Walking down the sidewalk of a densely populated Southern city, in the most genteel of neighborhoods filled with well-tended homes of historical architectural interest, a gentleman close to my heart came face to face with a chicken.
“A Dominique,” he told me, “just a little bigger than my barred Plymouth Rocks, and friendlier.”
The gentleman stared down at the chicken, which was flanked by three cats. Body guards, if you will.
As the gentleman stared down and the chicken stared up, she began to hum.
“Chickens hum when they want to be picked up,” the gentleman assured me.
I was also worried about those cats.
The gentleman folded the chicken securely into his arms. He walked to the front door of the stately home whence the chicken came. Nobody was home. The gentleman walked along the driveway with the Dominique relaxing comfortably in his arms, as the cats followed, positioned one to each side and one behind. There wasn’t much going on in the backyard, no other chickens, just an old abandoned chicken coop.
Somewhat puzzled and concerned as anyone enamored of poultry might be, the gentleman went to the neighbor’s to see what he could learn about the cooing bird snug in his arms. The cats came along, stretching out on the sun-warmed steps as the gentleman knocked at the door.
The neighbor studied the gentleman and looked at the chicken.
“She’s an independent bird,” she said. “Urban free range, hangs out on the porch next door.”
“Thank you,” the gentleman said.
“Don’t thank me, thank the cats,” she said. “The cats protect her. Don’t you worry.”
The gentleman put the chicken down. The cats rubbed against his leg and against the chicken. There was a moment of quiet coos and mews. The chicken turned toward the house whence she came, marching up the stairs as grand marshal of this makeshift poultry feline parade, with the cats right in step.
There was a big cardboard box from Amazon on the porch. The chicken jumped onto the box, where she could view the sidewalk easily. The cats joined her. One on each side and another in front. The hen observed the kind gentleman with something of a gleam in her eye. A thankful twinkle.
I am so thankful for events that capture my imagination. When I was 23 years old, just off the plane from New Jersey, living in an apartment on Hansen Avenue, a seemingly ancient man told me that when he first came to Wyoming he was hired to help a one-legged man named Zep tend cows in Big Horn County.
“You helped a one-legged man named Zep watch cows?” I asked again, just to be sure.
“Yep,” he said.
My imagination is easily captured: the deer in Hoback that had joined a family for pancakes at the kitchen table on a regular basis back in the day; the badger guy; the ranch family with a bear that stayed for years and years, entertaining guests with his antics; the woman with a four-year supply of flour in her basement who never wanted to be accused of having a lack of foresight. OK, the flour freak is me. Thanksgiving is coming and I want to be prepared.
Every year I make exceptional dinner rolls.
“These rolls are delicious,” my guests always exclaim.
“The recipe is from Bernard Clayton’s ‘New Complete Book of Breads,’” I always say. “He was the Julia Child of bread baking, and these are his mother Lenora’s rolls.”
Everyone shakes their head happily, digging into their stuffing and cranberry sauce. It’s then I begin my little Thanksgiving tirade about how Bernard Clayton has written this epic book on bread baking and includes his mother’s famous recipe for dinner rolls that are lovely, light and golden. Clayton’s mother’s rolls won her several blue ribbons at the Indiana State Fair. It is said that no matter what special dish Lenora placed in front of her guests, it was her rolls that drew the most flattering remarks from men and requests for the recipe from wives.
“All this flattery, and then her son buries her recipe on page 474,” I complain to my dinner guests. “This recipe should be on the front page with a dedication to his mother!”
“You know, Doreen,” a guest replied last year, “Persephone makes very delicious dinner rolls. You should lighten your load.”
Oh, phooey, Thanksgiving isn’t any trouble. I will roast a turkey even though a chicken would probably do for my extremely intimate gathering. I’ll bake several pies and Leonora’s rolls in celebration of the Pilgrims’ first harvest feast and the Native Americans’ Green Corn Dance. I will honor President Lincoln’s proclamation that Thanksgiving be a holiday of thanks and praise, being especially thankful for all of life’s stories that have come my way.