My Chicken Friend
I grew up in a small town in southwestern Michigan, not far from the Indiana State line. It was there, during my high school years that I met “the chicken” for the first time. The surrounding area was and still is, pretty rural with lots of lakes, and small farms, so it is not unusual to see farm animals walking around, occasionally straying into the middle of town. But until that day I had never seen one in the high school library.
I didn’t do as well in high school as I could have. I really liked Chemistry, Physics, and Math but had little interest in things like English or History. So, I guess I spent more time in the library than some of the other kids. I was probably a sophomore or junior at the time because I don’t recall having a car – or at least I was not allowed to drive it to school yet, which meant that I would often wait in the library for Mom to pick me up after school.
One day, while bent over one of the library tables, probably studying for one of Mrs. Agosti’s History tests, a chicken walked in. With a couple of quick flaps of her wings, she ended up on Miss Fitch’s desk[i]I think her name was June Fitch. I could be wrong about that so I will ask my classmates to correct me.
(Please see updates below.) , where she boldly said, “boooooowk”. Miss Fitch responded quite appropriately, “I beg your pardon Ma’me[ii]You see, growing up in the countryside means you can tell the difference between a hen and a rooster”. The chicken repeated even more loudly, “boooooowk”, and Miss Fitch said, “Oh, you want a book”. She went to the shelf and picked out a book; being careful to avoid cookbooks and those having to do with bird hunting – an ever-popular sport in rural Michigan. She returned and handed the book to the chicken. Putting the book under one wing, she calmly walked out the door and down the stairs to the street. I could say that I had never witnessed anything quite like that before but Miss Fitch didn’t seem alarmed so none of the others in the room said a word.
The next day, the same chicken returned and said, “boowk, boooooowk “ and Miss Fitch said, “I get it, you want two books”, and the chicken responded with, “boowk, boooooowk “, and left with a book under each wing.
When the chicken returned the third day and said, “boowk, boowk, boooooowk”, Miss Fitch responded accordingly but I had grown suspicious. This time I picked up my own books and followed this unusual bird. I admit I was not a particularly good student but I had an insatiable curiosity so I needed to find out what was going on.
The high school at that time was located on East Michigan Avenue, at the corner of Middle Street, not far from where the Portage River flows into the St. Joseph River. [iii]It has since been moved east of town in a new building and a church has taken over the old school building. The library was on the second floor, above the Middle Street exit and the chicken proceeded down the stairs and out that exit, whereupon she turned right and proceeded down Middle Street toward the river, walking right down the middle of the street with her books.
Behind the school was a large flood plain, and when the snow melted in the Spring, this whole area, including the football field, would be flooded for weeks.
When the chicken reached the rear of the school building she turned and walked across the parking lot to the stairs that led to the football field. She then proceeded down the stairs and across the field, zig-zagging to avoid the muddy spots, left by the Spring flooding. When the water recedes it leaves a slippery film of mud over the entire area, which can be treacherous for a chicken carrying books.
I was not far behind as she approached the riverbank – close enough that I could finally see the biggest bullfrog I have ever seen; just sitting there in the muddy water. Growing up on Fisher Lake, a few miles east of there, I had seen and caught some really big bullfrogs but none that could compare to this guy. That frog was so big, he could have devoured the chicken in one bite, but he didn’t. Instead, when the chicken put the three books down in front of him, he said, “readit, readit, rrrrrrrreadit”.
Updates as of March 24, 2022
Phyllis Snyder comments, “Quite a story!! June Fitch taught Sewing in home ec. She also married coach Johnson later. I think all of the teachers were the librarians with their free hours.”
Larry Hackenberg looked it up, “As of 1959, the Liberian’s name was Verna Hancock. Miss Fitch’s name was Alice LeJune Fitch.”
Julie Beal adds, “That’s a pretty wild and funny story! LaJune Fitch, usually called June, was Mrs. Fitch. She was married to a Mr. Fitch, became his widow, and later married Coach Ed Johnson.”
“Recent sightings of a chicken and a frog traveling together around St. Joseph County remain unconfirmed by local officials at this time.”
Written: circa 1998
Published: March 20, 2022
Revised: March 21, 2022
Reader feedback always appreciated
|↑i||I think her name was June Fitch. I could be wrong about that so I will ask my classmates to correct me.|
(Please see updates below.)
|↑ii||You see, growing up in the countryside means you can tell the difference between a hen and a rooster|
|↑iii||It has since been moved east of town in a new building and a church has taken over the old school building.|