Chickens will eat whatever they can get their beaks on.
| Note ▼ |
"Sheryl, honey, can you ride into town and pick up some steaks at the butcher? Dad's bringing some friends over for supper tonight and I phoned the order in. Here's a twenty, that should cover it. Bring back the change."
"Sure, mom." At twelve, I was the usual go-fer for stuff from town.
"Can I go?" my little brother Dickie begged. "Can I, mom? Please, can I? Can I come, Sheryl? Pulleeeeze?"
Dickie often did the little-brother-tag-along thing. He had just had the training wheels taken off his bike and rode like a little demon wherever he went. He had one speed: as fast as he could pedal. Brakes? He hadn't figured those out yet. He just dragged his feet to stop.
It was a nice afternoon and we enjoyed biking the two miles from our acreage into town. Dickie was panting and sweaty, and a bit draggy towards the end, but he made it with a couple of swallows left in his water bottle. He's a tough little guy.
So there Dickie and I were, waiting in line at the butcher counter at our town Megamart. We had finally reached the front of the line, but before we could step up to the counter, this huge woman barged in front of us, like a hippo lunging for the river. Dickie's eyes got big and he stamped his foot. "Hey, Lady! No fair!" he squeaked. Dickie's five and has a new-found grasp of what is right and fair. But he might have been a gnat for all the attention she paid him. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, we were here first." Being twelve had maybe given me an exaggerated idea of my own importance: she ignored me too.
She was waving a shrink-wrapped meat package under the butcher's nose. "What is this 'free range chicken' stuff? You think I want this free-range crap? I don't want those blasted chickens that are stuffed in cages and force-fed chemicals! I don't want those GMO mutant birds with four wings! I want genuine, grass-fed, vegetarian, organic chicken. You hear me?"
Probably mom back at the acreage could hear her. Dickie had his hands over his ears and my ears were ringing.
"Please calm down, lady," said the butcher. "You got the best chicken in the store. Free-range means they ain't caged like you say. And they're fed good stuff like soy meal and grain and meat by-products--"
"Exactly! I refuse to put those chickens into my body, fed on cows' brains and offal. You aren't listening to me."
I'd have thought it impossible but she actually got louder, shrieking at the poor butcher. "I want genuine, grass-fed, vegetarian, organic chicken. Nothing else and no excuses."
"But lady, there ain't no such things as grass-fed chickens. We got your nice grass-fed beef but we ain't got no grass-fed chickens..."
"Then get some in, you stupid fool."
By this time, Dickie was turning red and going "Mmmph, mmph, mmph!". I was kind of fighting a smile myself. We had grown up around chickens on the acreage, all of them 'free range' and we knew what they ate. Dickie couldn't keep it in any more and burst out in a wild cackle. That triggered me, and the two of us doubled over and laughed until tears flowed.
The woman turned around and sneered, "What is so funny, you little creeps?"
"You, lady," giggled Dickie. "Chickens aren't vege-terriers."
"He's right," I chipped in. "We raise chickens at home, so we know. Sure, they'll eat grass, chickweed, any weed. They're voracious, like little feathered T-Rexes. They eat anything they can get their beaks on. Slugs, beetles, cutworms, caterpillars..."
"Frogs, mice, snails, snakes," added Dickie. "I saw the chickens eat a grass snake once. Five of 'em chomped on it at once. They like played tug-of-war with it."
"And they'll play with a mouse, just like a cat, before they decide to peck it to death and eat it."
The lady turned even redder. She pursed her lips like she was going to spit at us, or maybe trying not to throw up. Muttering about how "Some people shouldn't be allowed to have children" and "Raising little liars", she rolled her eyes, slammed her chicken package onto the counter and lumbered out.
People in the line behind us applauded and cheered. Dickie, the little ham, turned and bowed. I applauded too, because he was such a cute little guy.
The butcher was so impressed he gave us twenty percent off on the steaks.
Dickie preened all the way home. I suspected that he was going to be hard to live with for a while.
About 765 words