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The Chicken who Crossed the Road
A Travel Story
Perhaps you've noticed – it's peak vacay time, and many of your friends have probably jetted somewhere exotic, interesting, and far from home. For us, it's been years since we've been on a real vacation – the kind we fantasize about. We've had our noses to the grindstone. My husband working, sitting through long legislative hearings on mental health in California's statehouse, writing opinions, and advocating for his clients. Me – well, other than writing to you each week, I've been obsessed with completing my crazy (non-PC mental health term) commitment to make a monumental bronze to honor firefighters and others who brought down the sweeping fire that raged across our mountains two years ago. Fill any "spare time" with some freelance writing gigs, selling and buying a house, and moving into a 'fixer' – well … what's a vacation?
But here's one, as recalled by a friend:
It was the trip of a lifetime. Three friends joining forces to roam Ireland and experience the treasures of the Emerald Isle, its people, music, verdant landscapes, and historic lore. They were part of a California advocacy group called NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Charlie and Debby were active as members managing their own mental illnesses while volunteering, and the third - a professional NAMI volunteer whose son lives with severe schizophrenia. Objectively, you might expect this traveling combo could face some unusual challenges navigating the demands of foreign travel, packed together in a tiny rental car and driving on the "wrong" (left) side of the road. You'd be right. The dad – let's call him Ron – shared a few unplanned events on that unforgettable journey – experiences not on the itinerary.
A pub on legendary Bantry Bay. Noisy, packed with locals, the trill of a fiddle, guitar, and bodhran muted by the voices of locals meeting for a pint or two. Laughter, whispers, trails of cigarette smoke wafting through the air. Everyone knew each other – save for the three Americans wanting to experience pub culture. Here's how Ron remembers it:
"It was a small village on the southern coast. People came from all over the countryside because it was the sole watering hole for many kilometers. The walls of the place were rock - probably built hundreds of years ago. A guy walked in wearing a bulky Aran jumper and a Kerry Wax Cap – the bartender told me he was a farmer and the lone human on an island over a mile off the coast. A regular who rowed in for his pints of Guinness and to 'chat up' the ladies. However, local women knew the guy's goal was to lure a companion to his island for an intimate night, and they weren't having any of it. The bartender said the farmer always rowed his boat home alone. He said the only company the fellow had on his island was sheep. Nonetheless, like a laser beam, he moved from one woman to the next and got the same response – a cold shoulder from the regulars. With the exception of Debby from America, who, bipolar and anxious, welcomed his attention and knew nothing of the man's reputation – until he invited Debby to crawl into his boat and row home with him. She leaned over to me and whispered, "Can you get me away from this guy??"
The travel companions had rented a converted bunk house on property with ruins from the 14th century. It was an auspicious time of year – November. Thanksgiving in America and Ron's birthday. Two legit reasons to celebrate. Ron bought himself a fifth of Bushmills before heading out with Charlie to find the missing holiday ingredients. Most importantly – a turkey. Debby remained at the cottage to start dinner.
The local town had no butcher’s market, so the guys drove the narrow and winding road to the next town and the next, enjoying the rugged and distractingly beautiful coastline. Finding no turkey they continued on – changing their menu from turkey to chicken. Meanwhile, back at the rental house, Debby slid into the troubled pole of her disease and became nervous, anxious, afraid, and heading toward panic. She dropped the plans to cook and self-medicated instead. In the meantime, the guys faced reality – they were not going to find suitable poultry for a Thanksgiving dinner. But (luck of the Irish tourist?) they did almost run over a chicken scooting madly across the road. Charlie was frantic and ran out, caught the bird, and crawled back into the rental car. The guys both laughed all the way back to the little house when they thought about Debby's reaction. They also debated which of them would be charged with dispatching the chicken for their celebratory dinner.
It was late afternoon when they opened the front door. Charlie carrying the chicken, and Ron getting ready to take a picture of Debby's reaction. But she was not at the stove or setting the dinner table. Debby was curled up in a tattered easy chair, asleep and clutching an empty bottle of Bushmills.
Charlie went to her, carrying the clucking bird in his left arm, and gently shook Debby awake. She opened her bloodshot eyes to face the chicken – feathers, beak, bouncing red comb, and squawking. She screamed. The guys did their best to calm her – but it was the chicken who came to their rescue. Once Debby understood its fate, she rose up, took control of her emotions, and grabbed the chicken – who immediately stopped its frantic screeching and switched to a mellow cluck. She stroked its neck and back, clucking back.
"Did you know that chickens have more than 30 different clucks, and they all mean something different?" she said.
It was immediately clear the chicken would not be on the night’s menu. But it took hours to accept Debby's other decision. The chicken would become their traveling companion. A therapy chicken, she explained. "I won't even have to take my medications," she added, clucking back at her new best friend. She named her Pumpkin.
Pumpkin became the most widely traveled chicken in Ireland, and when Debby realized there was no way to disguise the bird as a therapy dog and get it onto an international flight, she rehomed Pumpkin with an animal rights group in Dublin.
"It was a great trip," remembers Ron, "Ireland was more beautiful than I imagined. But I was an ignorant tourist to think I could find a turkey. On the other hand, we did save a chicken's life."
Thanks as always for your attention - I’m finding that planning my blog is a great escape from the ever-present task of moving. A job that I now realize will take us well into 2024 and has turned into a pledge of “never again.” I’m finding new topics of interest to write to you about in our new environment, and I’m excited to explore and report. Hoping your Labor Day weekend involves no actual “labor” - unless you want to drop by and help me empty boxes! Relax and enjoy the late summer holiday. And send your thoughts to me when you are inspired at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a mystery fan check out my highly rated - The Song of Jackass Creek, a mountain mystery by me!