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.

fullsizeoutput_2ba8

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.

fullsizeoutput_2db2
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.

fullsizeoutput_2db1
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

Light20Brahma2091
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.)

fullsizeoutput_2dad.jpeg
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.

81Snx8xVCYL._SX679_
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

Haiku from Where I Grew Up, the Bolivar Lighthouse, and Please Pray for Mary

A friend of mine from high school posted an absolutely – heartbreakingly – beautiful photo of our lighthouse.

I say “our lighthouse” because if you grew up there, on the Bolivar Peninsula, it feels like it belongs to you. That’s my latest picture of it, just below. It belongs to me. It’s part of my childhood DNA. You understand, don’t you?

fullsizeoutput_2653.jpeg
I took this photo in the winter of late 2016/early 2017

You do understand, I know. You have landmarks from your own hometown that belong to you, too. Will you respond to this post and share them???

A pretty picture.

My high school friend posted this lovely picture of the Bolivar lighthouse yesterday on Facebook in a group, the Bolivar Peninsula.

36713557_10216559704724897_4965436567356178432_n
Can you believe how gorgeous this is?

The sun is coming up on the Lighthouse at Bolivar Pointe, he said.

And 312 of us have “liked” it, so far. “Liked” is such a relative term. I love it. It reminds me of happy times when I was growing up. It reminds me of waiting for the ferry when my Mom was taking my brother and me to Galveston once a week in the summers to get books from the library and “gourmet” groceries that couldn’t be found on the Peninsula (no Dijon mustard in a 30 mile radius!!!).

I asked my friend if I could share the picture, and he was generous. More than generous, he was sweet and harkened back to old (good) times.

Yes, of course. I was just talking about growing up in church with you and your family.

But – he also said his Mom was ill.

Mary.

Please pray for her, or send good juju, or whatever you do to ask for good things to happen for good people.

Mary is good people.

Oh – the haiku.

bolivar lighthouse,
reminiscent of good times.
but we can’t go back

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Three Haiku from a Day at the Beach, Remembering Dad

Thanksgiving weekend, eight of us family members spanning three generations packed into my Honda Pilot and headed down to the Bolivar Peninsula where I grew up.  We were on a mission to visit Dad’s favorite restaurant down there, and remember him. It was a perfect autumn day to walk the beach and reminisce.

fullsizeoutput_1d07

So of course, I wrote a simple little haiku:

back home at the beach
the day after thanksgiving
remembering Dad

When I looked at the pictures later, I saw each of us drifting in our separate thoughts:

that day at the beach
my son was looking forward ~
I was looking back

Looking Forward or Looking Back

Somehow, Dad was there with each of us, in that place where we have so many memories of him. I know I can always find him when I look out to sea.

the salty air’s kiss
joins the sundancing-sparkles:
Dad’s eternal hug

For a look into what it was like to grow up along the beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, check out my days by the water. Dad really liked that poem, and I cherish his comment on the post.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

Labor Day: Cherries and Empathy at the Beach

Labor Day weekend of 2000 was the last time I saw my Mom, so many years ago now.

She died just two weeks later, peacefully, in her sleep. She had been ill for so very long. She was only 60.

Harvell House - View
The view from the deck; the beach is about 200 years from their house

My family and my brother’s family joined Mom and Dad at their beach home in Gilchrist, Texas that last Labor Day weekend. With three small children between us, we balanced our time between going to the beach and hanging out in the sunroom with Mom and Dad, she in her wheelchair and unable to speak beyond a whisper because of “frozen” vocal cords, and he so grateful for the company. They both reveled in the noisy, joyful chaos of children. Dad grilled several different meats and served cocktails that weekend; Mom sat, surrounded by all of us, with a quiet and wistful smile.

Like always when our family we got together, the background music was the soundtrack from our childhood, an eclectic mix that included The Kingston Trio, Simon and Garfunkel, the soundtrack from Guys and Dolls, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Smothers Brothers and Manhattan Transfer.

It was a great time: comfort food, comfort music, comfort people.  All these years later, I have two really strong memories from that Labor Day Weekend, that final time my family of origin was all together: recollections of cherries and empathy.

Cherries

fullsizeoutput_1621We brought fresh cherries to share, a late-summer harvest probably shipped from somewhere in the Northwest to our local grocer. Mom hadn’t had cherries in years; the grocery stores on the Bolivar Peninsula stocked the basics but didn’t have fancy mustards, gourmet cheeses or produce from out of state. She loved those cherries. She ate them with joy, the dark red juice staining her lips and her thin, worn fingers.

Mom was so happy in those moments, maybe reliving a memory of her own, another special time studded with fresh cherries and loved ones. We put on the Smothers Brothers record (yes, an actual record!) to hear their song “Apples, Peaches and Cherries” – take a listen below; it is a really sweet tune. We might have sung along; I can’t remember now. But I will never, ever forget Mom’s face as she reveled in those cherries. It was an awesome feeling to bring her that simple pleasure.

Empathy

Getting ready for our final trek to swim and make sandcastles on Labor Day, we were four 30-something adults herding two toddlers and a 6-year old, making a lot of mess and noise. Mom and Dad didn’t mind at all.  We collected sunscreen and beach towels and water shoes and sippy cups (and probably beer) and set out to walk the 200 yards to the sandy beach.

Something made me turn back, telling the others I’d catch up. I ran up the stairs to give Mom a hug. She was in her wheelchair, in the sunroom, with an open book in her lap, but not reading. She was just staring out the window at our ragtag little group headed toward the beach, every child hand-in-hand with a parent.

Was she remembering the days when she was the parent holding the hands of unruly, eager children anxious to make sandcastles and dive headfirst into the waves? Or maybe just sad that she couldn’t go with us to body-surf and look for starfish and sand dollars? Mom loved the beach so much, and before becoming an invalid the last few years of her life, took a walk there almost every day.

I bent down to hug her, saying:

I know you still want to run and jump and play, Mom, and I’m so sorry you can’t.”

She gave a little sob, and squeezed my hand hard, her fingers still cherry-stained. She was so stoic through all of her illnesses, never indulging in self-pity, never complaining, never allowing anyone to feel sorry for her. If she could still talk, she would’ve shrugged and said, “I’m fine.” I only saw her cry once in the 38 years we had together. But on that last Labor Day, when I offered my clumsy empathy, she accepted it and allowed me to share her pain, just for a few beautiful moments, squeezing my hand while we both cried just a little. And then she motioned for me to go join the others, and I did, not looking back.

I knew she would watch me all the way to the water’s edge.

My “run and jump and play” comments weren’t quite the last words I said to Mom, but they are the ones I remember.  I’m so grateful for those few moments on our last day together, when she trusted me enough to let herself be vulnerable, and gave me a glimpse of the ache in her heart about the brokenness of her body.

Labor Day is About…

To me, Labor Day is about appreciating the meaningful and challenging work I have always been blessed with, and of course, barbecue. But since since 2000, it will always remind me of cherries and empathy, too.

The Real Nancy (1)
Mom, soon after we moved to the beach in 1974; she really, really loved it there.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

my days by the water

i’ll never forget my days by the water
a childhood so perfect
it almost hurts to remember

seashells and crab boils, best friends and cousins
a brother so close
he was almost my double

sunburns and skinned knees and sand in our eyes
fishing and sandcastles
huge wide-open skies

potluck parties where parents talked politics
where active listening happened
and no one left mad

“beach bum” friends of my parents, ex-soldiers
recovering from war
found peace in the waves

bonfires, fireworks, beach birthdays and family
acceptance and love as
abundant as sunshine

i’ll always remember
those days by the water


e9
Image by Bikurgurl

I stumbled on the concept of “100 Word Wednesday” in a blog called Bikurgurl and decided to participate this week, Week 15 of the challenge. The prompt was this beautiful lighthouse, and the rules are simple:  write something 100 words long, use this image or another of your choosing, and link back to the original blog. The lighthouse made me think of my childhood living by the water on a very different kind of shore on the Bolivar Peninsula in Southeast Texas.

This rough little poem came spilling out of me as I thought of those halcyon sand-ridden childhood days and so many memories flooded in.  Everything seemed so safe, so permanent, so lively-lovely in our tiny town of 600, Gilchrist, Texas.  My brother and I went to the beach almost every day, even in the winter.  My aunt and uncle moved just down the street from us, and our cousins became more like brothers. Beach birthday parties and fireworks spawned grass-fires and the scruffy men of the volunteer fire seemed delighted to be called out.  My mother made mirrors rimmed with sea shells and sold them at a local art gallery.

My parents, while definitely not hippies, had escaped the mind-numbing sameness and materialism they found in suburban life for the quirky, slower and sometimes downright backward way of life on the Bolivar Peninsula.  I didn’t realize at the time that the larger world was present, even there.  Mom and Dad hosted election parties and invited all kinds of folks from both sides of the political aisle, and taped the lively but respectful conversations to send to my uncle, who worked for Hamilton Beach in Africa and was on a plane that was hijacked on his way home (he survived).  A young man who was AWOL from the Army climbed up our stairs turned himself in to my Dad on our deck one Saturday morning while we were watching cartoons.  “Beach bums” staying in a cabin a few doors down from us turned out to be Vietnam vets, confused and weary guys trying to patch up their lives and come to terms with their experiences.  They were kind to an awkward tween-age girl; they paid me a few dollars to embroider peaceful sayings and seagulls on their frayed bellbottoms.  They remained friends with my parents long after they all left the beach for more stability inland.  Hurricane Ike took away the entire town in 2008.

So many more memories and stories, but this was supposed to be a post for 100 Word Wednesday.  So I’ll leave you with some links with related stories and a few pictures.

img20170419_18232452
In this photo, my brother was the awkward tween
img20170419_18233039
Mom on the deck; she made those macramé plant hangers
img20170419_18233303
My Dad and brother, fishing in the Intracoastal Canal, at the end of our road
Harvell House - View
The view from the deck, some years after my childhood but before Hurricane Ike

 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

More Winter in Southeast Texas: Birds in Gilchrist

I’ve said before in this blog that I’m just a little girl from a small town in Southeast Texas who is constantly surprised by her life.

6
The subdivision sign was the first thing to be restored after Hurricane Ike; all the beach cabins are gone

Here are some pics from that very small town on the Bolivar Peninsula, which really isn’t a town any more since Hurricane Ike obliterated almost all traces of it in 2008.  I couldn’t bear to return to Gilchrist, Texas for several years after the storm, but a recent trip renewed my love for it.  Regardless of how a natural disaster can savage a locale, nature itself comes back to make use of it.  The birds were magnificent when we visited on a gray, overcast day in early January.  Folks who are in the Houston area for the Super Bowl and have time for a day trip should give the Bolivar Peninsula a look.

The Heron and the Barges

Below, a heron watches barges churn by in the Intracoastal Waterway from the little fishing area at the end of the road where I grew up.  Our little subdivision, aptly named Canal City – and the rest of Gilchrist – was sandwiched between the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal canal, with Galveston Bay just behind it.

Brown Pelicans and Seagulls

Aiming to get closer for really good pics, I startled several brown pelicans and their seagull companions.

fullsizeoutput_40c

fullsizeoutput_40ffullsizeoutput_40d

Sandpipers at Rollover Pass

On the back side of Rollover Pass in the shallow sands beside it, sandpipers search for supper.

fullsizeoutput_413

Seagulls at Rollover Pass

Seagulls contemplate the Gulf of Mexico from a cast concrete berm at Rollover Pass.

fullsizeoutput_415fullsizeoutput_417

Brown Pelicans at Rollover Pass

Brown pelicans are posing and preening on posts at the pass.

Pelicans on Postsimg_1682fullsizeoutput_418

These pelicans inspired me to post a haiku a couple of weeks ago, which is included in the resource links below.

Resources

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Haiku: Gulf Coast in Winter

A recent road trip to the Bolivar Peninsula on the Texas Gulf Coast resulted in lots and lots of photos of birds and a haiku.  I swear the brown pelicans were posing for me in silhouette.

sandy-gray water
brown pelicans in profile
thin-cloudy gray sky

fullsizeoutput_41b

Lots more bird pics forthcoming!  And for more Glover Gardens haiku, click here.

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook