His Second Birthday in Heaven

My dad was born 80 years ago today in West Texas as the Great Depression was coming to an end in the shadow of another Great War in Europe, a time before regular Americans realized we’d be involved in that war.

With that backdrop and two incredible and resourceful parents, Dad was raised to be frugal, honest, fair and humble. To use his wits, respect people, and figure out a Plan B for everything. To find the humor and bright side in everything, even if you had no money and had to wash your clothes in the sink. The second of four kids, Dad worshipped his older brother and protected and respected his younger sisters.

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Around 1942, the Harvell family when it was only the two boys; my grandmother’s dress was hand-sewn
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1953/4/5-ish, the whole family
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A band and baseball high school letter jacket and the male version of a Mona Lisa smile

Graduating high school in 1957, Dad attended the University of North Texas for a semester or two before realizing that he’d need help financing that dream of a college education and enlisted in the Army. He was innocent, idealistic and somehow, cool. Check him out with his trumpet in 1958; he called this picture Frank Cool.

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Dad with his trumpet looking all Joe-College cool; a year or two later he burst a lung playing and had to put it away
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Dad in his Army uniform looking very official

Dad met my mom on a blind “coke date” and they married soon after, even though they said later that they initially didn’t like each other!

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I joined Mom and Dad just a year later as he was finishing his service in the army. And then my brother Steve came along.

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That Firebird was my mom’s pride and joy; don’t we all look like we’re in an episode of Mad Men?

We were a close family. Steve and I were always going to write a book called Surviving a Happy Childhood. Maybe I still will.  Dad was my role model, rock and mentor. Lots and lots of years, happy times and memories later, after Mom and my Steve each took their last bows, Dad and I grew even closer. He was immeasurably important to me.

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Dad and me, Thanksgiving, 2015

Then Dad went over the rainbow in June of 2017. The grief was breath-taking, harsh and immediate, and yet…there aren’t words to express my gratitude that he was born into this world on October 16, 1938, and that I was born to him and my mom. My life has been incredibly blessed, parent-wise.

So sadness and grief take a distant second place today as I celebrate Dad’s second birthday in heaven. Happy memories take center stage, and this haiku and photo from last year’s Dad’s-Birthday-Post still seem just right.

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just a normal day in my childhood with the best dad ever, circa 1968

Haiku for Dad

you nudged me into
everything I’ve ever done
you believed in me

Happy birthday, Dad, and I’ll see you on the other side.

© 2018, Glover Gardens

Heart-Theater, an Elegy

memories crowd the stage of my heart-theater
the actors all dead
but for me

tears for them come unexpectedly

like gulls suddenly swooping
a perfect sand dollar found
a sudden rainstorm

i hear mom’s voice:
“buck up and carry on”

memories play in my heart-theater
the actors all dead
but for me

tears for them come unexpectedly

singing songs long forgotten
making family recipes
an old movie

i hear dad’s voice
“you can do this”

memories sweep through my heart-theater
the actors all dead
but for me

tears for them come unexpectedly

like a made-up kids’ language
stepping on a toy
a bicycle crash

i hear steve’s voice
“can you help me, boj?”

memories crowd the stage of my heart-theater
the actors all dead
but for me

.but.

joy from them comes unendingly

thriving in my heart-theater
their voices all trumpets
and whispers and hugs

Harvell Family

@ 2018 Glover Gardens

Haiku: Unexpected Fireworks in Edinburgh and Memories

First the haiku, then the backstory.

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memories float by

In Edinburgh for business this week, my colleagues and I were delighted to learn that fireworks were on the Monday night menu for the closing ceremony of the Edinburgh International Festival. This month-long celebration has been a thing since 1948.

After dinner in a traditional Scottish restaurant, we stood in the street and watched the fireworks, awestruck. For me, many memories floated by as I stood transfixed. Memories of fireworks and family in times past:

  • A cousin’s birthday party on the beach, when July 4th parent-sponsored fireworks started a brush fire, and all the able-bodied men in a 20-mile radius showed up, the eager, macho and beer-fueled volunteer fire departments of three tiny unincorporated towns. It was all rather exciting to us kids, and anticlimactic for the adults. It was blamed on a teenaged girl who pointed a bottle rocket the wrong way, but I had my doubts even then. Girls usually weren’t allowed anywhere near the bottle rockets…I’m just sayin’.
  • About 25 years later, another July 4th, this time with my 8 year-old son, just the two of us in our pajamas in the car, having decided at the last minute to catch the city’s show. We parked on the side of the road and watched from the car windows, singing The Rainbow Connection (from the Muppet Movie), changing to words to include family members and pets. Good times.
  • 1483864_10205441792634961_2157268836031657562_oNew Year’s Eve of 2014, in Breckenridge, Colorado, in a brutally cold -19F / -28C. There was a parade of skiers with red torches on their poles down the mountain in the early evening, and then fireworks later. Yes, I said -19 degrees – you can see it there on the car thermometer! It was bitter-bitter-bitterly cold, but also breathtaking and spectacular. And memorable.

Good times.

Back to the present, last night in Edinburgh. The fireworks were launched just behind Edinburgh Castle, on the far side from our hotel. Here’s the view of the castle from the hotel, in the daylight.

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When we thought the fireworks were over, we said our good nights and retired to our rooms, but lo and behold, the booms and sparkles started up again. I was lucky to catch the rest of it from my window.

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Business trip serendipity. Memories. Good times. Edinburgh rocks.

Do you have fireworks-fueled memories?

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Epic Seafood Boil Memories from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Last summer, a beautiful little memory-story came to me through a wonderful Glover Gardens reader who liked my poem, my days by the water (via the Glover Gardens Facebook page, shown below).

She said:

I can see it 🙂 Many parts remind me of family reunions in Bay St. Louis.

So of course I asked her to share her Mississippi Gulf Coast memories. And after a while, she did. Now it’s time for me to share those memories with you.
“Awhile back you’d asked me to tell you about some of our Cowand family reunions in Bay St. Louis. …

The Cowands have a long history in that area dating back to a land grant a couple hundred years ago. My dad’s family was 9 siblings with Swedish/Norwegian parents. They lived a block from the Bay and loved every type of water activity. The empty lot they owned next to their house was where rows of picnic tables would be set up covered with newspaper. The feast included crabs caught off the family pier and trash can loads of fresh shrimp purchased off the Gulfport Pier fresh shrimp. They were boiled to perfection with potatoes and 1/2 corn cobs by too many ‘expert’ brothers.

Doesn’t that Epic Seafood Boil sound delightful? She finished the story from the kids’ point of view, which I just love.

My cousins and I played with minnows in the culvert, hide and go seek, and ran freshly caught crabs back to the party … total freedom and good eating in a safe corner of the world!”

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Crabs from Shoofly Magazine’s post about the 2018 Crabfest– photo by Lionel Haynes, Jr.

This story could have been from my own childhood, except that we were further down the Gulf Coast (on the Bolivar Peninsula in Southeast Texas) and we don’t have Swedish/Norwegian ancestry. But the feelings the Epic Seafood Boil story conjure of being completely free, completely safe, completely alive and completely sated still reverberate in my soul when I look back on my days by the water.

All this kindred reminiscing about seaside living made me curious to find out more about Bay St. Louis, which I have somehow missed in my many Gulf Coast travels. (What’s up with that???)  

A surf around Google shows that Bay St. Louis, est. 1699, is a really cool little place. There’s a Crab Festival! There’s a Frida Kahlo Festival! There’s a quaint downtown and a historic cemetery (with lots of Cowands in it, by the way) and a white, sandy beach – oh my! I’m not just speculating on this coolness, by the way: Bay St. Louis was listed at #4 on Expedia’s 2018 of Most Beautiful Towns in America.

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Photos from the Expedia article: Left Via Flickr/Andrew
Top Right Via Yelp/Angie T.
Bottom Right Via Shutterstock

An excerpt from the Expedia writeup: “You’ve heard being by the water is good for the soul and Bay St. Louis is the perfect place to test it. Surrounded by the bay and marshlands, this pretty little coastal town is a sailor’s delight. Stroll to the marina and listen for the sound of sailboats creaking against the dock, or build sandcastle masterpieces on the shore at the end of Main Street.”

Yep, Bay St. Louis is definitely on my Must-Go list. Below are some other charming images that I found in cyberspace; maybe you’ll put Bay St. Louis on your list, too!

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From BSL Shoofly Magazine; 2017 Crab Fest photos by Ellis Anderson
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From My Mississippi Coast
The harbor at Bay St. Louis from Shoofly Magazine
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Courtesy of Edward Depew’s blog

Resources

Soon, I’ll publish another Epic Seafood Boil memory, a spicy one from my own family history.

© 2018, Glover Gardens

with thanks and credit to my dear reader for sharing her Cowand family story!

Happy Father’s Day to the Grill-Meister

The Grill-Meister is a great Dad to his son and Bonus Dad to mine.

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On one of many trips to Breckenridge

While Dad was alive, he and the Grill-Meister “got on like a house afire.”

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Enjoying a laugh with Dad at a birthday party in Galveston a few years ago; both of them working on a Hemingway look (Dad was winning)

He takes great care of his elderly parents.

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At his parents’ house demonstrating the pasta machine they gave him for Christmas

He’s fun, thoughtful and resourceful. And great at grilling!

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The Grill-Meister is relaxing (left side of photo) while the grill heats up

Happy Father’s Day, Grill-Meister! We all love you.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

Haiku for My Dad — Glover Gardens

I’m reblogging this post from Father’s Day last year with a haiku for my Dad. He loved it, and died 3 days later.

I miss him, on this first Father’s Day without him.

But I am perfectly at peace knowing that he knew how much I loved him.

A simple little Father’s Day haiku from a grateful daughter.

via Haiku for My Dad — Glover Gardens

A Mother’s Poem on Mothers’ Day

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the very best thing
that i ever did
was to procreate
(to have a kid)

the world is different
and much more real
my investment’s bigger
(a serious deal)

i watch in awe as
his life gathers steam
he acts on his instincts
(follows his dream)

no words can capture
the simple pure joy
i feel as a parent
(the mom of this boy)

enormous blessings
i take from his youth
he shows me new worlds
(unexpected truths)

the very best thing
that i ever did
was to procreate
(to have a kid)

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© 2018 Glover Gardens

I Got You, Babe! (Fabulous)

Having this forum to share thoughts, ideas, cool stuff and things that inspire me is such a blessing. Today’s post would be in the inspiration category.

“Fabulous!”

28782704_787468414785410_660979165395000419_nI have a colleague/friend whose favorite word is fabulous, and whose unstintingly positive outlook is, well, fabulous. She will have her third child very soon, about which she says, “Fabulous!” She shared her family photo shoot on Facebook and I had to ask if I could post them here, because they are…(you can see it coming)…fabulous.

The Photos

The joy each member of this family finds in the others is evident. I couldn’t pick my favorite pic, so I’ve shared several, to help you feel the (fabulous) love.

You can see the romantic love.

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You can see the familial love.

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You can see the parental love.

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You can see the self-confidence.

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All photos by Emily Wischnewsky.  Apparently, Emily just called up my friend and proposed an impromptu photo shoot. My friend said:

I was ecstatic… 1.) because we haven’t any type of family pic since my daughter was 2…she’ll be 9 this year, and 2.) because I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to take any type of maternity pics. Plus any family time is awesome for me so we were just out there having fun!!

The instant I saw these, the old Sonny and Cher song, I Got You Babe, started running through my head (and now it might be in yours!).

I Got You Babe

They say we're young and we don't know
We won't find out until we grow
Well I don't know if all that's true
'Cause you got me, and baby I got you

Babe
I got you babe
I got you babe

They say our love won't pay the rent
Before it's earned, our money's all been spent
I guess that's so, we don't have a plot
But at least I'm sure of all the things we got

Babe
I got you babe
I got you babe

I got flowers in the spring
I got you to wear my ring
And when I'm sad, you're a clown
And if I get scared, you're always around

Don't let them say your hair's too long
'Cause I don't care, with you I can't go wrong
Then put your little hand in mine
There ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb

Babe
I got you babe
I got you babe

I got you to hold my hand
I got you to understand
I got you to walk with me
I got you to talk with me
I got you to kiss goodnight
I got you to hold me tight
I got you, I won't let go
I got you to love me so

I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
Songwriters: Sonny Bono
I Got You Babe lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

 

Haiku: Little Ones

A friend with young children sent me a couple of pictures today that reminded me how precious and fleeting that time of life is when your children are small.

fullsizeoutput_21d8The pictures of my friend’s little one were all smiles, joy, simplicity and innocence, evoking memories of when my son was a toddler.

I remember the way my heart grew beyond its capacity when I became a parent – and that the way my son looked at the world changed my own perspective on life and what’s important. It still does.

That was just a few minutes ago. But somehow my son is 20 now.

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The author Elizabeth Stone said:

Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.

She’s right.

So this haiku is dedicated to all parents of little ones (and once-little ones who’re all grown up now) as today’s effort for National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo).

baby-chubby hugs
calla lily caresses
simple innocence

 

© 2018 Glover Gardens