Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

The 1966 movie, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” has had a modern sequel over the Christmas holidays, which I might paraphrase as, “A funny thing happened on the way to the compost pile.” 

For over 35 years I have been a patron of the winter citrus fruit sales at the Kilmarnock Seventh-Day Adventist Church. About 20-odd years ago, when I opened one of the grapefruit, I found a sprouted seed, which I planted in a small pot, and I have repotted it many times. Today, it is a towering tree in one corner of the kitchen. We named it Martha, after our friend Martha Lee, who works coordinating the fruit sales.

This year one morning shortly before Christmas after breakfast I was taking the citrus detritus out to the compost pile when I accidentally dropped a grapefruit half on the ground. That slip on my part has led to a protracted chain reaction in the barnyard.

As soon as the depleted half hit the ground, Henry swooped down as I never have seen him swoop, and he began pecking away at the inside. He was in a state of near-goose-nirvana. Gladys and Quack approached, but he clearly was unwilling to share his newfound delicacy with either of them. When he had finished and walked away, Gladys and Quack inspected the remainder, only to find that nothing animal-edible remained.

For the days following, each morning a new ritual has ensued. On the way to the compost pile, I stop to give the fowl the treat of further dissecting the citrus residue. The behavior of each replicates Henry’s sense of euphoria. Gladys, who normally is quite positive, albeit in such a negative way, becomes subdued as soon as the citrus is presented. It casts a spell over her, but Henry decidedly is in the lead in garnering the pieces.  

No one seems to object when I gather the picked-over, or “pecked-over,” pieces for the final move to the compost pile. Given the size of our family Christmas assembly, each one has been able to get a piece, and the “peaceable kingdom” is the order of the day, with Gladys in a lesser role than in past years, and Henry as the king of the yard, despite his being significantly smaller in size than Gladys.

I have the strong impression that Quack, a Khaki Campbell duck, is in a state of quandary. He has not been able to figure out whether he is a teenage gander, awaiting adulthood, or a suitor to Gladys. If the latter, he is in for a big disappointment, as she pays him no mind. She seems bothered by his role as a self-appointed courtier in constant pursuit of both Gladys and Henry.  

For my part, I have chosen to restrict myself to facilitating their essential needs of food, water and shelter. Of the entire assemblage, Henry is the only one who shows genuine appreciation. He is truly a Prince of a Goose, a Knight in Shining Armor, a gentleman in every respect, one who has mastered the art of Noblesse Oblige.

The chicken population has diminished this year, leaving us with only two ancient hens, each over five years old. They were excellent layers until a few months ago and now are enjoying their retirement. They are the only fowl who roost, leaving their web-footed friends on the ground at night.  

This year’s newcomers, ducklings whom I have named The Three Musketeers after initially calling them Huey, Dewey and Louie, have turned out to be domestic mallards, i.e., all drakes, who chatter incessantly and who maintain their distance from Gladys, Henry and Quack.

As the New Year commences, I look forward to future days finding funny things on the way to the barnyard. I enjoy the camaraderie with the fowl and I count them as family members, especially Henry when he pecks at the kitchen door asking to come inside.

Happy New Year to all!

Rappahannock Record Staff
Rappahannock Record Staff
From the Rappahannock Record news team

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