Across the meadow, and down a winding path heading toward the valley was a cave, and that was where Bear was just waking up from his winter nap. It wasn’t the sun that woke him, but the sharp stab of hunger in his belly. It had been a long, long, cold winter. There was nothing left in his pantry.
Up the hill, on the farm, feathers were flying as Beulah, Rooster’s sister, prepared the coop for her party. Petunia, and Sweet-pea and a few others had been setting for almost 21 days, and soon their eggs would hatch, and they were feeling kind of full of themselves.*
By “full of themselves” I mean that they were excited, and proud at the same time, and that makes you feel like you are just going to burst out with a loud cackle accompanied by clucks and hopping up and down while thrusting your head forward and backward in rapid succession.
Beulah was a broody hen. She looked out for the younger ones, intervening in their squabbles, and helping them with their nests. She always made sure there was plenty of support for the new mothers in the barnyard.
On the other side of the coop, where Rooster lived, the sun was leaking through a crack in the wall, rousing him from sleep. He always woke up early and hit the ground running. The first thing was to let out a very loud Cock-A-Doodle-Doo! He heard the hubbub, and thought he’d better get out of the way for a while, so he set off down the path toward Bear’s cave.
“Hey Bear! Are you awake? What’s up? How ya feelin?”
“What.” Bear drowsily stated. Normally “what” is a question all on its own, but Bear was usually a little grumpy when he woke up, especially if he woke up hungry. He scratched his belly, and it growled.
“Hungry”. He said.
“Well let’s go!” crowed Rooster. We’ll go down to the creek and catch some fish, or we could go up on the hill to the farm. I know Beulah is fixin’ up some fine goodies for the hens. Maybe we could sneak a bit away, I think there’s pie.”
“Pie.” Said Bear. “Mmmm, …pie.” Bear’s stomach made another shuddering groan, and he rubbed the sleep from his eyes with his big paws.
Beulah’s kitchen was small in the coop, but very efficient. Pies were cooling on the windowsill. She spread her cakes, fresh vegetables and pitchers of cool fresh water out along the plank table. There were preserved June Bugs, she had put up in jars last summer. The table looked beautiful, with the red-checkered cloth, and the decorative pretend eggs she had been working on in her spare time. She had made little nests for place settings. She stood back and admired her handy-work.
The girls were gathering in the hen house, clucking softly among themselves, arranging their nests, and their precious eggs. Some had plucked feathers from their own bodies in order to set down on the eggs, to touch their warm skin to them, and bring them to life with the heat of their bodies.
Rooster and Bear slowly climbed the hill, the sun was getting higher in the sky, and Bear was beginning to feel more awake. He sniffed around in the bushes to see if there were any berries, but they had not grown yet. Rooster was smaller, and faster, and his little yellow legs quickly carried him up the path. The smells of baking wafted on the breeze.
Beulah called out the names of the hens in the parlor: “Henrietta, Sweet-Pea, Petunia, Blossom, Lilly, Martha, Agnes, Zelda, Fanny, and Jenny!” All were present.
After cups of Chamomile tea were passed around, she was ready to begin the games. Beulah handed out sheets of paper, and some pencils. The game was a word scramble and the hens had to guess what the words were. All the words were things about chicks, motherhood, and eggs. The winner would take home the prize, her best Apple Pan Dowdy*.
After the first game Beulah and Petunia went to the kitchen to bring the food in. To their horror, the Apple Pan Dowdy on the windowsill was gone!
The hens were agitated. They began to cluck between themselves, and send worried looks to Beulah, whose reputation for intolerance of hoggery and deceit was well known. Every eye was on the window, as a rooster’s red comb slowly raised above the sill, then right beside it the brown fur and ears of a bear.
A wild CLUCK was shouted immediately; while the agitated hens grabbed any object they could, such as knitting needles, handbags, a broom, and a tea tray.
The tea tray came down hard on the heads that were slightly seen rising above the windowsill with a clanging sound.
Loud noises ensued.
Farmer looked out his window only to see his hens in an uproar, and racing across the field behind a rooster and a bear.
“That’s a real head-scratcher” he said, and turned to his wife with his eyebrows raised.
Rooster and Bear, with the warm Apple and Cinnamon taste still in their mouths, ran head long across the field, down the winding path and waded into the stream hoping the water would stop the mob.
…Hens, mad hens, … mad wet hens. Wet hens are the maddest!
Across the meadow, and down a winding path heading toward the valley was a cave, and that was where Bear and Rooster hid from the wet hens. They may be hiding there still.
* Apple Pan Dowdy is a kind of apple and cinnamon baked dessert that is very tasty.
By Diane E. Dockum
©March 23, 2013