Like tranquil whitecaps float on a sea of green, chickens bob and dip, bob and dip as they scratch and peck for food on a hillside pasture. “How many chickens do you have?” I ask.
“About 30,” he replies. “We have names for most of them.”
“How can you tell them apart? They all look the same.”
“Yeah, at first all you might see is a bunch of white chickens. But, when you look closely you’ll learn their differences. See that hen over there with the gimpy leg? We call her Peggy. Or, see that one with the grey tail? Her name is Ashes.”
“Yes, I see differences,” I say.
“Chickens tolerate minor differences among themselves like a limp or a grey tail,” he continues. “But, if they sense a mortal difference, such as a serious illness or a weakness that could decimate the flock, they will destroy the perceived threat. Sometimes chickens are wrong.”
I lean forward. “What do you mean by wrong?”
We move to the fence. “See this chicken feed? It’s grain meal with a small amount of protein and amino acids. Chickens are omnivores. They free-range at daytime and may scratch up a few worms and bugs. Most of their diet, however, is the meal I provide when I coop them up at night.”
“One evening, when I was shooing them into the coop, one of the hens must have scratched her eye on the chicken wire at the gate. I didn’t notice her injury at the time. We have a video camera to monitor the coop for foxes and weasels. I looked at the video the next day.”
He pauses and grips the fence. “At first the chickens didn’t notice the hen’s scratched eye until it started to bleed. First one and then another hen began to peck at her injured eye. Other chickens pecked, more blood flowed. The hen with the injury wobbled back from the feeder. For a time the others let her alone. Then additional chickens started to peck at the injured one’s wing feathers. In the close quarters of the chicken coop, attacks escalated. More hens joined the riot and soon the wounded bird fell to the coop floor. Chickens stomped on her prone body. Feathers were stripped and they ate her flesh. All that remained was blood, bones, and feathers on the chicken coop floor.”
“Looks like you’re writing music,” the young man says as he slides into the seat of the dining car across the table from me. “I’m Sammy. May I join you?”
“Of course, I’m Richard. I compose lounge music interspersed with quick paced, house music. It’s an unusual combination, but it’s my style. Are you a musician?”
The dining car lurches. Sammy grips the table and leans toward me. “I compose house music too. Do you know about The Warehouse, the origin of house music in Chicago? I did my best work there.”
“Yes… I’ve heard of it,” I say. “I lived in Chicago in the 70s and 80s. I hung out at a club in Schaumburg, owned by Walter Peyton, the Chicago Bear’s running back. Do you remember his club, Studebakers? House music was the rage. House reminded me of disco. I was a disco fan until disco disappeared. What killed disco?”
“Disco was perceived as gay music by some straight, white, Christian rock and roll bands,” Sammy says. “Do you remember a Chicago-area rock and roll radio station’s promotional event that urged fans to bring disco albums to a White Sox game? Fans were asked to stomp on disco albums between games of a double-header at Comiskey Park. The event was billed as Disco Demolition Night. The stomp was a disaster. Cooped up in the close quarters of the infield, fans rioted. The park was cleared and the second game was cancelled.”
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.