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Another Day in the Country

Lessons from Aunt Bea

© Another Day in the Country

In the middle of all my black hens, who pretty much look alike, are two who have names.

There’s Gertie, my favorite tame hen, with such bright red waddles and comb reminding me of Aunt Gertie’s red ear rings. She’s the first to greet me when I open the chicken house door.

Then there’s Aunt Bea, who was named more recently. I can tell her from the other black hens because she’s often sitting down.

If I let the chickens out for a bit to run in the yard, Bea joins them but soon she will sit down and contentedly catch bugs that are within her reach or nibble the grass, watching the other hens in her flock running around.

Dagfrinnr had a hen named Helga who suddenly sat down and eventually lost use of her legs. They took her to the vet and discovered she needed Vitamin B-12 of all things. The vet gave her a shot, and she recovered.

Helga later had her malady return. My daughter fashioned a sling to hold her up and put food and water within reach. The hen lived out her days in the human house. I won’t go that far!

I’m not much of a vet-going chicken owner. I can’t afford doctor calls for chickens, so my hens are stuck with me doing the best I can at chicken healing.

I’ve brought some back from death’s door, so my track record is pretty good, but what could I do for this one? I don’t give injections.

So, I’ve watched out for her. Because of her habit of sitting down, catching her breath, resting, I can easily distinguish her from the others. So she, too, got a name: Aunt Bea.

I thought that’s probably “it” for this black hen, but that wasn’t the case. It’s been several months since I noticed her slowing down, sitting around.

She still can walk, even run. She’s still laying eggs. She’s just slower and sits down more. I know the feeling.

I’m not good at sitting down. I’m anything but contented to sit down. I get impatient with myself when I’m low on energy.

But everyone reading this column knows that our energy levels are not always the same — especially as we age. I need to learn to sit down graciously and let the younger hens run around more.

It’s a difficult lesson, but I’m taking tips from Aunt Bea.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were helping choreograph and photograph a wedding, we all were running for three days straight.

As we were cleaning up after the reception, I finally made myself sit down and watch the others stacking tables and chairs.

Every once in awhile, I’d spy something I could do and I’d get up and do it and then, like Aunt Bea, I just sat down again and watched the others in my flock running around.

The clock was heading toward midnight by the time we got back to the motel and we’d pretty much had it.

Aunt Bea never learned to use a smart phone, but I have. And I put it to good use. My body may be resting, but my mind is busy doing my daily Duolingo lessons in Spanish.

I’ve been a stickler, doing my lessons every single day for 125 days in a row now. Every once in a while, I get a message from my grandson, congratulating me on my progress.

I also play word games when I’m taking a break, sitting down, imaging that the rest of the world is tearing around doing things — important things. 

Reading books is another thing that’s enjoyable and actually requires a person to sit down. But, for some reason, I always feel a little guilty stopping midday to read a book.

That’s the powerful influence one’s upbringing has on a lifetime. If you were taught to be busy, stopping is difficult.

Some people meditate. I try. It’s difficult for me, but I keep trying. I do like lying in a hammock on the front porch. But, come colder weather, that’s not an option, and colder weather is here.

Then, the other day, I was working in the yard, digging canna bulbs, and I let the chickens out to run for a while.

When the sun was going down, I went over and locked the hens in for the night.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . I got all the way to 11 and stopped. Did I count right? A bunch of black chickens is difficult to count. So, I counted again. Still just 11 black hens — some already sitting up on the roost, the rest milling around by my feet, hoping for treats. 

It was the next day in the country when I realized it was Aunt Bea who was missing — just gone.

Something had snatched her, evidently while she was sitting. No warning. Not even a squawk from the other hens. No tell-tale sign of feathers left behind. Raptured! Not a bad way to go.

Last modified Nov. 23, 2022

 

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