Letter from Birdland: A story that ends with a warm feeling

When we left you last week, one son was stranded at the Dallas airport — and one chicken was holed up under the quince bush as the snows came flying across the prairie. I had caught the other two chickens and put them in the warm coop, but the last little silky hen continued to elude me. I had to go to town, but Ellis was on his way home to catch her.

My youngest is much more agile — and a distinguished chicken catcher. I described her location: "She's been there all day. I'm sure she will just stay under the quince bushes."

Dusk would be an easy time to catch her, and dusk was coming soon.

After my appointment I called home to see what luck Ellis had in catching that last little hen, but she was gone by the time he got home.

By now, the blizzard was in full force. Oh, why had I not canceled my appointment?! The wind continued to rise, and I drove home cautiously, several times having to slow down and put on my blinkers. Visibility was horrible. I ached all the way home for that poor little chicken. When I finally arrived, I called Ellis out of the house.

"Forget the flashlight," I said.

I would use the headlights of the car to illuminate the bushes. He ran out, and I aimed the headlights, backing up and turning to get various angles, but we couldn't see her.

"I'll pull the car over by the aviary," I said.

But my headlights revealed only the driving snow. Of course, I got the car stuck trying to back up.

Ellis tried valiantly to push me, but I told him, "I'll just circle around."

I finally got the car pointed back to the driveway. By luck, I decided to park it pointed out so I wouldn't have to back through snowdrifts in the morning when I picked up Chandra from the airport.

But here, what's this? Just at the left edge of my headlight is a lump in the yard. A white lump the size and shape of a football. I honked my horn and the lump put up a dazed little head. I opened the window and yelled for Ellis, by now heading back inside, defeated.

"There she is!" I yelled, and he went and picked her up.

Half dead in the snow, she was. If I hadn't gotten the car stuck, I wouldn't have turned it around the wrong way, and we never would have seen her until morning.

We brought her in and popped her in the oven at 100 degrees. Her poor little feathers were soaked and the dark skin on her back showed through. After half an hour of warmth, her punk rock hairdo popped up again, and she began to lift her head.

We put in food and water and turned the heat down to 90, then 85. She spent the night in the oven and earned a new name: Lucky Snowbird. If we'd found her half an hour later, she would have been named Lazarus, like the other chicken a few years back, who came back to life in that same oven after drowning in the pond.

Fifteen more minutes beyond that, and the oven would only be good enough to roast her.

Everything looks better in the morning, and by morning the blizzard had stopped, leaving a white, frozen world. Lucky Snowbird, now warm enough to have breakfast, came out of her incubator, made an exploratory round of the kitchen, and then joined her friends in the outdoor coop.

Ellis caught the bus to school, and I set the oven to "CLEAN" before going off to meet Chandra's plane. My oldest had been delayed by the storm and spent a fitful night trying to sleep in the airport terminal. But now his plane was coming 12 hours late. It was a happy reunion of a tired son and a grateful mother. I offered to take him right home to get a little sleep, but he thought he might as well stay up, so we did some errands, picking up various presents and treats for our feast later in the day.

And so began one sweet week of visiting, cooking, storytelling and game playing. A visit that will warm us all for a while.

Visit beauty; revive peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath, where she treasures visits from her sons. You can read more of her writing at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Hays can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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