Dear Random Granddaughter,

Grandma and I are looking forward to seeing you and Mama and Mommy this weekend. I hope you will bring the sketch of the chickens, Big Mama, Moll, and Little Peep, you drew. I hope that Big Mama will lay an egg for you as payment for the commission, but chickens are like cats; they don’t necessarily do what you tell them to do.

I have another commission for you, though this is a research project rather than an art work. It has to do with pets. When Grandma and I were married, we thought about getting a cat, but then we had a baby. We named the baby Random Daughter. Yes, the baby grew into your Mama. We thought both a baby and a cat need a lot of love and attention, so we decided to concentrate on just one at a time. When Mama was about two years old and still learning to talk, she had a babysitter named “Mrs. Nagy.” Mrs. Nagy was French and she had several cats. When the cats played with each other, Miranda thought they were fighting. When we brought her home from a day at the baby sitter, she said to us, “Kitty fight!” Those were some of the first words she said after “Momma” and “Daddy,” and “craggie.” (“Craggie” was how she said, “cracker” when she was first learning to talk.)

When Miranda was older, about 11 or 12 years old, I think, we were living in Portland. We still didn’t have a cat of our own, but a Siamese can who lived across the street came to visit us. There was a famous cartoon at the time about a cat looking like a meatloaf, so we called this cat “meatloaf.”
Mama always wanted a cat when she was a little girl, but because I am allergic to cats we never got one. When Mama and Mommy went to New York, they got two cats of their own: Tommy and Lulu. After Tommy and Lulu died, they got Sebastian and Sylvie. Sylvie is still alive, and may be the sweetest cat in the whole world.

When I was a little boy, we had many different cats. One was named “Twinkletoes.” At first she was kind of mean and scratched us a lot, but after she had kittens, she became much nicer. Later, we had a cat named “Fuzzy Wuzzy.” Fuzzy Wuzzy was not very brave. One day my mother saw a mouse in our compost pile. She brought Fuzzy Wuzzy down to the compost pile and said, “Catch the mouse, Fuzzy Wuzzy.” But Fuzzy Wuzzy saw something running and thought it might be dangerous, so he ran away. My mother was very angry. “Scaredy cat!” she said.

When Grandmother Christina was small her family had a dog, named “George,” and a cat, named “Perry.” She thought Perry was her special friend. When she felt sick and stayed home from school, Perry stayed in bed with her and comforted her.

Now we are wondering, what kinds of pets should we have? We have chickens. The chickens are a lot of fun, and they talk to us, and they lay eggs. On the other hand, they are not very cuddly, they don’t sit in our laps, and they don’t purr. Also, they are difficult to house train, but perhaps there is a special kind of litter box for chickens.

Both Grandma and I are somewhat allergic to cats, but we both like cats. There is a kind of cat called a “Siberian” cat which is supposed to be better for people who are allergic to cats. Should we get a Siberian cat?

It is rather dangerous for cats where we live. There are animals such as coyotes and raccoons that might eat a cat if we get it. There are birds such as eagles, owls, and hawks that might be dangerous for cats as well.

Perhaps we should think about getting a dog? We have some friends, Bill and Sherine, who have a big, brave fierce dog called an Akita dog. This kind of dog would probably be too strong and fierce for coyotes or raccoons to hurt it. Perhaps it could protect the chickens against any animal that would want to eat them. However, the dog would have to be convinced not to eat the chickens.

This is very complicated. Perhaps you have some ideas about what would be the best pets for grandparents to have. Perhaps we should just stick with our three chickens? What do you think?

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Hello, my name is Random Granddaughter (you may call me “RG” for short) and I am here to present my grandparents’ three hens in this year’s County Fair “Chicken Olympics.” A few years ago, my grandparents attended a “Cat Olympics” at that year’s fair. My crazy Grandpa once asked me if my little cat Sylvie was doing what I told her to do, and I replied, “Kitty cats don’t do what you tell them to do.”

He said that showed I was very smart for a four year old girl to realize that. However, now he thinks his chickens will do what I tell them to do. That’s why I call him my “Crazy Grandpa.”

Anyway, Grandpa was not surprised when one of the cats went to sleep when it was asked to jump through a hoop.

OK, here are my grandparents’ chickens. First, I will present “Big Mama.” She lets me pick her up and pet her! She is a very smart chicken. Second she is eating lots of her very healthy well-balanced multi-grain chicken food. She is growing very big and strong and healthy.

Second I will present “Moll.” Moll is an excellent jumper. She will jump up on this table to get some oats. She thinks oats are like chicken candy.Moll has a lot of attitude. Little girl, sitting in the front row, please come up and hold out your hand to Moll. Look, she will peck you very hard! Little girl, you can stop crying now. How old are you? Four? Well, you should be a big girl now, and not cry so much just because a chicken pecked your finger. Well, maybe when you are six years old like me, you won’t be such a little crybaby.

Finally, I will present “Little Peep.” Little Peep is an introvert and does not like people looking at her. That is why she is hiding in the corner. Little Peep is also an omnivore. She especially likes meat. She is also an excellent hunter. She catches a lot of imaginary bugs. Look at her running around the stage pecking at imaginary bugs!

But I also brought her some real bugs. Perhaps some of the children in the audience would like to help me feed bugs to Little Peep. Here, hold out your hand, and I will put some “rolly pollies” in your hand. My grandpa says they’re called “sow bugs.” Now here are some ants. And here are some termites. Grandma gets very excited when she sees them around the house, so she is very happy when she sees Little Peep eating termites. And here is an earwig–Little Peep thinks they are especially good–look how she gobbles it up!

All the chickens like clover a lot also. Because they have been such good chickens, I am going to give them a bunch of clover leaves. Grandpa says to me, “Look how the chickens eat all these different foods, RG. You should stop being so fussy about your food and try a little of everything.”

Did I mention before that I consider him my Crazy Grandpa. I have five grandmas and four grandpas, but he is the only really crazy one.

Slaters

July 3, 2010

Just as the Garden Tour was finishing, the Barely Extended Family arrived. They had stopped at some of the other gardens on the way in, and at a playground for Random Granddaughter to have a break from adult pastimes.

After visiting the Friendly Neighbors Garden after it had closed they came over to our house. I feed the chickens sow bugs as a treat, but I had been warned that RG collects sow bugs in little houses, so I wasn’t sure if having her help me feed some to the chickens would be politically correct.

Gingerly, I mentioned, “I feed sow bugs to the chickens as a treat. Do you want to help me collect some for them?”

She looked at me with a blank look. Eventually I discovered she did not know the term, “Sow bug.” She calls them, “rolly pollies.” Once the linguistic difficulties were overcome, she enthusiastically helped me turn over rocks and put the rolly polly bugs into a plastic dish and feed them to the chickens.

I think RG’s position at the top of the food chain is safe, unless we discover grizzly bears living in our woods, or a great white shark living in the Friendly Neighbors’ duck pond.

http://soilbugs.massey.ac.nz/isopoda.php

In New Zealand, sow bugs are known as “slaters.” If Australia and New Zealand are at peace, they may use that term as well.

Our three baby chickens, (now teenagers in chicken years) known collectively as “the juvenile delinquents” have received individual names, displayed individual personalities, and are now introduced to you. Perhaps this is their “coming out” party.

The smallest one is known as Little Peep. Although the others pick on her, she is fairly spunky. Mrs. Random, small and spunky, identifies with her. “She is very standoffish and doesn’t like me to pick her up,” says Mrs. Random, an introvert who likes to hide in the woods.

The punk of the bunch is Moll. Originally Moe, Mrs. Random did not regard that name as describing her attitude. We have been concerned that Moll is a rooster, but if so, she is a very small rooster. Moll is always trying to break out of their cage, either by pecking her way out through the cardboard that lines the indoor cage, or by flying out when Mrs. Random lifts the top to bring in food or water. Moll pecks the hands that fees her so sharply that I have taken to wearing gloves. Moll is turning into the Little Liu of the flock, frankly.

Big Mama is the largest of the group. Perhaps we will have to put a treadmill in the coop so she doesn’t get too fat. I am working on getting some pictures of the three hens, but frankly, once you have seen one picture of a teenage juvenile delinquent chicken, you probably have seen enough chicken pictures to last you for days.

I wrote a comment to a earlier post in reply to Kim that covers the some of the following. My wife and I are “cat” people as opposed to “dog” people. When I was young, I was allergic to cats, though I am less allergic to them now than I was. As my wife grew older, she became more allergic to cats.

As my wife and I both came from unhappy families, we did not intend to have children when we got married. Despite our taking precautions, my wife became pregnant on our honeymoon. How quaint that sounds today! Anyway, it is possible having a baby saved our young and shaky marriage. (Do not try this at home!)

Besides our allergies, we decided that we were selfish, self-centered people not well-suited to being parents. We decided we did not have enough generosity, kindness, and patience for two little creatures. “Pet or child, choose one,” we told ourselves. Our daughter turned out to be an excellent child, so we decided to keep her. We also realized that it is quite frequent to only get one or two good ones in a human litter; so we decided to quite while we were ahead. We only one had one child. Eventually I had a vasectomy. We never had a pet in 44 years of married life.

Finally, following the example of our fine and Friendly Neighbors, we decided to get chickens. We brought four baby chicks home. One was not thriving. Chickens are cute (especially Dominiques, the breed we chose, a breed that likes to be picked up and petted). They are useful, delivering a nutritious and tasty food, the egg. However, they do not have especially good family values, and sibling rivalry can get ugly indeed.

Whiny was not thriving. Her name became “Poopy Butt.” Her three sisters were pecking her. My wife said, “She is not going to make it. I do not want Eenie, and Minie, and Moe to get in the habit of pecking each other.”

My wife caught Poopy Butt. She put her in an paper cone. She handed me a knife, turned her head, and wept, while I did the deed. Speaking of cannibals. I hope David is not reading this post; he is kind of a softie.