When I was a small boy and with my family visiting Dad’s family in Galveston and Brazoria Counties, Texas, we always made a stop by my great grandmother at her rural small farmhouse for a full day, perhaps even late into the night if other aunts, uncles, and cousins would come by as well. They were fun times; lifetime memories. If all of us 12-20 cousins were also there, the time together was a circus complete with clowns of capers and their pranks. At grandma Konzack’s there were endless things to do, tinker with, play, and generally find as much mischief as possible.
My great grandmother Konzack had about 25-30 acres of land with 4-6 heads of cattle, a big hay-barn, and chicken coup near her 1900’s self-built, five bedroom antebellum home. She always had 2-4 dogs around, watch-dogs more less that were never allowed inside the house. They were somehow responsible for keeping guard of the house and policing wanted and unwanted animals outside during the night. Hours would fly by, but before we would leave, grandma Konzack would always pack us up with the family beef from her deep-freezer and literally the freshest eggs from her busy hens. She and my Dad always had strange, peculiar stories about the goings on with that hen-house. This is one of them… well, a version of one with my own allegorical twist. 😉
But first some quick background. Without going into a long revisit of my family heritage, suffice to say that many/most of my paternal ancestors were of Franco-German-Swiss heritage of Freethinking families. In other words, they often marched to their own beat not blindly following mainstream religion and yet without denying their strong convictions of family and civil service to community in the spirit of individual American freedom and liberty within the confines of our U.S. Constitution. This made many of my paternal family minorities in Texas given most Texans were Southern Baptists, Catholics, or Conservative mainline Protestants, or to say it diplomatically… all equally excitable. She was surrounded on three property-lines by Southern Baptists and Evangelical Protestants where over the years there developed a cordially silent, unspoken, public smiles of tolerance for each other. That’s how folks did it in 1940, 50, and 60’s rural America.
This is my allegorical tale called The Whereabouts.
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Grandma Konzack had several hens in her coop, but six of them were very special, particularly reliable and productive hens. Their Latin names were Curiositas, Contradictio, Testimonium, Scrutinio, Aequalitatem, and the best egg producer Didicit. She was the queen over all other hens. The chicken coop had six levels on one wall and six more on the opposite wall. In a way, the eggs from grandma Konzack’s hen-house were, numerically speaking, the 666 hens with 666 eggs! 😈 I tell you, they were the most delicious eggs you’d ever have the privilege of putting in your mouth!
Curiositas was probably one of the most elusive hens to keep track of at any given time, even with the door to the hen-house closed and locked did not mean she would be happily content inside her specific nest box! If she had half a chance to to get out and explore, near or far didn’t matter, then she was GONE before you could say Whoa Nellie. However, Curiositas became one of the smartest, wittiest hens. She learned fast the most efficient methods of escape, hiding, and the most ideal locations on Grandma’s property to perch and watch everything below. She also learned equally as fast all the worst methods of the same.
One day she was never seen again. Vanished.
Contradictio was THE HEN that could challenge the patience of any wise owl and the cunning of the feline Margay. If you thought you’d anticipate where Contradictio would be or would behave, 9-times out of 10 you’d be wrong. What was MORE astonishing was that she could anticipate your behavior practically every single time. She could unravel your tricks or dishonesty before or by the count of five.
One day she was never seen again. Gone.
Testimonium on the other hand was a very friendly, gregarious hen. She always wanted to a part of or in the center of the day’s action. Testimonium also had a very nosy streak always getting in your way or face seeing up close what you were doing. If there was ever any sort of unscrupulous behavior taking place in the hen-house or outside nearby she would know firsthand EVERYTHING that took place! The quintessential court room witness of poultry!
One day she was gone, never seen again. Egg dishes are showing up less and less on the kitchen table!
Scrutinio was the single no-nonsense hen. You messed with or changed her nest-box even the slightest, she would know and immediately return it to her standards. In fact, change the daily routine in the smallest of ways and she was going to go all rooster on your ankles or hands! You could not slip anything past her scrutinizing eyes and high standards. Nothing!
And then one day she too was gone. Never to be seen again. Now there seems to be a pattern going on, right?
Aequalitatem was undoubtedly the protectorate hen of all hens. She would not stand for any mistreatment of hen-femininity! If two hens wanted to sleep together in the same nest box, then as far as Aequalitatem was concerned it was no one’s business what two adult hens wanted to do in the privacy of their nest box. Her motto? If no chickens were being harmed in the acts of amore, consenting hens can do whatever THA F*CK their pretty feathers wanna do. Period! Yes, she was the Joan of Arc of bold hen-ness.
Then one morning she too had disappeared. This was now very serious. Only our honorable, most wise and intelligent Queen hen remained…
Didicit was the Queen for many reasons, but the one best reason was her wisdom and that she had come to us from Oxford, England. She had been a favorite hen of a number of Nobel Prize winning professors at Oxford University and had traveled the world with them as their lucky feathered Madame. It was reasonably rumored that she understood no less than five different languages! Many an avian university department requested her services for various scientific studies. Didicit’s eggs were never bothered for obvious reasons. Two of her chicks had thankfully survived.
When she had gone missing grandma Konzack was infuriated. She went to her three neighbors trying to determine if they had noticed any bizarre activity the last week or so. After chatting politely with all three neighbors, both Southern Baptist families and the Evangelical family, grandma noticed that all three families had the exact same painting on their living room walls (seen below).
Grandma Konzack asked her friendly neighbor about the familiar painting on the wall. They replied “Oh, we are big animal lovers, in particular foxes.” Curious, she asked why that particular animal. “They are remarkably stealthy, cunning canine carnivores. They keep all the unwanted trashy, disease-carrying animals away.” they answered with a sly grin. Grandma Konzack couldn’t resist and retorted back:
Yes, but they are not particularly honorable carnivores are they… sneaking up on their prey and always hiding, always fleeing scared of the slightest trouble. No wonder the British had so many fox hunts with their hounds!
Not amused her neighbors responded in a snide tone “Well that may or may not be true, but it’s always the end that justifies the means. If your survival depends on eliminating enemies with dishonorable stealth, then it deserves our favor.” Grandma was not particularly surprised by the logic. She had been around these type folks most of her life. It was why she enjoyed the company of others who enjoy life to the fullest. I’ll be on my way she said. “If you do notice anything out of the ordinary” she politely explained, “please let me know would you?” Their response was even more strange than their previous:
“We do not know the whereabouts of your fancy, expensive hens Mrs. Konzack.” The husband continued, “Perhaps they’ve simply runaway or perhaps tried and failed to cross the road.” His wife chuckled under her breath. Then, to show his “Christian politeness” he asked grandma:
We are having a weekend prayer-n-fellowship meal down at the church tomorrow afternoon if you’d like to attend. Do you know the whereabouts of our Fellowship Center? We’re having all sorts of goodies as long as the eye can see and the bellies can pack, including baskets of fried chicken!
“Thanks but no thanks” grandma replied quickly. “And yes, I know where the Fellowship Center is located” Knowing her welcome would not last much longer, she smiled in reciprocated charm and said:
“No one can miss it because it is as monstrous and gaudy as the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception” and as she opened the door to exit said in closing:
But nowhere near as beautiful, as naturally human, or as meaningful as The Temples of Khajuraho (see above video). But I am guessing you’ve never been outside Brazoria County, much less out of the United States have you? If you can put your bibles down for a day or find a quite spot other than your church sanctuary, read Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad for an enlightening, delightful life-lesson of what it means to be truly human.
My grandma Konzack was a wonderful woman with a sharp, witty sense of humor. One would learn fairly soon too she did not appreciate any type of elitism from anyone, not the President, not the Queen of Britain, and damn sure not from any kuntry folk from rural Texas. She’s the one who taught me the meaning of “Right, but everyone sits on the pot the same for the same reason.” There were some other juicy tidbits she’d add, but I’ll skip those so not to offend the sensitive or faint-hearted. She was a tough, tough woman, but full of so much life!
I do miss my Grandma Konzack.
To my readers: Tell me in comments below what my allegorical story says to you. What happens to the Hen House and the future of flocks when the best hens (and their egg producing/teaching abilities) are silenced.
Live Well — Laugh Often — Love Much — Learn Always
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