October 9, 2014 – Something smelled wonderful! I followed my nose until it led me straight back to my own henhouse. Sawyer was inside mixing up a batch of batter. The aroma was a heady blend of pumpkin and ginger, cinnamon, clove and allspice. My senses were on overload but they were not the only ones. A line had formed at the back steps of Coop #3 with a dozen hens and two roosters eager to taste a morsel of Sawyer’s home baking. She did not disappoint. Once a batch of gingerbread cookies had cooled, she passed them out to her adoring fans.
“Sawyer is an exquisite chef!” exclaimed Charlotte.
Tim nodded, his mouth too full to comment.
“This is a celebration of fall without the need for costumes,” Addie remarked.
Since I was the last to arrive, I had to endure the agony of watching everyone else consume Sawyer’s baking until the line grew shorter. It made no difference that she and I are best friends. I had to wait my turn. Maisy waited ahead of me.
“They smell so good!” she said excitedly. “Dottie told me that Sawyer uses this same recipe to make her jinglebread men during the holidays.”
“Jinglebread men?” I echoed.
The young hen looked at me like I had grown a second beak.
“Extra large cookies in the shape of a human…? She makes them every year and decorates them…?”
The longer we stared at one another, the louder her explanations became; as if my confusion was somehow linked to a lack of hearing.
“Gingerbread men,” I finally spit out. “They’re called gingerbread men, not jinglebread men.”
You might think the younger hen took the correction and thanked me for it. Instead, she leaned closer to my ear and bellowed, “It’s alright, Happy. I know you’re getting older. I’ll make sure Sawyer gives you a jinglebread cookie.”
“Why don’t you get her a cup of jingle ale while you’re at it,” Wilma snorted. “You know… to help her wash it down?”
“Great idea, Wilma!” Maisy declared hastily. She moved herself to the front of the line claiming that she was on a mercy errand. A mercy errand!!
“Don’t take it too hard,” Wilma said bumping me with her wing. “She thinks I’m on a day pass from the Poultry Home for the Criminally Insane. That’s why she keeps her distance.”
“Why would she ever think that?” I asked stunned.
“Because I let it slip one time when they were driving me crazy. Ever since then, they stay away. I told them I got sent up river for bending over and shooting my own eggs at anyone who annoyed me. It’s worked great ever since!” she cackled.
To be honest, I don’t mind the questions of the younger hens or their banter, though I have noticed that this generation have more often turned to Waffles, Hattie and Betty when they have a question than coming to one of us.
Do they consider me obsolete?! The thought hit me like a freight train. I peered at myself in the small mirror that hangs outside the door to our run.
“I look pretty good,” I said to my own reflection. “How can I not be relevant? I’m a free thinker! A scientist, writer, entrepreneur, fortune teller. I speak fluent Swan and play the piccolo. I’ve traveled to Europe and Canada, drive a Vespa and a pickup. What don’t they see?” I contemplated sadly.
“They don’t see the brave, brilliant, sweet, best friend that I do,” Sawyer said coming up behind me. My face flushed realizing that I had been overheard. “The girls in Coop #2 have been stretching their boundaries,” she said softly. “You’ve said it yourself… those four will be the leaders of this flock someday. They’re smart, ambitious… but they’re still young. They don’t get the special cookies with the mealworms added in like you do.”
Then she linked her wing in mine and walked me over to a spot under the smelly bush where Peaches and Wilma, Violet and Emaline, Charlotte and Addie were already sitting enjoying the unexpected treat of Sawyer’s fine baking.
“A cup of tea for me and my friend, please!” she commanded playfully.
“Coming right up!” answered Tim from around the corner. He was dressed as a maître d’ with a black bow tie and a towel hanging over his left wing.
“This tea is infused with our best shine,” he whispered in my ear. “It’s one of the perks of being an adult chicken.”
I gratefully, and very much enthusiastically, joined the warm embrace of my peers. I deliberately put aside this nagging awareness of aging until I could examine it later in the privacy of my nest box with another cup of moonshine tea.