It was 6:00 a.m. when I was blinded by a bright flash of light. I dove for cover under my cozy blankets and cringed as dad whipped them off me. With a teasing grin he grabbed my toes and tugged. At times I thought he may tug on them so much he’d pull them right off. Maybe if he did I wouldn’t have to get up so early today. No such luck, all my toes were still intact when he returned again to see if I had made any progress.
“Hop to it!” He said cheerily, tickling my feet.
I groaned, even at the age of nine I hated optimism in the morning.
“Ah dad, can’t we sleep in just this once?”
“The animals can’t sleep in, they need their breakfast, and we have a lot to get done today.”
I nodded my sleepy head to show him I understood and stumbled out of bed. My brothers and I usually slept in our clothes to minimize the time it took to get ready for the day, and the feeling of cold jeans in the morning was just terrible. I ran my fingers through my short hair and went upstairs.
My stomach growled as I smelled breakfast cooking. “Make sure you bundle up, it’s really cold out there,” mom called to me.
“Okay.” I grabbed my boots and yanked them on; they sure were stubborn on early mornings. Just as I grabbed my coat, my older brother, Kimball, came up behind me bopping me on the head, “Come on squirt, I’ll race ya.”
I grinned, not being able to pass up a challenge, “You’re on!” I shrugged on my coat and raced out the door. The snow was up past my knees and it wasn’t long before I firmly planted my face into a drift. Kimball came up behind me, picked me up, and set me on my feet once again. Then he raced ahead, “Last one to the barn is a rotten egg!”
I laughed and raced after him, trying my best to step only in his footsteps. I stumbled and fell in the snow a few more times. Finally Kimball turned and came back for me. He picked me up and lifted me onto his shoulders. Then he ran and turned in circles all the way to the barn. Our laughter echoed over the quiet fields, and the sheep looked at us sleepily to see who was disturbing their breakfast.
My job was feeding and watering the chickens and gathering the eggs. Kimball would break the ice out of the bucket for me and gathering the eggs wasn’t too bad, except when it came to Big Red. Big Red was true to her name, a big fat red chicken who had the meanest streak and a terrible liking for little girls’ fingers. She was almost always sitting on her nest. I dreaded trying to shoo her off. I closed my eyes and opened the door, hoping with all my heart that she wouldn’t be there, but sure enough there she was on her usual roost. I gathered all the other eggs first, putting of Big Red for as long as possible. The beady black eyes stared at me with a hatred that seemed to say, “Today is the day I’ll get you.” I cringed. I could hear the evil laughter; the gloating; I was scared and I knew Big Red could sense it. I took a deep breath, “Okay Big Red, you aren’t going to get me this time.” I reached out a hand to try to shoo her away.
Something came flying at my face. I could feel the chicken’s claws and beak. Its wings were batting at my face. I could feel the feathers sticking through my shirt. I screamed batting and hitting at it trying to get it away. I was gasping for air when suddenly I stopped and looked down. There was hay all over me, sticking in my shirt. I could taste particles of hay dust on my lips, and as I ran my fingers through my hair I found a clump of hay sticking to my head.
“Huh?” I muttered confused, there was no sign of a chicken attack; in fact Big Red was still resting peaceful in her nest. Then I heard laughter, I turned around only to see Kimball holding his sides laughing. My great battle with a deadly chicken was only a battle with a flying pile of hay.
“Look out J, the big bad chicken might be coming to get you. You should have seen your face, you were positively terrified. Your arms were wind milling and you invented a great new dance! By the way, you screamed like a girl.”
“I am one, half wit. Besides it’s not funny, Big Red practically eats me alive every time I try to get her eggs.”
“Don’t be a poor sport; I was just having a bit of fun. You’re not really mad are you?”
“Not so long as you get the eggs from Big Red,” I said laughing. “You can sacrifice your fingers to her this morning.”
I grinned to myself as we carried the eggs inside; the teasing was worth not having to get eggs from Big Red.
Once we were thawing out in the warm kitchen, eating up our yummy breakfast, Dad announced that we would stay up a bit late that night so we could gather up the stray chickens that had flown the coop. I smiled this was a favorite.
The appointed time arrived and I became: “Secret Agent J: Chicken Catcher.”
It was dark outside and pitch black in the barn. Dad toted along a flashlight so we could see where the chickens were roosting. They usually roosted in clumps for warmth. We found a batch of them on the wall of one of the stalls. My sisters, brothers, Dad and I snuck quietly up behind them with great stealth tracking the fugitives. We all kept an eye on Dad waiting for the hand signal to attack. We were in position. The fingers came up, a silent 1, 2, 3.
Everyone pounced at once. The barn was instantly filled with the din of squawking chickens and flapping wings. There were legs, arms, wings, and chicken feet flying in all directions. My first grab wrapped around Lisa’s ankle, “J! I’m not a chicken!” Finally I hit my mark. I latched onto the skinny legs and hung on for dear life. “I got one, I got one!” I could feel the wings flapping into my head and face. I was spitting feathers and laughing at the sight of everyone battling their renegade chickens. I suddenly saw my self with one chicken in each hand taking flight over the farm, “Super J!!”
“What are you laughing at, J?” Heidi asked as we carried our fugitives to the chicken coop. I flushed; I hadn’t realized I had laughed out loud. “Ummm, nothing.” That was definitely one day dream to keep to myself. We deposited our chickens and then stood in the snow comparing our trophies and battle wounds by flashlight.