Welcome to the return of “Over Easy,” a column dedicated to eggs and the hens that lay them. No. Just kidding. There’s nothing particularly funny about chickens.

On the other hand, everything about chickens is funny. Anyone who has kept chickens, whose chickens have become part of their family, knows that they are special. They ask for so little, but give so much. Their sole purpose in life is to produce eggs. That’s eggs, each chicken, one every day.

And what eggs they are. Cracking open an egg directly from the coop, you can tell by its posture that the egg is as fresh as fresh can be. The yolk stands as straight as an ROTC cadet. The whites don’t run away like they do with an egg that’s been out on its own for days. The egg white running away from the yolk is a sign of discontented eggs, out too long.

Fresh eggs will never break your heart, nor your yolk.

You’ve heard about the life-changing experience of swimming with dolphins, but have you ever spent a night with the chickens in their coop? It wouldn’t take long to begin to think like a chicken. Chickens live in the Now Time Zone, they are the ultimate existentialists, mindful of each moment, keeping track with soft steps, murmurs.

“Buk buk buuuk,” with a twist of the head to accommodate the fact that a chicken’s eyes are too far apart for good depth perception, which is why chickens don’t drive cars.

“Buk buk buuuk.” What other animal is so altruistic, that when the eggs run out they give us our Sunday dinner (with dumpling and gravy, ummm, good).

A long time ago there was a cartoonist named Al Capp, who created a dark-haired white dude named Li’l Abner, who had arms like pistons and a chin like Mount Rushmore. He was what we call a hillbilly.

Li’l Abner and his girl, Daisy Mae, lived in a hardscrabble village called Dogpatch. Now the residents of Dogpatch had no need to work for a living, no need for help from anyone since they shared their lives with the shmoos, cartoon characters who looked like a cross between a chicken and Caspar the Ghost. They were shaped like a bowling pin with a larger bottom and stubby legs.

Shmoos gave their fellow Dogpatch residents insurance against ever going hungry. Shmoos gave eggs, of course, but they also gave themselves as chicken or steak dinners, depending if you fried or baked them.

Capp was a conservative when being a conservative meant something other than what it is now. His Li’l Abner was a mouthpiece for individuality and against New Deal liberalism. Capp considered the shmoo as dangerous as any dictator, because once you give people whatever they want, like the-well-meaning shmoos did, democratic society would wither and die.

With the basics supplied free of charge by the shmoos, who had to work? Shmoos didn’t care whether you were conservative or liberal, black or white, whatever. You want a gallon of milk, you got it. Just say the word and the shmoo will deliver.

There are people who treat their chickens like a pet. They dress the bird in a special chicken diaper, they take the bird for a “walk” outside. From the chicken’s point of view, life as a pet is accepted. The chicken who is a pet still lives in the Now Time Zone, whether he’s out on the lawn, or walking in the woods. Like the fictional shmoos, chickens are here to make life better for us.

All I can say in response is this: “Buk buk buuuuk.”

 

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