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Saturday, October 01, 2005


cooperation

A few afternoons ago, I observed two great examples of cooperation.

The first occurred when I took a baggie full of too-long-gone mozzarella down to the chicken coop. On the off-chance that you don't understand fowl palate like I do, let me tell you that there's nothing under the sun that chickens (and ducks) love more than cheese. I suspect they smell it the minute I remove it from the fridge, because they always have this anticipatory expression on their little chicken faces whenever I emerge from the house and walk them down a bit of cheese. You should see the way their miniscule hearts flutter under those chests as I reach my hand into that baggie and pull out that hunk of orange (or white, as was the case in this week's drama). You could hear a feather drop as they watch my fingers twist off the first bits. Their beady black eyes latch onto my arm as I rear back for the toss, then follow the trajectory of the moldy treasure as it approaches, then clears the netting and plops to earth. The ruckus that ensues reminds me of my department store security days when I'd unlock the front door, jump aside to safety, and watch women jostling each other through the double-doors, racing to the end-of-the-month clearance rack, and scrappling over just-reduced purses and scarves like we were all stranded together on a desert and the table was full of tall glasses of ice water.

The chickens are a tad more polite--but just a tad. They clucked and scratched and pecked like those shreds of mozzarella cheese might be their last meal. They made just enough frantic noise that they aroused the curiosity of our five baby chicks (hatched just this week) and drew them out from under the hen house, where they'd been hiding. They pushed their teensy toothpick feet into high gear, skittered straight over to the chaos and stared up at the faces of those grown-up chickens, slobbering over their cheesy beakfuls.

Either those chicks didn't have a clue what to do, or they were afraid to compete for cheese (which is my guess), because they all just stood to the side, watching the frenzy. Until the rooster--yes, the rooster--decided to mother them a bit. I watched him select a long strand of mozzarella, walk over to the chicks, drop it on the ground, and peck it into smaller pieces. Then he stepped back a bit and waited for them to descend upon his offering. They did--and cheese love was born right before my eyes. I could see delight filling and stiffening those five, fluffy bodies. As one, they turned and stared at the circle of hens fighting over the feast, but though they hopped in frustration, they didn't venture over. I didn't blame them. The rooster took pity again and brought them another strand. And it went like that for a good five minutes. Every once in awhile, he'd take a bite for himself, but for the most part, he fed those chicks.

While I was watching the tender scene, a movement up in the walnut tree caught my eye. Now, before I tell you what I saw, I must explain that we planted that walnut tree a good twelve years ago, and we've yet to eat a single walnut. The nuts have been coming on for the last four years, but while we wait for the big green orbs to ripen and drop, something keeps happening to them. We're quick, Dave and I. It only took three years for us to surmise that some nut-loving thief was climbing the tree and taking all our walnuts. And sure enough, when I turned my attention from the chicken yard and looked up at that movement in the tree, my gaze landed smack on a brazen squirrel. There he was--stealing my walnuts in broad daylight.

"YOU!" I yelled. I stormed over to the edge of the tree, scanned the ground for a weapon, and threw the little pebble I found straight up at the tree. Missed him by a mile, but it felt good to do something proactive. From between the leaves, I heard squirrel laughter. I amused him, apparently. To retaliate, he dropped a walnut about three inches from my head. I picked it up and scowled at the tiny squirrel tooth marks that marred the flesh. I very nearly threw it back up at him, until it occurred to me that I was holding our first-ever harvested walnut. Sure, someone else did the harvesting ... but the little gem was mine now.

I looked up at the squirrel and back down at the ground, and I saw the way things were. Apparently, his plan was to climb the tree, chew the stem end of the nut, and drop the orb to the ground, where he'd no doubt collect them later. Or so he thought. I retreated back toward the coop and perched on a hay bale. Then I spent a half hour or so listening to the sounds of our winter snack being dropped to the ground. My anger toward the squirrel lessened as I sat there, and by the time I'd gathered an enormous bowlful of green walnuts and walked back to the house, I felt almost friendly toward him.

Cooperation is a powerful unifier.

*    *    *    

Today after church, I'll be flying down to southern California to attend our annual Calvary Chapel Pastors' Wives Conference. After the conference, we (we being Fran and I) will attend Wednesday night service at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, then stop at Disneyland for Fran's first-ever visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. Miss me while I'm gone, okay?

24 Comment:

At 10/02/2005 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

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At 10/02/2005 8:31 AM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

If only you could read your own writing as I do, and experience it from outside the process of your brain. Shannon, it's so wonderful. You take us away for a few momments to a place we haven't been. I could hear the squirrel laughing and smell the too-long-gone cheese. Don't ever let up on the details, you write them so wonderfully. I hope you take me to Disneyland when you return so I can experience that too.

 
At 10/02/2005 12:41 PM, Blogger Sharon had this to say ...

Shannon.....
Thanks so much for the chuckle.I have(for some strange reason)always found chickens hilarious.Your chicken and squirrel stories brought a so much needed smile to my face today!Please continue to write of life on your farm!I LOVE these stories Shannon.Oh and have fun too.
Love ya,Sharon :-)

 
At 10/02/2005 12:45 PM, Anonymous l. had this to say ...

now this is a really cool blog.

 
At 10/03/2005 5:45 AM, Anonymous Pam D. had this to say ...

A delightful story...and amazing about that rooster. ;-)

I grew up in L.A. area and visited Calvary in Costa Mesa when I was in college in the '70's. Used to listen to Chuck Smith all the time. Your church is an off-shoot of there?

I think I must've been to Disneyland probably 30 times (once a year) growing up, and still it never gets old. But the best is getting to share it and see it through the eyes of a first timer. One of the greatest times I had there was taking a three-year old little girl, watching her eyes widen and sparkle and hearing her squeals of wonderment. So fun to see her discover all the details, right down to the eyelashes on the bears in Bear Country. ;-) (Maybe you'll have a few of those fun details to relate when you get back?? ;-) Have a great time!

 
At 10/03/2005 6:43 AM, Blogger Cheryl had this to say ...

I love reading your blogs. You are an awesome writer!

Hope you enjoyed your pastor's wives conference. I, too, am a pastor's wife, and sure wish there was something like that somewhere... anywhere near me!

 
At 10/03/2005 2:49 PM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Gallavanting Shannon...I envy your trip. Sounds like the perfect R&R!

The rooster in your post should come teach the ducks at our local park a thing or two about cooperating. Those ducks are pigs, jerking and tearing bread from each other's grasp. When I take my granddaughter to feed the ducks, she tries to spot a "shy" duck who's on the sidelines, and tosses a whole piece of bread to it. And don't even mention geese! They're the worst.

Great post, as always. You really know how to connect the dots between animal behavior and us quirky humans.

 
At 10/03/2005 5:26 PM, Blogger Cora had this to say ...

Great post, Shannon. I can just see you sitting there wanting revenge on that squirrel only to get a treat instead.
Enjoy your time in California. I can't wait to hear about your experiences with Fran as she experiences Disneyland for the time. I'm sure you will have a lot to tell us. Especially her reaction when you take her on Space Mountain!
P.S. I'm sure you will miss me more :)

 
At 10/04/2005 1:11 AM, Blogger jiri had this to say ...

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At 10/04/2005 8:47 AM, Blogger Vicki had this to say ...

Shannon, I loved this post. Your writing always draws me in, and your chicken descriptions are so true--I grew up with them!!!

Have a good trip and a good time.
Catch you when you return!

 
At 10/04/2005 2:51 PM, Blogger Tana_Schott had this to say ...

Shannon - I learn a lot when I read your writing. I agree with everything that has already been stated above.

 
At 10/04/2005 2:51 PM, Blogger Tana_Schott had this to say ...

Shannon - I learn a lot when I read your writing. I agree with everything that has already been stated above.

 
At 10/04/2005 2:51 PM, Blogger Tana_Schott had this to say ...

Shannon - I learn a lot when I read your writing. I agree with everything that has already been stated above.

 
At 10/04/2005 2:51 PM, Blogger Tana_Schott had this to say ...

Shannon - I learn a lot when I read your writing. I agree with everything that has already been stated above.

 
At 10/08/2005 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

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At 10/09/2005 4:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

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At 10/09/2005 12:21 PM, Blogger Milton Stanley had this to say ...

Beautiful story, Shannon. I linked to it today at Transforming Sermons. Peace.

 
At 10/09/2005 3:32 PM, Blogger Tom Naka had this to say ...

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At 10/09/2005 5:31 PM, Blogger Jimmy had this to say ...

Hey Shannon, hope your trip and conference is a great time of relaxing, learning and catching up with with good friends. And naturally, I'm envious of the Disneyland trip and I hope you sang "It's A Small World" with gusto!
Looking forward to hearing more about the chickens and squirrels as the fall and winter arrives in the northwest.
Jimmy

 
At 10/11/2005 10:41 AM, Blogger Hikingalong had this to say ...

TAG, You're it!...You've just been tagged..vist my site for instructions.(This is a fun internet thing!)
Blessings,
Berrymom2005

 
At 10/12/2005 12:16 AM, Blogger Nettie had this to say ...

Now I finally have something to compare my insane customers to, thanks for the mental chicken image.

 
At 10/12/2005 2:32 PM, Blogger Stephen had this to say ...

You mean squirrels can actually be helpful sometimes? :) That's neat!

 
At 10/13/2005 12:41 PM, Blogger Gina Burgess had this to say ...

I did NOT know that about roosters! Great post, Shannon. I, too, love your writing. Thanks for uplifting my day, week, month ...

 
At 10/18/2005 9:55 PM, Blogger Gary B had this to say ...

What a great story. It reminded me of E.B. White's farm essays. Animals do have a way of making us see ourselves, don't they?

 

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