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Scarce as Hen’s Teeth

By Linda Brooks Davis

Ever consider writing about chickens?

Neither have I. Until now.

I’m involved in a Bible study seeking a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit. Today’s lesson was subtitled “God wants to dwell among humble people.” Our discussions stimulated, challenged, and sometimes surprised me, made me sit up and consider the Holy Spirit in a new way, particularly in the light of humility.

Which brings me back to chickens.

I fed a slew of them as a girl.

My farmer father wrung their necks.

Mother cut them up so we could have a pulley-bone pullin’. And then she fried them–hearts, gizzards, necks, and livers too–crisp on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.

Chickens bring to mind Sunday Dinner and something else–Per-so-nal-i-ty.

Hens can be downright unneighborly, squawking and flapping and pecking at a girl just trying to gather eggs. And those roosters … Mercy, roosters are a force to be reckoned with. Tread softly, very softly, in the chicken yard, ya’ll. Those claws can do some real damage.

I’ve noticed hens’ and roosters’ body parts from heads to feet and tail feathers. But I have yet to find a single tooth.

Teeth are scarce in a chicken yard and so is humility. Ever spy an humble chicken?

Such a one won’t peck a hole in a girl’s hand just for reaching for an egg.

A contrite rooster won’t flog a boy who’s come to the chicken yard to scatter feed.

Nor will a meek Main Mama strut her tail feathers before the other girls just because she out-lays every other hen in the yard.

Women are sometimes referred to as a bunch of hens. Or their laughter as cackling. I’d like to think a squirrelly old man first came up with such unflattering comparisons, but if the metaphor fits, girls, wear it. You too, boys.

The fowl-dispositioned chicken/rooster/bad pun metaphor sometimes fits folks in publishing. (Settle down now. No ruffled feathers allowed.) A well-intentioned question or improperly submitted query can spark a fluttering of wings at best and a flogging of the tongue at the worst.

Pressures … Oh, now pressures abound in the publishing chicken yard, don’t you know? The lowly pullets are struggling to learn and grow and peck and squawk like the big folks. The new mothers are hesitant, guarded, even irritable. And the old folks are just plain grumpy.

But let a newcomer strut into the yard wearing a “Grade A” badge or looking plain measly and daring to ask where she’s to “set” or he, where he’s to strut, and Mr. Rooster and Mrs. Main Mama sharpen their claws. Why, those two have been around awhile and enjoy a following, so they can let fly some barbs, I’m here to tell you. Even in their blogs.

Prideful Mr. Rooster and Busier-Than-Anybody-Else Main Mama need to take a step back and consider the setting hen over in the corner, the one who’s trying her best to lay that first egg. Or the young mama who laid an egg, but it rolled out of the nest and splatted onto the ground. Even that veteran of the hen house who produces nests full of eggs but never a chick, yet keeps trying.

Mr. and Mrs. Exalted Success Story might take a look in the mirror. They could have egg on their faces. They won’t find they’ve grown teeth, but maybe—just maybe—they’ll uncover some humility.

We all need a strong dose of humility, chicken yard or nay.

Linda Brooks Davis FebLinda’s life has stirred stories that need telling, so from her home in San Antonio she’s doing her best to catch them and put them on paper. Released in December, 2015, The Calling of Ella McFarland won Operation First Novel and the 2016 Carol Award in the Debut Novel category.

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