The Case of Mama Hen and the Mongrel Chicks — or: What Would Jesus Say?

Know thy livestock!

All Hallows’ Day Eve (or, if you prefer, All Saints’ Day Eve) email from DebK of Rosemount: “Taxman and I have always been church-y people, but becoming pretend farmers has deepened our appreciation for Scriptural references to rural life. There’s nothing like being in the lamb business, for example, to deepen one’s appreciation of Jesus’s many elaborations of the relationship between sheep and Shepherd.

“In today’s Gospel, we’re reminded that Jesus knew about chickens, too. In fact, the words St. Luke attributes to Christ — ‘I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings’ — took me from my pew (directly beneath the Tenth Station of the Cross) right into the St. Isidore Farm chicken coop, from this chilly Halloween morning back to a sweltering July evening when I was doing chores for Taxman, who was on duty at the Rice County Fair.

“About six weeks earlier, one of our Buff Orpington hens had hatched six charming chicks of very mixed lineage. Baby chicks grow quickly, so within a couple of weeks, they’d been moved (along with Mama) from the maternity ward (a cracked refrigerator drawer left to gather dust in a corner of the egg room) to the brooder, where 50 store-bought chicks of nearly an identical age were growing at nearly an identical rate. From the first, it was clear that Mama Hen had no interest in allowing her handsome mongrel babies to fraternize with those motherless purebreds. She enforced strict segregation. During the day, her six chicks entertained one another in a separate corner of the yard; come dusk, the family would claim a straw-filled corner of the brooder, eschewing the roosts where the other chicks spent the night. Mama kept those chicks — now fully feathered — under her fluffy golden-brown self all night long, every night.

“That situation was only modestly troubling — one doesn’t like to see elitism among one’s livestock, after all — until ferocious heat and humidity descended on us, ruining Fair Week and putting farm animals in real peril. Taxman’s volunteer shift at a fair booth fell on the worst night of that heat wave. When I went to the brooder to close the door and turn on ventilation fans, I spotted Mama Hen doing her level best to keep her sextuplets in tow. It was a difficult business, for the chicks were nearly full-grown — each nearly the size of their mother. And surely there was some reluctance on the youngsters’ part to spend the sweltering night under the very warm body of their insistent mama. But Mama prevailed. When I switched on the fan, I was witness to a circle of six heavily  panting chicken heads protruding from the nether regions of their mama, who spread herself, triumphant, over the mound of her progeny.

“On a related note, I regret to inform members of the BB community that the human residents of St. Isidore Farm are without breakfast eggs this morning. As always happens this time of year, the hens are engaged in a work stoppage that will persist until well after the holiday baking season has ended.”

What is right with people?

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: The Good Samaritan.

“My brother is seriously ill, fighting some unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy. He willingly consented to sharing this story about him as he described it to me:

“My brother is a tough guy. He played semi-pro football, and he drove for a major trucking firm in the Chicago area. His language is often strong, and he can be bull-headed. Retiring in northern Wisconsin, he eventually became a fishing guide, notably for muskie.

“While he was a patient in a Twin Cities hospital, his pastor brought him some reading materials about his Christian faith. One of the side effects of the chemo prevents him from reading more than a page at a time. He asked some of the aides to kindly read it to him. Most were always too busy, needing to assist other patients, cleaning and whatever else they do.

“It turns out that one hospital employee did go out of her way to help him. She did this after her work shift was complete and before she went home that day. She entered his room with a smile, sat down, adjusted her burka, and read all of the passages to him. No Catholic, Lutheran or other Christian was willing to do this, even during their work shift. But this Muslim woman showed the compassion to read the Christian religious material to make him feel better. Like the words that the Bible asks: Who is the genuine Good Samaritan?”

Then & Now (responsorial)

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Playground Perils.

John in Highland described banned playground games at St. Luke’s.

“At Transfiguration, in Maplewood then, we weren’t to tunnel into the snow too far during recess, because the snow could collapse on us and we could asphyxiate.

“Recently I read a new Christmas book in which part of the plot involved bored kids digging a series of snow tunnels. As I read it, I could hear the nuns yelling at them.”

Grandma Paula: “Subject: Lukers.

John in Highland‘s submission of ‘The Playground at St. Luke’s’ instantly brought this thought to my mind:

“I have spent most of my life feeling lucky that I dodged a bullet back in the 1950s when my parents sent me to grade school at J.J. Hill Elementary and I never had to be a full-time Luker.

“My mother was Catholic, my dad was Methodist, and we were poor. It cost money to go to a Catholic school. My aunt and uncle on my mother’s side offered to pay for my older sister to go to St. Luke’s, and for my brother to go there, too. My sister, being the oldest in the family, and my brother, being the only boy old enough to go to school at that time, drew the short straws as far as I was concerned.

“However, my Catholic relatives insisted that I had to make my First Communion with my brother and sister. So the three of us trudged off to Catechism classes — on SATURDAYS, no less! My one and only day of freedom. To add insult to injury, I had to attend St. Luke’s for two weeks, for a retreat, before the Sunday we were to receive our First Communion.

“As you can tell, I was kind of a brat. The nuns and priests scared the heck out of me with their rules and regulations. Mass at 6 in the morning, every day, before school! What the heck! It was bad enough that I had to go to Mass on Sunday.

“Also: lining up with our heads bowed and hands clasped together, as if in prayer, to leave the classroom; lining up for lunch; lining up for recess; lining up to go to the bathroom — all in the same posture. The only words that could come out of our mouths were Yes, Sister; No, Sister; Yes, Father; No, Father. This was not how they ran the public school that I was used to.

“And Confession! Wow, what does a 7-year-old have to confess?

“I lived in a constant state of fear: What if God struck me dead in that dark, scary confessional booth. What if I couldn’t swallow the host whole? What if I touched it with anything other than my tongue? I was a basket case of nerves.

“Well, I was not struck down when I went to Confession, but I was shaking like a leaf. I made it through the Mass and my First Communion without throwing up, or any of my other imagined awful scenarios actually happening.

“It was with great relief and happiness that, the next Monday, I could go back to my school and my beloved teachers, who were so kind to me and did not scare the bejesus out of me.

“P.S. My sister tells an entirely different story of her years at St. Luke’s. Our home life was pretty chaotic, so she loved the rules and regulations, and the nuns were always sweet and kind to her. Two very different memories, for two very different sisters. (She was the ‘good daughter,’ and I was the ‘not so good daughter.’)”

Know thyself!
And: Our times

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Bad news, good news.

“The average life expectancy for men in the U.S. has dropped again. Finally, in March of 2020, I will be recognized as above average.

“There should be a participation award for that.”

Know thyself!
And: Games people play

Tia2d: “Subject: Games.

“When we were young and living paycheck-to-paycheck, we played some games with our own perceptions.

“When we got paid, we would buy some nice little steaks or other treats, and champagne or wine, and put it all away. When the refrigerator was looking bare and we were tired of Ramen or fried-egg sandwiches, we would break out the steaks and open the champagne and feel like we were Living in Luxury.

“Sometimes I wanted a little Retail Therapy, and I could go to the Ben Franklin (this was the 1970s) and find a very bright and colorful pair of underwear for under a dollar. Tada! Therapy.

“This also played into a very subtle game that we did not acknowledge for a long time: Competition Underwear. We had to use the laundromat, and it really wasn’t a job we liked, so whoever ran out of underwear first usually had to do the laundry. Slowly our underwear collections became larger and larger.

“Finally we finished college, moved on, and got our own washer and dryer — and our underwear drawers are much more reasonable now.”

Games people play

LeoJEOSP writes: “Subject: PT is fun.

“A recent fall meant a doctor’s visit and subsequent appointments with a physical therapist (PT).

“My first PT heard my recent history of falls, and I was sent to a more advanced therapist. My first appointment with the advanced therapist consisted of showing me different exercises I must do at home daily. One of the exercises has me standing next to the kitchen counter. I must stand straight while I extend my right leg and then repeat with the left.

“Simple exercises are difficult at the beginning, but get easier as the days go by. I try to distract myself by thinking of something humorous while exercising. After a few reps of the alternate leg stretches, I realized I was doing the Freddie! The Freddie was a silly dance, popular in the 1960s. Freddie would dance and scream while the band members alternated kicking the right leg and then the left. The drummer was excused from this ridiculous spectacle. Those who are not old [posterior breezes]: Go to YouTube and type ‘do the Freddie & Hullabaloo’ in the search box.

“My PT is much easier to do now. Thank you.

“Freddie was the milkman for the Noone family in Manchester, England. Mr. and Mrs. Noone had several children. One of them is Peter, lead singer of Herman’s Hermits. Those who are not old [posterior breezes]: Go to YouTube and search for Herman’s Hermits & Hullabaloo.”

The vision thing

KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Plants Have a Social Life, Too.

“I recently read an article where scientists purport that plants are social: ‘After decades of seeing plants as passive recipients of fate, scientists have found them capable of behaviors once thought unique to animals. Some plants even appear to be social, favoring family while pushing strangers from the neighborhood.’

“I’m not a scientist, but it appears to me that this little leaf was social enough to want to go trick-or-treating as a jack o’lantern for Halloween.”


Everyone’s a copy editor!

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A long commute.

“This appeared in the ‘Baseball’ section of the ‘Sports briefing’ column on Page 4B of the Sports section in Sunday’s Pioneer Press:

“‘Royals hire Beltran as manager

“‘Carlos Beltran, two years removed from his playing career and with no managerial experience, has been picked by the New York Mets to replace Mickey Callaway.’

“I wonder if he will alternate games, series, weeks, or months as he manages two different teams in two different leagues.”

Ask a silly question, get a silly answer . . .

Donald: “Subject: The fix is in!

“From ‘THEY SAID IT’ in the most recent Sports Illustrated:

“‘I think I certainly, as a player, got the Captain’s attention.’

“‘Tiger Woods, on his chances of being picked for the Presidents Cup team after winning the ZOZO Championship in Chiba, Japan. Woods is the U.S. team captain.'”

Shirts happen
Or: The self-incriminators

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “I spotted this one on a man in the Shoreview Target:

“‘The only thing I Really Love is


“‘And maybe 3 people'”

Ah, the smell of it!
Our Theater of Seasons Division (responsorial)

The most recent Bulletin Board (before today’s, that is) included a note from Al B of Hartland: “The smell of pumpkin spice is in every working nostril. Crop dusters find extra work by filling the air with it. It’s in the coffee and the desserts. It’s even in SPAM. It might be in the gasoline. It’s replaced the smell of burning leaves at this time of the year.”

We presently heard from Barbara of Afton: “Al B of Hartland may be pleased to know that RJ’s Meats in Hudson recently advertised pumpkin spice brats on their sign.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We can hear Einstein of St. Paul, even now: “Pumpkin spice brats? What — is it spray-on? Do they infuse the little smart-alecks with it? Do they bathe the urchins in it? . . . Oh, bratwurst! Never mind.”

Life as we know it

Doris Day: “Subject: Thought for today.


“‘It has become increasingly true that my life has been made up of long days and short years.’ — Vince Hatt on turning 80.”

See world

Pollyanna of Lakeland writes: “Subject: Photos from a walk.

“I work for the company well-known for the Christmas tree made from office lights.

“A few years ago, they removed the fountain that had been there for decades. Apparently it was a money pit. Many of us who had worked there awhile were disappointed with the decision. I am no longer disappointed.

“These photos were taken from one of the walking paths that were installed when the fountain was removed.





“There is also an awesome butterfly garden where hundreds of Monarchs and other butterflies hung out this summer.

“The landscaping is really beautiful and ever-changing. I feel lucky to witness it.”

This ‘n’ that (responsorial)

LLjk: “A couple of responses to the most recent BB:

“One nephew also had a hole-filled bucket. He wanted to be a garbage man because they only work one day a week.

“His brother would not necessarily laugh at cartoons, but sometimes he would admit that one of them ‘made my mind giggle.'”

In memoriam (in advance)

F Gump of River Falls, Wisconsin: “Subject: What’s in an obituary, anyway?

“I wish to share that next week (November 13, 2019) will mark 50 years since I returned from my year of infantry service in Vietnam. Despite the fractures which that experience caused my body and psyche, I am glad to be here.

“My wife of 20 years recently asked me to jot things down for my obituary, because there is much from my first five decades that she did not experience firsthand.

“I have been giving this some thought, and asked her to include my age at death and its cause. However, I have told her that I want the first line of the obit to read: ‘You know — it’s been OK!’ I cannot change anything that has already happened, and I have no great fear of the future.

“So, to the loyal readers of Bulletin Board: If someday you read a death notice in the St. Paul Pioneer Press or elsewhere that begins with ‘You know — it’s been OK,’ you will finally know the source of more than a dozen F Gump entries over the years. And, yes, it really is OK.”

Joy of Juxtaposition

Semi-Legend: “Richard Thompson wrote a song circa 1991 called ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning,’ a motorcycle that was gifted by its dying owner to his girlfriend, Red Molly:

“‘Says Red Molly, to James, “Well that’s a fine motorbike.
“‘A girl could feel special on any such like.”
“‘Says James, to Red Molly, “My hat’s off to you.
“‘”It’s a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.

“‘”And I’ve seen you on the corners and cafes, it seems.
“‘”Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme.”
“‘And he pulled her on behind,
“‘And down to Boxhill,
“‘They’d Ride.

“‘Says James, to Red Molly, “Here’s a ring for your right hand.
“‘”But I’ll tell you in earnest I’m a dangerous man;
“‘”For I’ve fought with the law since I was seventeen.
“‘”I’ve robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine.

“‘”And now I’m twenty-one years, I might make twenty-two.
“‘”And I don’t mind dyin’ but for the love of you.
“‘”But if fate should break my stride, then I’ll give you my Vincent,
“‘”To Ride.”

“‘”Come down Red Molly, ” called Sargent McQuade.
“‘”For they’ve taken young James Aidee for Armed Robbery.
“‘”Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside.
“‘”Oh, come down, Red Molly, to his dying bedside.”

“‘When she came to the hospital, there wasn’t much left.
“‘He was runnin’ out of road. He was runnin’ out of breath.
“‘But he smiled, to see her cry.
“‘And said, “I’ll give you my Vincent.
“‘”To Ride.”

“‘Said James, “In my opinion, there’s nothing in this world
“‘”Beats a ’52 Vincent and a Redheaded girl.
“‘”Now Nortons and Indians and Greavses won’t do.
“‘”Oh, they don’t have a Soul like a Vincent ’52.”

“‘Well he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys.
“‘He said, “I’ve got no further use…for these.
“‘”I see Angels on Ariels in leather and chrome,
“‘”Swoopin’ down from Heaven to carry me home.”

“‘And he gave her one last kiss and died.
“‘And he gave her his Vincent.
“‘To Ride.’

“Here’s a great version by the Del McCoury Band:

“I read yesterday a 2014 poem by Emily Rose Cole, ‘Red Molly Claims Her Prize.’

“The first verse, after the epigraph:

“‘Says James, in my opinion, there’s nothing in this world
“‘Beats a ’52 Vincent and a red headed girl.

“‘I was his junkyard queen crowned in rust & leather,
“‘Our lady of peeling paint & busted engines. The first time
“‘He took me out, his Vincent hummed through my thighs
“‘Like a sickness & it was all I wanted.’

“I was reading this evening, in the Spring 2013 issue of American Poet, Edward Hirsch’s 2009 poem, ‘Early Sunday Morning.’

“It includes this:

“‘It’s like this: just when you think
“‘you have forgotten that red-haired girl
“‘who left you stranded in a parking lot
“‘forty years ago, you wake up

“‘early enough to see her disappearing
“‘around the corner of your dream
“‘on someone else’s motorcycle
“‘roaring onto the highway at sunrise.’

“Now we know, it seems, the rest of the story.”

Unclear on the concept
Or: The Littleralists

Dave the Bus Driver: “Last week, my 7-year-old granddaughter, Aiyana, and I were getting a roast ready for the crock pot. We were sautéing onions when she lifted the pan and started scraping the bottom of the pan with the spatula.

“I said: ‘What are you doing?’

“She looked at me, then pointed at the recipe directions and read loudly: ‘SCRAPE THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN.’

“I told her: ‘The inside of the pan, where the food is.’

“She looked at me and said: ‘Ohhh, I get it.'”

Band Name of the Day: The Elitist Livestock — or: Competition Underwear

Website of the Day, recommended by The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “Subject: Photography.

“This is so beautiful: UNESCO’s Newest World Heritage Sites, in Photos.”

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