The Importance of Snowball and other Strange Birds

Last month, for Mother’s Day weekend, my long-time friend Kacy and I had a girls’ weekend away. The timing was Kacy’s idea, because she figured neither of our husbands could easily say no to our wanting to get away on Mother’s Day. My husband was visibly relieved because this solved his perennial problem of what on earth to get me.

Kacy and I run away take small, restful vacations together at least once a year. We’ve known each other since college, and she’s that friend that, when we reconnect after months or even a year apart, it’s as though no time has passed. We pick right back up where we left off. And where we always leave off is with hijinks.

Shenanigans. Escapades.

In college, I learned that just going to the grocery store with Kacy could be therapy, as we would invariably run into some problem – a car stalling, one of us didn’t bring her wallet, a broken jar of mayonnaise – that with any other friend would have possibly ruined our mood or day. But somehow, when the two of us embarked on even a grocery trip together, even the annoyances of life became part of the adventure. Kacy is imminently practical, and I am sometimes a bit impulsive, and while that sometime exasperates Kacy, I think she enjoys the fallout. At least I hope she does. She calls me Lucy. I call her Ethel. Sigh.

This is why I tell people that when Kacy and I, (we now live in different states) go on our weekend getaways, it doesn’t matter where we go. Frankly, the first night of any Lucy and Ethel adventure simply consists of what she and I call “debriefing”. We go somewhere and get a good dinner. And then we go back to our hotel/cabin/condo, change into our pj’s, and stay up half the night filling each other in on everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly – that has happened in our lives since we last saw one another. Kacy can always offer a funny, quirky take on whatever is going on in my life, and some good advice. She also understands my fascination with chickens.

In 2011, I read an essay a friend posted on social media, called “And That’s Why You Should Pick Your Battles”. (http://thebloggess.com/2011/06/21/and-thats-why-you-should-learn-to-pick-your-battles/) The essay, by “The Bloggess”, aka author Jenny Lawson, had gone viral. Lawson, who also writes openly about her battles with anxiety and depression, had written a brilliant and roll-in-the-floor funny essay about a fight she’d had with her husband, and her subsequent rebellious purchase of a giant metal chicken. The story, which involves a trip to a giant bath outlet store with a friend, is precisely the kind of thing Kacy and I live for. I laughed myself silly, shared the post, and moved on with life.

I also began to obsess about chickens. I looked up photos of heirloom chickens. They are beautiful, magnificent birds. I decided I wanted to get a few chickens, but right at that same time, the city where I live decided to do the most UN-hipster thing ever and BAN chicken coops. Totally ridiculous. I just wanted a few chickens for eggs and staring at. I was not planning to run a CAFO in my backyard. Nonetheless, my plans for the cutest chicken coop ever, with accompanying chickens, were thwarted.

Also about the same time, we had an extended family crisis. My husband was on tour, and I called him, very upset. Later that same day, he says he was walking on a street in some small town in the midwest somewhere, when Floyd caught his eye. Floyd is a rusted metal buzzard, and John bought him for me. He brought him home on the tour bus. There are photos of Floyd on the bus, and one of Floyd “driving the bus”.  If you’ve read the Bloggess’s essay, then you’ll understand the significance of the way John presented Floyd. I received a text from him that said, “Knock, knock m———–, and then a knock on the front door. When I opened the door, only Floyd was there.  (My absolute favorite thing about Floyd is the receipt, which we saved. It says “Rusted Metal Buzzard. NO RETURNS!!!

I don’t know why, but there is something about the absurdity of owning a rusted metal buzzard that is soothing in crisis. Sometime after taking ownership of Floyd, I had a flute student who was going through a serious personal crisis. I took her around to our backyard to see Floyd. As I walked, I told her the story. First, the story of Beyonce. Then, the story of Floyd. As she rounded the corner of my house and saw Floyd in all his glorious ridiculousness for the first time, I saw the first smile I’d seen on her in a very long time. When this student graduated, her gift to me was delivered by her sister, who shook her head saying, “I don’t know what she was thinking, but she insisted we get you this.” It was a small metal chicken.

And so, I’ve collected a few more chickens of various sorts over the years. Kacy was with me when I bought a beautiful print of a rooster painting which hangs in my kitchen. I love it. It makes me smile, and I think of my friend whenever I look at it.

Which is why it is oddly significant that a chicken named Snowball had such a star role in our most recent getaway.

When we arrived at the winery on the Biltmore Estate, Kacy drove around the full lot for a bit, looking for parking. Spotting an additional lot, Kacy said, “Let’s park over here.”

“Oh yes, let’s do! Let’s park next to the chicken coop!”

We had been to this area of the estate earlier in the day for lunch, and I had approached the chicken coop with the excitement of a small child. (Actually, the chicken coop is part of a petting zoo which actually IS for small children.) I was fascinated by the sheer number and variety of heirloom chickens there, and I had already spent a good deal of time staring at them.

As we walked up the path, I made Kacy stop again at the chicken coop. She eventually tore me away so we could go wine tasting.

The wine tasting itself turned into an adventure, as we were surrounded by rude people. The burly man to my left was clearly showing off for his date, saying things like, “This doesn’t have the heft of that Cabernet we tried in Burgundy,” and sneering and pouring the wine out. As though he were in some kind of special, invitation-only cellar special tasting at an elite vineyard and winery in a difficult to reach village in New Zealand, as opposed to a mass tasting room at the Biltmore, with hundreds of other tourists. After he and the other rude people left, I told the bartender that my husband and I had lived near Napa Valley in the 90’s, and had spent many a Saturday tasting the wine and trying the food there. Turns out the Biltmore imports grapes from northern California for some of its wines, and we then had a good time playing a game – could Kacy and I determine which wines were from local grapes and which were from Californian grapes? We could. And we did. A lot.

At one point, I remembered there was a limit to the number of wines we were permitted to taste, but our bartender didn’t seem to care. She implied the limit applied to people less cool than my friend Kacy and me. (She totally enforced the limit on the rude people.)

Her pouring arm went for variety over quantity though, so as Kacy and I walked back to the parking lot after a brief period of shopping, we were feeling calm and content, as though all was right in the world.

And that’s when we saw her.

Kacy saw her first. “Look, that chicken is on top of the fence!”

“Oh, wow, she totally is! Oh man, those people are going to get pecked and clawed.”

Anyone who has spent even the most perfunctory time with chickens knows that you do not stare at them, yell, and enter their personal space. But there were two families doing just that. And Snowball was not happy.

I looked away for a moment, distracted by something. (I cannot remember. I think it was a goat.) And then I heard Kacy say, “She did it! That chicken is out of the coop!”

We hastened to the coop, where Snowball, in her beautiful white, fluffy, serene way, was pecking and scratching the ground, as though she were still inside the coop. The perps had run away.

“Kacy, someone is going to hurt this chicken. I’ll go for help. You stay here, and, uhm, keep an eye on the chicken.”

It is a testament to the years we have known one another that Kacy simply responded, “Ok, Charlene. Right. I’ll watch the chicken.” And sighed.

I went into the coop, where, after some time, (I did not allow myself further distraction by goats), I found an attendant who looked exactly like Mr. Green Jeans.

“Excuse me, sir. You have a chicken loose.”

Mr. Green Jeans looked at me like I’d lost my mind, because we were in the petting zoo area where all the chickens (and goats) were loose.

“No, I mean over there.” And I explained what happened.

Mr. Green Jeans expressed his gratitude and said he’d take care of it. But by the time I’d gone back around to the people side of the coop, the perps, realizing they had done something wrong, had already alerted another staff member. As she was putting the chicken back in her coop, we learned her name was Snowball, and this was her first offense.

And Kacy and I went an had a lovely dinner, although neither of us could order the chicken.

And we think of Snowball often now. Perhaps she was simply trying to get away for a little “therapy weekend” like Kacy and me. Perhaps a persistent rooster was driving her crazy, or perhaps she was just tired of the coop and needed a change.

In her one act of defiance, Snowball has become the new standard-bearer for Kacy and me – just needing a little getaway to nowhere, every now and then.

Godspeed, Snowball.

 

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About fluteromano

An active freelancer, private teacher, and university professor settles down to raise a few kids in a small town. For my professional bio, please see my studio website: www.charleneromano.musicteachershelper.com.

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