The following was printed (The Boise Weekly) on April 18, 2001
A Bird By Any Other Name
School children of Idaho, put on your thinking caps and see if you can talk Mom out of a 34 cent stamp. I have a fun project for you.
Here’s the deal. Remember my chickens? Rather, my daughter’s chickens. She won them in a raffle, so she considers them hers. But we all know how it is with pets. In a way, they’re like sofas, or maybe bathroom carpeting. There’s no such thing as “Sister Sally’s bathroom carpeting,” is there? Nor have you ever heard, “That’s daddy’s sofa, kids, so keep your butts off.” Nope, sofas, bathroom carpeting and pets … they either belong to the entire family, or they don’t belong in the house at all.
Not that the chickens are in our house, oh my no. A family home is no place for a family’s chickens. For one thing, there’s no such thing as chicken litter, and even if there were, chickens wouldn’t care. Honestly, I don’t think chickens even know they do go to the bathroom, know what I mean? I’ve been watching ours and as near as I can tell, they don’t even slow down. There is no urgency on their skinny little faces before, nor is there any sense of contentment after. It’s eerie. It’s like they make no connection between what’s happening on the rear end with what’s going on in their chicken noddles. I wish I could go back in time and observe dinosaurs just long enough to see if they, in any way, signal when they’re about to relieve themselves. Like, somewhere between Pterodactyl uglyishus and Rhodeislandus redicus, this particular evolutionary line decided poop wasn’t worth a second thought, and I’d sort of like to know when it happened.
Purely out of paleontological curiosity, you understand.
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But I’ve veered a bit off course here. As you may remember, kids, several months ago, I swore I’d never say another thing about chickens in this column. Nobody knows better than I that a little chicken goes a long ways.
A problem’s come up, though, and I’d appreciate some help. See, my daughter has decided the cluckers need names. Up to now, whenever we wanted to get their attention—like when we were laying out a cracked corn snack for ‘em, or if we felt like playing a little chicken Frisbee—we simply called, “Here chick chick chick … here chick!”
It works fine, if you ask me. Oh sure, now and then one of the roosters gets a bewildered look in his eyes … like, “Who? Me?” But overall, it does the job.
But my girl now thinks they need individual names. Trouble is, she says she can’t think of names for nine chickens. (We started out with 10, but somewheres along the line, one of them made a break for it and is now—I’m guessing—roaming through the Owyhees, passing as a sage grouse.) Nope, we’ve tried and tried, but naming chickens isn’t as easy as it sounds. And that’s where you come in, kiddies. It’s my daughter’s idea. She’d like your help in naming our chickens.
I can’t deny Larry Craig started this. As school children of Idaho, you were probably the first to know Senator Larry was having trouble naming his new lap dog, seeing as how he asked you to name it for him. That, too, is eerie, don’t you think? I’ve never known anybody who couldn’t name his own dog, have you? I mean, chickens are one thing, but dogs? Sheesh, they almost name themselves. I bet none of you kids ever had trouble naming your dog, huh?
But Senator Larry couldn’t name his. Weird. Either he owns one unusual dog, or he is one unusual dog owner.
Or possibly he’s just too busy to name his own dog. Not long ago, he came to my daughter’s school and gave a talk. In fact, whenever he isn’t back in Washington D.C. making sure you chil’uns don’t have any nasty ol’ trees to trip over when you grow up, Senator Larry has been visiting lots of schools. That’s right, suddenly, the Senator is a regular child-attentive machine: visiting schools, handing out art awards to fifth graders, having his picture taken with a batch of youngsters, and of course, the dog-naming project. If he keeps this up, somebody’ll start calling him “Senator Pee-Wee.”
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Oops. I’m wandering again. School children of Idaho, just forget about the dinosaurs and the chicken poop and Senator Craig. But please, don’t forget about helping my daughter name our chickens. To get you started, there’s four red ones and two girl ones and three crabby ones and a couple are nearly as stupid as…
Hold on, school children of Idaho. Forget the whole thing. My daughter just came in with nine perfectly good chicken names. I knew she could do it. All she had to do was get beyond the notion there is political advantage to be had if somebody else names your pets for you. God only knows where she got the idea in the first place.
I’ll make it up to you, kids, I promise. At some later date, I’ll start another naming project. How’s a “Name the Governor’s Hair” assignment sound? Fun, huh?
April 18, 2001