I went to a farm party where the high point of the evening was chicken shit bingo. A single chicken was placed in a large cage over a giant bingo board, and the numbers on the board were purchased by the party goers to benefit the arts. When the hen shat on a lucky number, the crowd roared, and the winner walked off with a lovely gift basket. A lot of wine was involved, and it was good fun for everyone but the hen.
On the other side of the barnyard, I stood at the wine bar and noticed the woman beside me had glassy tears in her eyes. “I hate it when people are mean to chickens,” she said, her crystal earrings twinkling in the light. I smiled and nodded. I had had my own flock of chickens for 13 years, and although the bingo concept was pretty cool, my sympathies were with the hen. “We had chickens when I was growing up,” she said. “And our rooster was blind. So my dad refused to feed it. That made me really sad.” She squeezed out a tear. “So I fed the rooster when my dad wasn’t looking, and after a while he started following me around.”
“Your dad?” I asked.
She blinked and teetered. I could see she realized something was wrong with her story, but she couldn’t quite grasp it. “No,” she said. “The rooster. He followed me everywhere.”
We were clustered beside a row of tomato plants, under carnival lights strung from a work shed to a garden post. It was a starry summer evening. A blue grass band played in the gazebo, and a hundred revelers roamed about, sipping festive beverages, feeling farmish. The bingo players were hollering at the chicken, waving their arms in the air, cheering for their numbers. But she was in a different world now.
“We would meet behind the garage and I would feed him,” she continued. Her eyes swept the night sky and she sighed. Then suddenly she was overcome. “I loved that rooster,” she gasped. “Of course, my dad never knew. He would have been so angry with me. But I couldn’t stop feeding him just because he was blind.” She looked me in the eye to be sure I appreciated her dilemma. Then she tilted her head back and drained her glass. Wet mascara rolled down her cheeks to her chin. “Well, maybe he wasn’t that blind,” she said, catching up with herself. “He was just partly blind. But he couldn’t see that well. I had to feed him. He needed me.” She began to move in the direction of the bar. Then she turned back to me and grabbed my arm. “Love is crazy, isn’t it? I mean, when you really stop and think about it. It’s just crazy.”
I felt the burn of wine in my nostrils and swallowed hard. “Yes, it is.” I raised my glass to her. “Just crazy.”