Thursday, January 23, 2014
Most of us have probably seen “The Peaceable Kingdom,” painted by 19th century American folk artist (and devout Quaker) Edward Hicks. He painted at least 60 versions of the original, but the theme never changed: Lion and prey live together in harmony. (If you’re now humming “Ebony and Ivory,” my apologies.)
The artist’s inspiration was Isaiah 11: 6-8. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them all.”
We have no children at Crazy Acres, but we’ve got own version of “The Peaceable Kingdom.”
Molly is an old, lanky Lab, roughly the size of a water buffalo. At 14, her vision is almost shot, but her nose still works. We know this because a nearby gas station makes the best fried chicken in three counties, and several times a year Molly raises her anvil-sized head, sniffs deeply and goes AWOL. At her destination she shamelessly begs for crispy chicken skin, and always gets it.
Nicky is our tiny, spoiled JRT who adores Widdle and hates all dogs except Molly. The only thing she loves more than her man is food.
She’s a pig.
The latest players are Ben & Jerry, gigantic red-combed roosters given to us by a reader, of whom I’m now very fond. (Feedback is wonderful, but how many readers give you livestock?)
Ben & Jerry have more personality than some people. They’re hilarious, sociable, affectionate and cluck a blue streak. Any day now we expect to see one of them strutting around in a top hat and monocle.
This menagerie is now a family—or a pack, or a flock, I don’t know which. But by all appearances, they’re best friends.
When we were away recently, Widdle’s best friend went to the house for something. What he saw almost made him take the pledge. As he later exclaimed, “First the dogs followed the chickens all around the yard, and then the chickens followed the dogs! Beat all I ever saw.”
Imagine: A Lab, born and bred to retrieve birds, and a Jack Russell, born and bred to shake prey to death, wagging along behind two strutting roosters. (We’re certain they all conversate, and if you could hear the clucks, whimpers and yips, you’d believe it, too.)
They also share their vittles. Molly, it turns out, loves chicken food. When I walk out on the back porch, I carry B&J’s feed in a ceramic cup and clink my ring against the side.
B&J come running, with that hilarious, rolling drunken-sailor gait… and with Molly hot on their heels. It doesn’t matter how I distribute the food—throw it in a wide arc, pour it into separate piles--Molly muscles in, unrolls that towel-sized tongue and sucks it up like a Hoover.
B&J feverishly eat as much as they can, until Molly is literally licking their feet. Then they retreat, complaining loudly, and peck the grass for bugs.
Sometimes, if we’re out of chicken scratch, I toss out a cup of Nicky’s special, very expensive kibble—a salmon and sweet potato blend. On those days, it’s every man for himself.
One little dog, one giant dog and two husky roosters all pile in and start gobbling as fast as they can. Then they all go under the oak tree for a nap.
Which, of course, begs the question: If they can all get along, why can’t we?
Julie R. Smith, who loves her some roosters, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.