August 5, 2014 – I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited about today’s taping of the Family Feud that I tossed and turned all night in the nest box. I was awake long before Bo and Tim crowed to welcome the start of what I hoped would be an amazing adventure.
Yawning and bleary eyed, the six of us who were heading into Boston, tiptoed out of the chicken yard so as not to wake the others. As we passed Coop #1, Charlotte, with her comb in a big, pink sponge curler, poked her head out the window.
“Be careful all of you,” she whispered. “Have fun. Keep your cellphones on and call us if you run into any trouble. We’ll hold dinner for you.”
We thanked her and Tim blew a kiss, which made Lottie blush. I stopped by Mom’s office window to tape my note of explanation, and then scrambled into our Cobalt Blue 1955 Dodge pickup truck to join the others. Tim took his spot behind the wheel. He sat on a wooden apple crate to raise himself high enough to see out the windshield. Sawyer sat next to him to coach and supervise since technically this was his first time at the helm. Ten minutes later, we had made it to the mailbox at the end of the driveway.
“Okay,” said Tim cheerfully. “I think that was good enough for one day. Thanks for letting me drive!”
He and Sawyer switched places and the journey began in earnest. I thanked Sawyer for taking the first shift and allowed myself to doze until we were 10 minutes out from downtown Boston.
The taping was being held at the Opera House. Sawyer maneuvered beautifully in between cars and narrow streets that once graced only pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages. We made it into town with plenty of time to spare, so we stopped at the Public Garden for breakfast. The grass there was beyond tasty. We watched workers ready the Swan Boats for the throng of passengers that would soon descend upon the boat dock. We stopped to take our picture with the Make Way for Ducklings statue and sent a copy of it to the ducks back home. Peaches laughed how much the third duckling from the end looked like Eustace.
With our stomachs full of bugs and grubs and worms and the peanuts we came upon under an empty bench, we headed back to the truck refreshed and eager to get to the theater.
I had never been inside a building so grand. My heart was beating out of my chest as we walked up the steps and into the vestibule. We took a collective breath before linking wings and pushing through the set of doors that revealed a grand illusion; an exact duplicate of the set design we see when we watch Family Feud on television.
“I don’t see him!” Sawyer stated nervously.
“See who?” I asked.
“Steve Harvey.” She replied. “I can’t wait to meet him!”
A lovely usher in a white button up shirt and black vest and pants escorted us to the waiting area off stage.
“This is the Green Room,” he said to us. “Help yourself to any of the refreshments. We’ll call for you when we’re ready.”
“This room is anything but green,” Wilma said as she began to inspect the space.
“Get a load of these melons!” Tim crowed from the top of a long buffet table. “There’s cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon… I’m in heaven!”
“Don’t eat too much,” I reminded him. “We may need you as our alternate!”
No truer words were ever spoken. The delightful Mr. Steve Harvey knocked on the door and popped in his head.
“Hello Cluck, Cluck, Doo! Family,” he said before it registered that we were chickens. “Oh… well, this is interesting.”
He ventured fully into the waiting area to address us personally.
“Well, I’ll be!” he said smiling and shaking his head. “Now this is a first!”
He proceeded to introduce himself to each one of us and shook our wing; such a classy guy. When he stepped in front of Sawyer, she opened her mouth to say hello and swooned, falling backwards into Mr. Harvey’s arms. Out cold.
“Whoo hooo!” Tim hollered, pumping his wing over a plate of raspberry scones. “I’m in! Errr… sorry, Sawyer.”
She didn’t hear him at all. Mr. Harvey placed Sawyer on a long leather settee. An attendant appeared out of nowhere, and placed a cool, damp cloth over her head. Sawyer’s eyes fluttered open a few minutes later, but she still had trouble speaking.
“Go on for me, Tim,” she said waving a weak wing in the air while maintaining eye contact with the handsome host. “I am consumed with joy.”
Steve Harvey laughed heartily.
“Ya just never know the tricks and turns a day will take,” he said, turning to leave. “That’s why I love this show! Ya’ll do great. I’ll see you out there in a few minutes, okay? Miss Sawyer, you have yourself a good rest and cheer on your family through that flat screen TV over there.”
I felt sad that my best friend would not be joining me on stage, but I was happy that she was so overwhelmed with delight, that she fainted. That’s a moment she’ll never forget.
Our team followed a woman with a clipboard onto the set. The lights were hot and bright. Immediately, Wilma’s awkward head feathers shot up in opposite directions like antennas; Too late to fix them now.
The team we were playing against took their places across from us. It was the Malarkey family from Winchester, Massachusetts. At first, they were taken aback to see that their opponents were chickens, but then the music swelled and Steve Harvey came to the stage and we all were lost in the magic of the moment.
As the team leader, I was called first to go head-to-head with Mama Malarkey. I flew up next to the button in order to have a fair chance against the twitchy-handed head of the opposition.
“Alright,” Mr. Harvey began. “Here’s our first question. We surveyed 100 people for the answer to this question. Name a part of your body that you wish looked better in a mirror.”
I had trained for this moment and it showed. I jumped onto the button and secured the right to answer first.
“Happy…” Steve said looking at me with a toothy grin.
“Fluffy bits!” I said enthusiastically.
“Fluffy bits!” he repeated. “Is it there?!”
A hideous noise that sounded very much like a goose honk, blared overhead.
“Sorry Hap,” said Steve. He turned his attention to the round woman across from me. “Mama Malarkey, give me an answer.”
She leaned into the microphone and said, “derriere!” A pleasant ping sounded as the first slot on the answer board revealed a match. The Malarkey’s took control of the board and won the round.
Wilma went up next, matched with one of the Malarkey daughters.
“We asked 100 people,” Steve began again, “name a holiday where you send flowers.”
Wilma snagged that button like it was nobody’s business and shouted out her answer, “The 12th of Never!”
This caused our host to bend over his station and laugh for three minutes straight. Wilma was not amused.
“Turn over the answer already,” she commanded. “I never send flowers so obviously, my answer is correct!”
Of course, it wasn’t and the Malarkey’s went on to take the second round without contest from any of us.
“Name something that makes you itch.”
“Scaly legs!” she bellowed into the microphone. A fine answer we thought and clapped our wings in encouragement. The horrible honk disagreed.
Violet had a turn.
“Name someplace you might find lint.”
“Between Wilma’s toes!”
A superb answer worthy of our applause. Sadly, the all-too familiar honk blared its discontent and the audience sighed. We were getting creamed. Our last hope at winning $20,000 and a brand new car was all riding on Tim. Steve Harvey called him to the podium to face wide-eyed Wally, distant cousin of the Malarkey clan.
“C’mon, Tim!” we pleaded. “You can do this!!”
“Name a reason you might be up on your roof.”
Tim jumped on the buzzer. So far, we rang in first every time.
Tim leaned into the microphone.
“This is an easy one, Steve,” he said confidently. “I do this every day. I stand on the roof… to CROW!”
What a super response! We clapped, “Good answer! Good answer,” and held our breath hoping to see the board uncover a match. Instead, the dreadful honk sounded for the last time. The Malarkey family went on to win the entire game and move on to the fast money round.
Later on in the Green Room, we sat on the couch next to Sawyer, dejected after an abysmal television appearance.
“I don’t understand it,” Sawyer said, her faculties now fully functioning. “All of your answers were spot on and each of you were the first to ring in!”
“I guess that’s what we get for trying to play a human game,” I said. “Maybe we need to find something run by animals for animals.”
“That sounds great, Hap,” said Violet, “But I don’t think such a thing exists.”
Just then, the door opened and Mr. Steve Harvey was once again smiling in the entrance.
“Ya’ll played great!” he said. “Don’t let this experience get you down. In fact, I’m thinking of starting an animal game show network and wondered if ya’ll would like to be my technical advisers. It’s a good opportunity and you’ll get to learn everything that happens behind the scenes.”
“Will there be cantaloupe,” asked Tim, “and raspberry scones?”
“I think I can arrange that.”
We huddled into a feather ball to talk it over.
“Send us the contract and we’ll have our agent look it over,” Wilma replied.
“Great! Thanks again for coming in, Cluck, Cluck, Doo! Family. Don’t forget to pick up your parting gifts before you leave – a home version of the game and two cases of Rice-A-Roni.”
“We don’t have an agent,” I said to Wilma as we walked back to the truck.
“Sure we do,” she laughed. “The ducks have been looking for something to do… now they have it.”
We laughed about that all the way over to Yawkey Way. There was a Red Sox game today and we were going. Hotdogs, peanuts, cotton candy and a foam finger made us laugh and forget our loss. Every time our team was up to bat we’d yell, “Good answer! Good answer!” and then laugh hysterically. The home boys won and we cheered all the way down Boylston Street. We stopped at the souvenir stand on the way out of Fenway Park and bought a hat for everyone who stayed behind today. They were thrilled.
We’re not sure if our episode will air or not. Sawyer seems to think it will. She set our recorder to capture the moment if and when it is broadcasted. We’re going to have a hootenanny that day and invite our friends from Mrs. Turner’s Farm. We may even hire a band. After all, technical advisors must make a pretty penny. This reminds me… I’ll need to speak to the ducks in the morning. They’ll be getting a call from Mr. Harvey’s production company. Knowing the ducks, they’ll want a cut of the proceeds. I think I’ll joke with them at first and tell them to simply “put it on my bill”.
I crack myself up!