Tuesday, July 15, 2014
The funniest joke I ever heard was about a chicken on the freeway. I laughed so hard I ended up forwarding it to everybody in my address book. Only... I can't remember it. Chickens are like that. They are ubiquitous and we are entertained by them, but we don't consider chickens too much. Or, at least, we don't recall the salient details of funny chicken jokes. Today I was talking with my kindergarteners about compost bins. I was drawing diagrams on the board and mentioned "hardware cloth" and "chicken wire." Explaining chicken wire isn't so easy because you have to ensure that the kids understand "wire" and why it is favorable to use "wire that allows ventilation" instead of just leaving it open or just creating slats that may or may not allow vermin into the compost bin. Then you have to explain 'vermin.' But, before I could explain "chicken wire," Alexandra asks, "Chicken wire? They use chickens to make wire?" I laughed out loud and this, of course, made Alex indignant. "How many chickens do they use," she demands. Now, my evil twin would have blandly replied that they don't use that many, but the easiest explanation seemed to suffice. But visions of chicken parts sacrificed for compost bin wire dance in my head.
Sometime in the mid-to-late 19th century, a young boy named Fielding was born into a farm family with at least 8 children. He was the youngest; his brother Lewis was a couple years older. Before he was 14, Fielding was an orphan, earning his keep on another Indiana dirt farm worked by the husband of his sister, Nancy. What he thought about or what he knew is lost to the ages - at some point, he and Lewis set out on their own. In 18__, Fielding married Elizabeth Wainscott. The marriage record calls her "Betty Winscott," but this isn't unusual since many folks in that region of the midwest at that time were barely literate. The area was filled with Earls, Wainscotts, and Jameses - they intermarried and gave their children the same family names. Betty died young after giving birth to Fielding's only son, James Milton Earl, known to his friends and family as Milton. My dad called him "Bampa." Fielding did remarry - Josephine Boarders became Milton's stepmother in 18___. The disconcerting end to Fielding's life occurred in his 30th year. He was, according to Mabel, my great-grandmother, walking behind the house whistling. The death record indicates he was crushed by a falling tree. The whistling, she reported, stopped abruptly. Everyone has stories. Not knowing them is like an abrupt ending.