Chicken Bride


Fuchsia crepe myrtle blossoms float on rainwater held by two large terra-cotta saucers. A Wyandotte chicken pecks at the water. Her feathers are white edged in black. She’s a chicken dressed in lace, a chicken bride.

Dale sits cross-legged on the porch, in a plastic chair, with metal legs, a sketch pad in her lap, a colored pencil in her hand, deciding what to draw.

The farm is a jumble of broken things, cars, refrigerators, a bathtub, assorted boards, and pieces of siding. Ivy and honeysuckle grow over and through the junk, but new junk always appears.

An arch of ivy grows over a trail that leads that away from the house. She sees her daughter, Mary, there in a wedding dress beside her bride. Her little girl and another, who is also like a daughter, are kind gentle souls, who love to sing and dance. They will marry under the trees because no one will have them in town.

The wedding will be in summer. The winter here, when the junk skeletons are visible, is too depressing, and she wonders what will be summer and winter for them, those two young ones? How will they get through? What will their years on earth look like.

She worries.

To the far right, a garden of marigolds and rock roses mark the grave of an old gun dog who guarded the farm for his lifetime. His father guarded the farm before him.  We buried them with ceremony and with the idea that the new dog would carry on. Carry on the job of watching, guarding, and attacking intruders if necessary.

Dale wants to draw the scene or part of it because she wants to remember the great beauty here, that comes in summer to cover the rusted, grey discarded things on the old farm. She lifts the pencil again. She feels inadequate to the task.

The hen pecks at the water in the saucers. The new dog watches her. It killed five chickens a few years back.

“You can’t keep dogs like that with chickens,” Dale told her husband.“Once a dog kills a chicken it will kill more, no matter how much you train it not to. The only way around it is to tie a dead chicken around it’s neck and make it the dog wear it until it rots.”

“No I’m not going to do that. He just did that because he was an adolescent,” her husband had said, talking about the dog. “He knows better now. He’s learned his lesson. He knows he shouldn’t kill things. He’s a good old boy.”

Dale lifts the pencil and begins again on her drawing of fuchsia blossoms floating in terra-cotta saucers.

The chicken with her lacy feather dress pecks and then stands in the saucer with her big four-toed feet that look reptilian, like the feet of a dragon.

The dog lays in the sun and watches for a while, then it puts its head on its paws and half-closes its eyes.


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