Monday, January 25, 2016

Of Chickens and Such

 
A clergy friend of mine has ended up with a chicken hanging around her church.  She worries about it.  In fact, she even took time on her day off to run by the church and check on what people are now calling the Church Chicken.

I need to tell Erin one of my favorite stories today. The night I learned about Chicken Drop Sunday. You can listen in. 

What makes the story especially interesting is that Erin already knows part of the story. It was January of 2007. I was working for the Presbyterian Diaaster Assistance in Mississippi helping clean up after Katrina.  So was Erin.  We were part of an eclectic, brave bunch of hardy souls who worry about homeless chickens hanging around your church and stuff like that. 

I was having a tough week and felt like any moment I could crash going around the learning curve trying to get a handle on how to manage a hurricane recovery camp. I really needed a good laugh. This is where the story picks up:

One thing that lifted me out of the doldrums was a group of volunteers God sent me that week. They were a small group, and I knew one of the guys from my solo trip in February, the year before. Bill Smith was our water guru, and he was the one who had designed the water treatment system for the camp in Pearlington. I was really glad to see him, because we had failed our water test a month before and once again had to warn volunteers against drinking the water in camp. Because they were the only group in camp that week and only numbered five people, we just ate our meals right there in the kitchen around the prep table. It was very homey.

First you need to remember that we were in Mississippi. Deep, rural Mississippi. The closest place-- well, the only place--in town to get a meal outside your own kitchen was the bar up on the highway. It’s called Turtle Landing and it’s a very laid-back place where you can have a burger and a beer out on the landing and watch the wildlife. Sometimes there was just as much wildlife inside the bar as there was outside.  I hear you can feed the turtles and an occasional alligator from the dock. They don’t serve any of that fancy stuff like wine, and the place is usually full of cigarette smoke. On nights like Sunday’s Super Bowl it was only natural that the Pittsford, New York group wanted to visit Turtle Landing to watch the New York Giants play.

I'm not sure who won the football game that night.  I'm not really sure they watched it that much.  They were pretty "mellow" when they got back to camp.  But they brought with them an explanation of a sign Turtle Landing had outside for months that I had long wondered about.  It proclaimed Sundays are “Chicken Drop” night. All the times I passed the sign I just assumed this meant some kind of deep fried chicken meal they sold on Sundays. Nosireee. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Chicken Drop” is a game. The Pittsford team didn’t actually see it played but they got an explanation : they have an enclosed pen with a grid marked on the floor. Inside each square is a number. You pay for a number. At the prescribed moment they put the chicken into the pen while everyone sits and enjoys their beer watching it walk around inside the pen. If the chicken poops into the square you chose, you win and get the prize money. I’m not sure if the bar keeps part of the pot or if the winner gets it all. But it set the church from Pittsford to thinking.

They decided it would make a dandy fund-raiser for mission trips to Mississippi. They started talking about how they could do this. I’m still not totally sure how serious they are about it, but the conversation was the perfect way to unwind from the day.

First, they had to discuss if owning chickens was legal in Pittsford and how they could find one. And did this constitute cruelty to animals? No, they decided, since pooping is a perfectly healthy and normal thing for a chicken to do. Then, could they do this inside the church or outside? If outside, the dates for the Drop would have to wait until winter was passed. Nobody wanted the poor pooping chicken to have to walk around in the cold. Or would the Ladies Knitting Club need to knit coats for the chickens?  Everyone was interested in how fast the chicken would produce a winner, but no one knew much about the bowel habits of chickens. I suspect it takes a while and that the real goal of the game is drinking a lot of beer.

Then, where else could the conversation go after that but forming a committee? This was, after all, a church. And, no name would do but the obvious: The Chicken Shit Committee. Each person at the table, including myself, decided we had served on this committee in the past and could probably chair the committee ourselves simply through our vast experience. That was the end of that, and we all went to bed.

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