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November 22, 2013

By Laura Parker Roerdenheadshot

I look up and silhouetted in the dusky light is someone wearing a stripped rugby style scarf and a hooded black robe. He is carrying a white bird.

I am making supper in the farmhouse, the sounds of sizzling competing with thwaps of driving rain hitting the hard mud outside.

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I look up and silhouetted in the dusky light is someone coming up the road wearing a stripped rugby style scarf and a hooded black robe. He is carrying a white bird and is about to enter our barn.

It looks like Harry Potter has brought Hedwig to visit.

snowy-owl-449986_1280I blink. And go outside.

“Excuse me,” (magical fictional character). What are you doing?”

The figure is now past my sight line, but he calls back:

“Returning your chicken.”

Oh, dear. I don’t think I’ve ever put on my barn boots faster.

“I found him in my backyard,” he explains, lowering the now rain-soaked black hood on his long robe and presenting me with the wet chicken. I recognize him—he is an eleven-year old boy who lives over a mile away across a very busy highway.

I know this particular boy because I had been friends with his mother, who had recently died from leukemia. Just last Wednesday a babysitter had brought him and his younger brother and sister to the farm to visit the animals. It had been the first time I had seen the children since their mother had passed away. I had hugged each of the three children and let them collect the eggs. The youngest boy, who is autistic and only 7, had pointed at me and said, “Mom.” I tried to hide that I had started to cry.

Now the eleven year old boy has walked the entire way from his house alone in the dark and the rain to return a chicken.

“That’s impossible,” I say to him. “Chickens don’t roam over a mile in the rain,” I explain. “It must be someone else’s chicken that lives closer to you.”

But sure enough, it is Mucky, the only white silkie chicken we own. Mucky was so named because of her penchant for falling into mud; and this chicken has the same distinctive brown ringlets around her legs.

“This is the chicken I was holding when I visited last week,” the boy explained. “So I recognized her.”

Yes, he had held that chicken for nearly the entire visit.

Chickens don’t wander, except to cross the road (famously) to go from our barn’s pasture to our lawn. To my knowledge, we’ve never had one of our chickens leave the farm; no-less travel a full mile down our road and then cross a dangerous busy main road to travel several houses down another street, choosing the exact backyard of a boy who had held him a few days before.

I offer to drive the boy back home, but we are both quiet the entire ride. I can’t resist wondering what this watery journey means and who here has rescued whom. If it had indeed been Harry Potter, what would the message from Hedwig have been?

The boy makes me promise I won’t tell his dad he had come to the farm alone. I make him promise not to do it again.

Back home now, I go to the barn to close up the chickens and check on the poor silkie, which I notice is now shivering.

“This won’t do,” I say to the chicken as I tenderly take her off the perch and fold her into my jacket to bring her back to the farmhouse, where the kids can towel dry her and warm her up.

“Mom, can we use your blow dryer?” my 9-year old son asks.

“Yup,” I answer. “Stranger things have happened.”

mucky

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