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Adams: Peace Baby

Posted: May 7, 2017 - 1:56am

My mama leaned over the barrel of chicks, examining the downy puffs scrambling over one another, tiny feet scratching the newspaper padding. She was shopping for hens for my baby brother and his wife, because that's what every newlywed couple needs: twelve place settings and six chickens.

Sensing her dilemma, a salesman approached, proffering customer service. He boomed authoritatively, "You see here ma'am, you hold the chick's neck in your fingers like this." He demonstrated, making a peace sign with the fingers of his right hand then flipping his hand over, palm up, and quickly catching a squirming chick's neck in the V of his fingers. He lifted until the chick's legs dangled in the air.

"If it struggles, like this one here," he continued, holding it higher, "it's a rooster. If it gives in and hangs there, then it's a hen." The Freudian coating on the man's assertions escaped him. Misinterpreting the expression on my mother's face, he added, "Don't worry, ma'am. It don't hurt ‘em none."

My mama has lived a lot of years - enough that if I told you exactly how many, she would come over here and remind me about minding my manners - and she has raised her fair share of fowl.

But not until that day had she ever, even once, witnessed or heard of such chicken gender divining methods.

While she stood speechless, still staring into the poultry pen, the salesman walked away to aid a customer in the equine department. Another man sidled up to the barrel of chicks.

"Lookin' for hens, aintcha," he stated. "I tell you how to tell ‘em," and he proceeded to give my mother precisely the same instructions as the clerk.

"How do you know," asked my mama, skeptical, wondering how any of her children missed learning this handy trick in 4-H, "that it works?"

He pointed toward the horse feed. "That man yonder told me yesterday."

My mother shrugged her shoulders, decided any method is better than no method, and started giving chicks the peace sign until she had picked six that either played dead or feigned enjoyment when she lifted their feet from the bottom of the barrel in the fork of her fingers.

"Think that would work for kittens?" I asked my mama. People are just as particular, maybe more so, about gender when selecting a kitten; that is, if someone unfortunate enough to find herself with a litter to give away can even talk her friends into holding one of her infant felines long enough to love it.

"I don't know," my mother winced. "Kittens are different from chicks. They're heavier for one thing, and they scratch. And it might traumatize the children to hear the kittens squall."

"But did it work," I asked her. "For the chicks?"

"All six of the hens," she informed me, "grew up to be roosters."

"Hhmm," I sighed.

My mother, however, considering the intrinsic value of a kitten versus a chick and how even the voo-doo lady, who will accept the worst kind of floggin' rooster without a second look, turns her nose up at taking in cats, deviously said, "On the other hand, if you hold them like that long enough, the kittens, I mean," - she put her fingers in the necessary position, holding an imaginary kitten - "it won't matter which ones are males and which ones are females." And she smiled. If she had a mustache she would have twisted it.

It is a trying task to rid oneself of fresh felines. Nonetheless, I don't condone this method. I'm just passing on ideas.

(Disclaimer: No chicks or kittens were harmed while typing this column...so chill.)

^

Lucy Adams is the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny and other books. She lives in Thomson, Ga. Email lucyadams.writer@gmail.com.

 

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