Chickens are not hawks!
I posted this before on the remarkable Dr maroon's site, but as I am up to my tonsils with work I thought some of you tootsies might enjoy it again.
I firmly believe I lived the idyll when it came to childhoods.
I grew up in the countryside of Ireland. I lived in a large rambling house with my parents, my then evil older sister Etheline, my other even older sister who was not evil, and my brother- who is slightly younger than me and thus was the sibling I played with most.
For whatever reason, our parents did not spend huge amounts of time entertaining us or arranging playdates, or driving us places, any of that sort of thing. We were to amuse ourselves and so we did.
We had four dogs, two working collies and two household mutts, we had zillions of cats, mostly feral, unless we could find the kittens early enough to get them used to humans. We had a palomino pony who was grouchy and would bite and took ages to catch. We had a hunter, Bess, a sixteen two hands high liver chestnut mare, who I loved dearly and was terrified of because when ever I rode her she did what she wanted. This included throwing me and my best friend off once when she got fed up of us riding her back and forth across the head lands. She went trotting off home, leaving us to walk back to the house.
We children climbed trees, caught frogs, built forts, fished in our own brook for minnows, swam and created a mini version of the RDS Horse Show using brush handles and cement breeze blocks, which we would then make the collies jump over as we did commentary. We rode Raleigh bikes that sometimes folded in half as we cycled. We did not have brakes a lot of the time, but Clark shoes are indestructible and worked very well.
We were wildish, we were thin, we were filthy most of the time, we were freeish, we lived a great deal of the time out doors. We did not have play stations, computers, video games, mobile phones, or indeed anything to amuse us other than books and imagination.
Imagination was never a problem for my brother and me. We fought, we created, we destroyed. We learned that nettles sting; rose hips make great itching powder; if you catch mice and hide them in the kitchen the house keeper will complain and you will be slapped; bulls sometimes do not give warnings before they chase you; and the electric current running through cattle wire won't kill you but it will give you a dead arm for an hour.
Another great discovery we made one summer's day is that chickens are not hawks.
My brother and I had been watching Ivanhoe or Robin of Sherwood or some such Saturday afternoon show on our two channel television. Inspired, we ran out to the back paddock and began to battle for the control of the 'all the lands'.
We couldn't catch the blasted pony, but we did snare two fairly tame Bantam chickens, which we then pretended were hawks, ( the best villains always had a bird of prey perched on their arm)
So we held the poor chicken by their feet and they flapped and squaked a bit while we threatened each other with broom handles shouting. 'Fie, a pox upon your village' and 'You will pay the tax m'lud, or suffer the consequence!' and so on at each other.
Then it was dinner time and, rather that re-catch the chickens,-they were tame not stupid- we decided to get a length of clothesline, tie it around their feet and tie them to the lower branch of the horsechesnut tree we were playing beside so that we could continue our game after dinner.
We went inside, washed, had dinner, watched some telly -probably the Irish RM (Flurry Knox, what a chancer). Then-as it was a saturday- we were forced to take baths and have our hair washed with Clinic shampoo(vile/smelly)
We went to bed forgetting all about the poor birds. Next morning as we were getting ready for mass, my brother suddenly looked at me.
'Shit,' he said, 'the chickens!'
We sprinted outside, over the railings and back towards the tree.
I'll never forget it.
My brother's bird had somehow gotten loose and was gone, but my bird, poor old Goldie, had fallen off her branch at some point and was swinging gently about three feet above the ground from one foot, in a dead faint.
Horrified and thinking she was dead, I untied her, but as she dropped she made a faint 'squak' sound, so I knew she'd be okay once I'd revived her.
I was shaking her gently and weeping, crying, 'Oh Goldie, I'm so sorry! Poor Goldie, you're not a hawk are you?' while my brother lay on the grass laughing his arse off.
My mother slapped him when she saw the grass stains on his pants.
So you see, chickens are not hawks.