Heremy Hen, Half and Half and their friends.
by ©Megan A Sampson
Here-My-Hen Heremy Hen
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a little chicken shed
which held chickens and ducks. Heremy Hen was my favourite chicken
and half and half was the prettiest because she was half cream and
I called my favourite chicken, Heremy Hen because she would come as
soon as I called out. “here. come here, my hen”. so her name
Our first chicken family were very caring and sharing, but the next
family of chickens were not. When Mummy went to buy the first
chickens and ducks, she had to catch the ducks herself because the
owners were chasing them around the little concrete yard and they
were getting very upset.
Mummy said “Stop! They are getting very stressed”. (I think stressed means very frightened ) So she said she would fetch them herself.
She looked funny in her going- out dress, stockings and Minnie- Mouse
She talked to them softly and just walked up behind them and picked
them up and held them under her arms.
When my little brother Ryan was only one and a half, this was his
favourite game. I don’t like it very much because ducks are always so
muddy, anyway, I’m older, I’m nearly nine and I’m Lloyd. I live on a
special permaculture garden site just under the mountain in Mt Kembla,
NSW Australia. It’s called Permaculturevisions.com
We have to keep ducks and chickens to look after our special garden.
The ducks weed and kill snails, while the chickens peck and scratch
the ground and help to make the soil very rich. Chicken and duck poo
are the best things for the garden. The chickens eat all our food scraps,
except meat, which we give to our worms. Chickens are very clever
you know. And if you don’t know, then I will tell you.
But… some of these clever ways of chickens are secret.
So I will have to tell you in a hushed and whispered voice.
You see, our neighbour, Mr Griggs was not a very nice man. He didn’t
care about his neighbours, he used to let his chickens out to wander
wherever they liked. They would run across the road and the cars
would have to come to a screaming halt, to make sure they didn’t hurt
the chickens and their chicks. They would scratch and dig up my
mother’s garden and one day they ate nearly a hundred dollars worth
of rare seeds.
Boy, was Mum angry!
Then the next thing they did was to break INTO our chicken pen and
eat all the chicken feed. Some of the chickens refused to go home.
They liked it so much, and our chickens were so kind to them. Our chickens
shared their food with them, and let them wander about the chicken
house, and even let them roost in the upstairs section of the chicken
Mummy grew very cross with them and tried to shoo them home,
but as soon as she took them out of the chicken yard they would dig up
more valuable plants, and they kept digging. If she hosed them they
would run away and creep back into the garden when she wasn’t
looking. They would keep doing this until she put them back with the
chickens. One chicken used to run to the same spot so Mum could
catch her, where she could put her over the fence into the chicken
Mr Griggs didn’t seem to care where the chickens were, because he
was quite happy for us to keep on feeding them.
Now and again he would come and ask for them back, but as soon a
he let them out, they would rush straight back. Poor Mummy had to put
them back in the chookpen just to stop them eating more and more
plants. They knew how to get around her.
I thought they were pretty clever. But later they proved they were even cleverer than I had thought.
What happened next, was that Mummy decided to find these chickens
a better home. She said she was having them “fostered out”.
I found out that this was really another way of saying she was giving them
away and this was supposed to be kept secret. She took two of them to
her friend’s chookhouse and two more to my cousins house.
Mr Griggs was very, very cranky when he came to visit his chickens in
our chookhouse, only to find that they were not there! Well, what could
he say? Maybe the fox had taken them, more likely not!
Mummy didn’t say anything. She just sort of shook her shoulders in a
funny up and down way. It was her way of pretending she didn’t know
where they were. The two chickens who went to my cousins house
adopted the family immediately. They used to wander around the back
door just to say hello, and my cousins loved to play with them. One
was called Blackie-Blackie because she was black, and the other one
So she was called snow white, of course.
After a few weeks Blackie-Blackie disappeared, and we all thought she
had been taken by a fox. She was missing for about three days when
my auntie asked her neighbour Mary if she had seen her.
Mary couldn’t speak English very well, but she did manage to say that
Blackie-Blackie was a very, very naughty chicken.
She had found Blackie-Blackie in her yard, and not knowing who owned her, she had put her in her chookhouse.
Blackie -Blackie didn’t like it there, and kept trying to get out.
She kept trying and trying.
Then she thought of a clever plan.
She decided she would make Mary her let her out.
She would peck a hole in every egg until Mary gave up, and that is
exactly what she did. Can you believe that! She pecked a hole in every egg!
Mary had let her out, but first she put Blackie-Blackie in a bird cage.
She then gave her back to my auntie.
Mary was very happy to be rid of her, and Blackie-Blackie was very happy to be back.
She had never pecked an egg before and has not pecked an egg
since. Who said chickens aren’t clever!
All Our Chickens Are Ladies
Right now, We haven’t got a rooster, all our chickens are ladies. We do
have father and mother ducks, so sometimes we get duck eggs which
can grow into baby ducks. Mum said we can’t have a rooster because
they crow very early in the morning, even when it is still dark, and the
people who live nearby will complain about the noise.
I know my dad would be the first to complain. Sometimes he doesn’t
even go to bed until it’s nearly morning. He has to do his study. It’s
called a thesis. He thinks and writes a lot, and he always sleeps in.. so
he’s always late for work, but his work let’s him arrive late.
I wish my school would let me be late every day.
Or even let me go to school for only three days. Instead of five.
One thing about chickens is that they are very good mothers.
Mum showed me that if you put a duck egg under a chicken, the chicken will
adopt the duckling and rear it up.
Another thing I noticed is that the grandma chicken is always the boss,
and she eats first. They all seem to know whose turn it is. Not like the
ducks, they don’t seem to care and they are always pushing and
shoving and fighting.
Heremy Hen is the grandma, or she was… She died last week.
We went down to the chookhouse and she was dead.
Mum said she was old for a chook.
She lay there with her little chicken chest sort of sunken in.
A bit like a balloon half gone down. Her eyes were closed with grey
eyelids, and she didn’t move.
I didn’t feel like looking inside her mouth like I did when the first duck
died. Then, I just wanted to know what their teeth looked like, and how
far down the throat I could see. But not this time. Heremy hen was
She reminded me of my Nanny. Nanny is really our Grandma, but
we call her Nanny because when her mother was still alive (our great
grandma) she was called Grandma, and Nanny didn’t like to be called
Whenever Nanny says she is getting old, I say.. “don’t say that. You’re
only a little bit old”.
Even so, the skin on her hands is a bit wrinkled up,
but not as bad as Heremy Hen’s feet.
I asked Nanny if there is a heaven for chickens and she said she
doesn’t know. She said, probably not for animals in the food chain, but
when we went to the museum there was an ancient human called Lucy
being eaten by a leopard.
I don’t know if people are part of the food chain or not.
Everything seems to eat anything smaller than itself.
Anyway, Nanny said when she gets to heaven she will find out.
We said a prayer for Heremy hen when we buried her, just in case.
I put some chicken feed and a couple of worms in her little grave, and
some flowers on top. I hope the worms don’t eat the chicken feed,
before Heremy Hen goes to heaven.
The first duckling was hatched by our first chicken family. Mum put the
egg under the chicken when she went broody. They go like that now
and again, and will sit on their eggs trying to make chickens, even
without a father. Eggs without a father can’t turn into chickens, and just
go bad. Anyway, the chicken sat on the duck egg for weeks, and one
day it hatched a little yellow fluffy duck. We called it Mellow-Yellow.
The Aunty chicken kept it under her wings to keep it warm, but when
the other chickens came to see the baby, she let them have it under
their wings. They sort of nursed it. I watched them taking turns, and it
grew from a cute yellow duckling, into a full size duck. It is funny
though, but it seems to think it’s a chicken, and not a duck. It stays with
it’s Aunty chickens all the time, and doesn’t play with the ducks.
Mum says whatever the duckling sees when it first comes out of the
egg, then that is what it thinks it is. It must think it’s seeing itself in a
mirror.. . I wonder if I had been hatched by a chicken if I would still
think I was a boy.
A sad thing happened the next time two duck eggs were put under a
new chicken. She came from the second family. We bought them from
a farmer because they were a different kind.
They are called Bantams, and they are much smaller than the other
chickens. Both eggs hatched one after the other. Mum was there at the
time, and she made the mistake of helping the second duckling to
break out of its shell.
It looked at her first, before it looked at the Aunty chicken, and seemed
to think it was a person.
It started to chirp all the time.
It sort of cried for Mum.
The Aunty chicken must have thought there was something very wrong
with it. We don’t really know what happened, but somehow it was
trodden on and it died.
The other little duckling survived, but the Aunty chicken would not
share it with the other chickens, so we had to put it in a separate pen.
It was black, and not as pretty as mellow-yellow.
The second family of chickens were not sharing chickens.
I thought they would all be sharing and caring, but they’re not.
At the Botanical gardens.
When I was four, Nanny took me to the Botanical gardens, where we saw another Muscovy duck.
We used to have one just like that.
They look different to the other ducks. They are large black and white birds with bright red throats and red skin hanging under their beaks. They are very quiet and very intelligent.
They will follow you about like a dog.
Our Muscovy was not happy with the other ducks and she was always
fighting with the father ducks, so Mum let her stay out and nest in a
large tree. One day she just disappeared.
We don’t know where she went or why she left us.
We hope she went to join other Muscovy ducks, and that she is happy.
We don’t like to cut their wings, even though they say that it doesn’t
hurt them, it looks as if it would.
Besides, Mum thought it they could fly, they might just get away from
Did you know that a fox dug his way into old Mr Henderson’s
chookhouse and killed all the chooks ?
Not just one for his dinner, but all of them! Every single one.
The bad fox carried some away, but all the rest were just left where
they lay. Foxes bury the dead chickens and come back later, dig them
up and then eat them.
Still, the foxes don’t have to kill all of them, do they?
When I saw the Muscovy duck at the gardens, I hoped it was ours, but Nanny said we were too far away from our home. I thought it was not really that far.
There was a lady planting petunias in the garden. She put them all in
neat little rows, like toy soldiers with the chocolate coloured dirt showing
around them. It reminded me of chocolate mint ice cream.
I walked around her garden, in my new shorts and with my hands in
pockets, like Dad does.
Then I told her, “we don’t plant like that”.
“How do you do it then?” She asked.
“We make a little forest of tall plants and short plants, we plant all sorts
of plants together, ….. then we put chook poo and straw and grass
clippings all around the plants, till all the dirt is covered up. It’s called
Mulch. It’s a special way.”
The lady planting Petunias looked surprised.
“It’s called Permaculture.” Nanny explained, as she rushed up the path
to collect me.
The lady said she knew about Permaculture, and that I was so lucky to
learn all about that. She asked me how old I was. I said 4 years old,
and then, I asked the lady in the gardening gloves, another question.
“Do you know what mulch does? “
She said, “No”.
So I replied, “It keeps all the water in and stops the sun from burning
the soil and the roots of the little plants. The dirt can’t blow away in the
wind, and the weeds don’t grow.”
I noticed she didn’t have any mulch to put on her garden. She thought I
was pretty clever to know all these things and I was still only four.
We didn’t stay very long at the gardens. Nanny had looked at the
roses, and when I said you can’t eat them, she sighed.
She said she was too hot and she too tired.
I don’t know why she wouldn’t just lay down on the grass and go to sleep, but she said she couldn’t possibly do that.
Someone might think she was dead, she said. Just like Heremy Hen.
Cats and chooks both catch baby snakes. Did you know that the Aunty
chicken fed a baby snake to our little duckling ?
We saw it, and we know it was too thick and long for a worm.
We have a sand pit to play in, and lots of toys scattered about.
The tap is nearby and we often make sand pies and castles.
Sometimes half and half and her other chicken friends get out of their
chookpen. They run over near our sand pit and scratch the dirt under
the peach trees.
Well, the other day Mum suddenly screamed out, “there’s a snake.. get
It was a red bellied black snake and it was at the edge of the sand pit.
It ran off as soon as Mum chased it with the rake.
My Nanny said when they are going to attack you they rise up on the
end of their tail and come at you with their head up high off the ground.
Sometimes snakes hide in the stick piles which we have in our garden
for the chickens to run into to get away from any dogs.
Nanny’s been “gone at” twice in her garden, so she always has a
shovel near the veranda post so she can fight it off.
Her garden is like a rain forest, she’s been growing ancient tree ferns,
and they are very big.
One of them was throwing off it’s spores ( seeds) the other day, and it was like fine brown dust. Dust was everywhere.
I saw spores on my video program, but I had not seen them in real life.
Sometimes, when our cat has caught a rat or a mouse and he puts it
near the office door. The other night after I went to bed, I thought I
heard a swishing sound, so I went out to the office where dad was
working on his bank of computers. It looks like a garage, but we don’t
use it for cars.
Guess what happened! It was dark, but I know my way, and just as I
reached the office door I saw a small snake, and had to jump over it. I
yelled to dad, and he came running. The snake was injured by the cat,
but was still alive and wriggling.
I was in a lot of trouble for that.
I could’ve been bitten, and we all know that snakes come out at night.
Maybe the snakes come out for a drink of water.
Mum was very shocked and cranky when Dad went in and woke her up
with the dead snake on a bit of paper.
She thinks she should have let the chickens out more often so they could have caught more snakes, but they would have scratched up more seeds and plants.
Living in a rain forest can be a bit dangerous for young boys, but really,
that’s why I like it.
Wasps and Bees
My little brother Ryan is a real worry. We have to keep an eye on him.
He one of those people who can die from a bee sting. Mum has a
special needle to give him in case she can’t get him to hospital in time.
He loves being outside, and is always climbing trees and showing how
strong he is. He will be three soon, and he is very, very strong. Nearly
stronger than me.
The other day my cousins came over, and we were going to slide down
the slippery dip when we saw the wasp nest. My aunty thought she
would try to kill the wasps and sprayed them with insect killer.
This was not a very wise thing to do in the middle of the day. (you should spray or hose them away at night.)
Some of them died, but when the rest of the wasp family came back to
the nest they were very angry. One attacked my cousin, Sean by biting
him on the face and one bit Ryan on the foot.
Well, Mum really panicked and rushed up the road to the doctor,
carrying my little brother who is so big and heavy and strong.
After a while she came back, and Ryan had a lolly because he was so
good when having his needle.
Mum looked so awful, I gave her a chocolate biscuit. I had one too.
Last time Ryan was stung he had to go to hospital. Wasps aren’t as
bad for him as bees. The trouble is, we need bees to get our fruit trees
to grow fruit, and for all the other plants in the garden to make new
Ryan loves eating honey and sneaks it from the jar but really,
Ryan and bees just don’t go together.
The Chicken Sleuth.
I was sitting in my room doing my homework, when I
heard a knock at the front door. Mum answered it and I was shocked to
overhear the apologetic discourse, obviously well rehearsed by old Mr
Mathews. He’s quite a big man, tall, wrinkled and about 75 years of
age but still fairly fit and healthy.
He began, “it’s taken quite a bit of detection work to find out to whom I
must apologise”. He sounded slightly pompous as if he was speaking
“I am sorry to have to tell you that my dog stole one of your chickens”.
He said stole, not killed.
Not attacked, or anything that sounded like the truth.
Mum made a small sound like “Oh”, then she asked,
“What colour was it?”
“Black with white speckles.” He answered softly.
Not Mrs Freddybones, I thought.
Mrs Freddybones is the current grandma chicken. She was a black
bantam. Not just any bantam. Mrs Freddybones was a fourth
generation black bantam, a species of small cute hens.
She was one of the hens my little brother Ryan produced when he put
35 eggs under all the broody hens 2 years ago. Mum had been
complaining that there were no eggs to sell. She leaves them at the
front door and people come and swap $2.00 in the honesty box for one
dozen of our organic eggs.
Mr Mathews continued. He whispered in a reverent sort of way,
“I am terribly sorry, especially since it was one of your pets.
I should explain, I have trained my dog to bring back road kills, and of
course he thought he was bringing home dinner when he came home
with your chicken.
I knew it was special, I could tell that by the food you fed it.
Naturally, I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I cut it up, dressed it,
and cut the crop open. The crop was full of seed and organic matter.
No chicken pellets for that one!
I deduced that it had to belong to either you or Mrs Tredeski down the
road. You are the only two around here with chickens roaming free in
Mum made some more little oh and umm sounds.
I felt that she was remembering how Mrs Freddybones used to follow
her around and sometimes let her cuddle her.
By this time I was at the front door, so I put my hand on her shoulder.
She took my hand, and introduced me. “This is my eldest son, Lloyd.”
Mr Mathews nodded and continued in his solemn sort of way.
“It was a beautiful organic bird. It had obviously eaten plenty of organic
material. You can tell by the yellow colour of the fat. I just thought you’d
like to know that it didn’t go to waste”.
Mum wasn’t saying much. I thought she was about to faint.
Especially when he talked about the yellow fat.
Mrs Freddybones was more than a lump of yellow fat.
He then made an offer. “I wonder if I can help you with anything? To
make up for your loss”.
Mum didn’t let on that everyone in the village
had seen his dog, Bolster, trotting down the main road with the limp
chicken dangling from its mouth.
I had been outside yesterday when the dog attacked both the chicken
and the duck. It’s a grey wiry haired hound.
Sort of s-shaped from its head to it’s tail. A lot like a greyhound.
I had tried to rescue the duck, but he still managed to injure it, then he
took off with the chicken.
We all knew it was Mr Mathews’s dog.
How to keep it out in future was going to be a problem.
“Well, I would appreciate it if you could put the 3 cockerels down.
(She couldn’t let herself say kill), they are becoming quite a problem.
They annoy the geese and the chickens.
Mr Mathews agreed instantly. “I certainly will. Does next Monday suit?”
Mum nodded. Old Mr Mathews looked quite pleased with himself. He
rubbed his hands together in anticipation of a freezer full of crispy
Monday came and Mr Mathews turned up with his short handled
Tommy hawk, a small sharp axe.
He took each cockerel from the cage
and chopped off its head. He hung them upside down for about half an
hour and let the blood drip out. He said that this was important because
you shouldn’t eat the congealed blood.
In the meantime he heated a big pot with boiling water, and dunked the
cockerels in so he could pluck the feathers out.
“It’s easier to pluck first and cut later”, he said. He cut open the
cockerels after plucking and took out the entrails, that is the stomach,
the intestines, the liver, anything that was lumpy inside.
He showed Mum how to cut open the crop, (a sort of pouch which
hangs under the chicken’s neck) and how you could see what
was inside. Grain and regurgitated grass and seeds.
He also pointed to a nice layer of healthy yellow fat between the skin and the flesh.
Mum said that she offered him 2 of the dressed cockerels but he
declined. So I was wrong about him. I thought he was looking forward
to another free dinner, but that wasn’t the case.
Maybe he just wanted to share his knowledge and be useful. Even appreciated. I felt a bit ashamed for judging him so harshly.
At Dinner there was a small cockerel pie for each of us. Ryan
complained that it was tough and stringy, and he couldn’t eat it with
braces on his teeth. Mum claimed that it couldn’t be tough because she
had boiled it for 14 hours. I had a couple of spoonfuls and decided to
heat up a can of spaghetti. When Dad arrived home, he looked at the
table like a forensic scientist.
He said out loud.
“Three dissected chicken pies, one half eaten, one cut open and
examined, and another with a few spoonfuls missing.
I don’t have to ask. I think I’ll give it a miss.”
He made a very large cheese omelet, and was good enough to offer us
all a large piece.
The Pretty Pecky chicken.
The pretty little Bantam chicken was a yellowy Honey colour and so I
called her Honey Hen. She was small for a chicken but she had plenty
of pluck. She wasn’t scared of people, and she wasn’t scared of the
cat. She liked company and she would come over just to see what we
Well, we were doing something interesting.
We were cleaning up some old window frames for the new extension
on the house. The windows were rather fancy and we had to scape the
old putty out, then Mum would cut and nail in the new glass. I had to
help put the new putty in. It is like play dough, soft and squishy but
after a few days it dries hard.
You sort of make long worms of it and press it down flat along the edges of the glass to keep the wind and the rain out.
The windows are quite heavy, so when each one was finished
we propped them up against the fence and covered them with large
sheets of plastic.
While I was busy putting in the putty, Honey Hen came along and kept
hanging about. She was getting under my feet, and at times I had to tell
her to go away. We were in a bit of a rush because the builders were
ready to put the windows in place, and next day I went over to the shed
to do some more. Mum took one glance at the putty and was aghast.
“My Goodness”, she said, “what has happened? The putty has all gone
funny. It has little dents and crevices all along”.
We both inspected the window frames carefully. It was only the window
panes which were lowest to the ground that had dents. They looked
like peck marks!
Honey Hen came over and looked at us while we were doing our
“You naughty chicken”, I scolded. “You’ve been pecking out all the
putty. Honey Hen seemed to know what she had done, and ran off.
I wondered what it would taste like, but I didn’t try it.
It might make me sick.
Mum said she would have to put the windows up just the way they
were. Those windows would always remind us on Honey Hen, and they
didn’t look too bad. Just peck marked all over.
THE GEESE go on ATTACK.
Later that day, while we were still working on the windows, we
witnessed an unusual sight. There was a sudden rumpus in the
chookyard and lots of terrible noises. Squawking and squealing and
hissing, and rooster screams.
I can’t quite describe a rooster scream but it sounded awful.
I looked over and saw the three geese attacking Mr Magnificent
rooster. He is a gorgeous shiny black colour with a lovely green sheen
on his feathers. One goose had him by the head and was hitting him
with his wings while the other two geese grabbed him by each wing
and were pulling.
They pulled and they tugged, and I thought they were about to tear him
to pieces. Mum rushed into the chookyard and grabbed the geese by
their wings and pulled them off, at the same time hitting them with a
broom. It was all very violent, and I must admit pretty scary.
Mum said later, that the geese must’ve attacked Mr Magnificent rooster
because his sons – the teenager roosters – had been taking their food.
Poor Mr Magnificent rooster could hardly walk around for some time
My Nanny was there at the time and all she could say was that she
was so traumatised that she forgot to grab her camera. She missed
some great shots. I thought how glad I am that those geese aren’t as
big as humans because they are so vicious.
I forgot to tell you, that Ryan had been attacked by the geese a few
months ago, and he came inside very upset, with long scratches on his
arms and his legs. He had looked as if his skin had been rubbed in
places with a blunt saw. No one had witnessed the attack so none of
us realised how scary it must have been. He said that he had been
attacked a group of pterodactyls (ancient reptilian birds -related to
dinosaurs) and he had tears in his eyes.
Ryan was very quiet for a long time after that and he wouldn’t go
outside. It’s a pretty scary place in that chookyard.
It’s worse than school.
The Turtle or the Tortoise
My little brother Ryan has been growing a lot lately, and now he thinks
he knows everything! Mum had a man help us to build a concrete
pond, and we planted some water chestnuts and other nice plants for
Ryan had been playing in the garden and disappeared down in the
creek, where he isn’t supposed to be, all by himself.
He could get bitten by a snake or a dangerous spider and we mightn’t
find him in time.
Anyway, next thing he comes up to near the house, and puts something in the pond. Mum hurried over to see what it was, and I followed.
“Its a turtle”, Ryan said in his baby sort of voice. “No, Ryan, it’s a
tortoise,” Mum said , trying to rescue the poor creature. All we could
see was a large dark shell at the bottom of the pond.
“It’s a turtle,” Ryan insisted, lifting it out.
“See, it’s got webbed feet, tortoises don’t have webbed feet.”
He held it upside down so we could see clearly.
“Web feet mean they can swim”, he stated. When he put it back in, it
swam around joyfully, looking up at us as if it was really pleased.
Mum wondered aloud, where had he learnt that, and he replied in a
rough voice , “it was on TV.”
We were all so surprised, and Ryan was so proud of himself, he looked
like Mr Magnificent, the rooster, when he has all his feathers puffed up.
My Little Brother Ryan
My little brother Ryan lives in a world of his own. He still doesn’t talk
much, just sort of mutters. He used to sit out in the garden for hours
watching insects. He even played with the ants in the sandpit and
made little roads and bridges for the ants to run over.
He took his honey sandwiches outside, so he had some food to
encourage them, and placed little honey flavoured crumbs wherever he
wanted them to run.
He would often walk along the creek carrying his little stick, (his friend –
he called it). His stick was a bit longer then a walking stick and had a
pointy end. When I asked him why did he carry it, he just kept
repeating “ for hitting snakes”.
I used to think it was better to keep away from snakes, and that he
shouldn’t be going down the creek at all. The creek is not just a little
stream running along flat land. It is a deep trench, over Dad’s head in
places. At the moment, we are in the middle of a drought so it is a
shallow stream running over slippery rocks.
Overhead there are tall trees and hanging vines and it is quite dark and
overgrown. When it rains the trench fills up and the water rushes along
like a deep torrent, but it turns a corner before it goes further downhill.
The creek water flows from around the cemetery, further uphill, so I
hope Ryan doesn’t drink it.
He thinks it’s a magic place, but I think it’s creepy with it’s spiders and
snakes and leeches. Leeches are about the half the length and width of
your thumb and when they get between your toes they suck out your
blood and swell up to more than double their size.
All you can feel is a thick gooey thing and when you look there is blood
everywhere. Ryan puts salt in his gumboots and doesn’t seem worry.
I prefer to stay inside, out of the sun and the heat and the flies.
Besides, I don’t really like to get dirty.
The other day Nanny asked Ryan what he would like for a Christmas
present. You wouldn’t believe what wanted.
He didn’t ask for a play station or a Nintendo or another computer
game. Or even money to go to the pictures. I know he couldn’t ask for a dog, because “his” cat Leonardo keeps attacking and scratching any visiting dogs. Leonardo creeps up behind them and attacks like a leopard.
The dogs get scared and run away. My cousin’s little terrier dog called Toby was attacked one day, and hasn’t been back since.
Ryan simply said that he would like some more baby ducklings, or
even some baby geese. Really, more ducklings!
Mum was looking for him the other day so I said I would go down there
and see if he was all right, because last week Dad found a spot where
someone had left some knives and a few clothes in a bag.
The clothes were adult size so it seemed someone had been hiding down there.
My parents were worried in case the person was still hanging around. It
might not be safe for Ryan.
I stood on the bank and listened. Small birds flittered through the trees
and dragonflies flew across the water. The air was cool and felt fresh,
and the whole place had a sweet smell of eucalyptus leaves.
Nanny says that the rain forest is a beautiful place, and she loves it as
much as Ryan. She said that this place is a miniature of what was once
here. She called this rain forest “an oasis”.
I thought you only had an oasis in the middle of the desert, but to her
all the houses nearby created a desert.
A big sulphur crested cockatoo swooped past my head and shrieked. He
settled high in the treetops and continued calling.
A kookaburra gave out his laughing call and a few other birds cried out
to remind everyone that this was their territory. I looked past where the bower bird made its bower, and glanced at the little bits of blue that it left there.
Blue pegs, bits of blue plastic, a blue ribbon, and some blue pieces of torn masking tape, plus a few blue bottle tops.They collect and decorate the bower with anything blue.
I couldn’t see Ryan at first, then he called out to me.
“I know you’re there Lloyd, the birds told me. They flew back up into the
trees in case you were an enemy”.
I answered, “You’re a real bushie now Ryan”, while I brushed the flies
away from my face, and thought I felt something bite me.
I kept away from the stinging nettles, they are short plants with spiky stinging
leaves that grow wild on the sunlit edges of the bank. They really do
sting you, and the pain lasts all day and into the next night. There is
another wild plant which grows naturally near them, so you have to rub
a leaf of that plant on the sting. It’s a lot of bother and it hurts.
I walked toward his voice.
At that moment, I noticed one of our chooks, Honey-juice, was scurrying
away with her chickens. They had been in the creek looking for worms
and insects, and I must have disturbed them. The mother hen dashed
up the steep bank and her little ones threw themselves into the air and
struggled to run after her.
The chicks were only about one week old, little yellow balls of fluff,
throwing themselves at the bank like living tennis balls,and bouncing
back to earth.
Several little chicks couldn’t quite make it and were beginning to get
frantic. They needed to go back the way they came but their mother
was calling and they were trying to get to her directly. I had to clap my
hands and shoo them toward the lower part of the bank, then they were
able to get up and run to their mother.
By the time I got to Ryan I found him lying on his chest and digging
away at the spot where the creek bends. He was scratching in the dirt
under the tree roots and he had one of Mum’s cooking sieves in his
“Mum won’t like that Ryan, she won’t be able to use it for cooking
anymore.” Ryan just shrugged.
I asked,“What are you doing anyway?”
“Looking for gold or sapphires or even garnets.”
“Gems?” I said incredulously. He nodded.
“Nanny showed me what sapphires look like before they are cut.
They look like bits of glass, round with flat sides on them like crystals.
Like a mushy pea cut into a sort of diamond shape.
Depends how much they have been tossed about in the swirling water.
Sometimes they get their edges rubbed off, and look like battered glass
She said to dig on the curve where the water swirls and the heavy
things like gold and stones get stuck under tree roots”.
“Well how does she know all that?” I asked.
“From books “, Ryan replied, convinced it must be true. “Anyway she
gave me some red cut garnets to look at. But I’d really like to find some
“The only gold you’ll find will be gold washed out of one of the dead
peoples’ teeth, from up on the hill.” I said, hoping to discourage him,
but then he had that sort of funny look on his face and his eyes lit up
and he started digging even harder.
“You remind me of badger or a wombat. Digging your way into the
bank. Or a bear digging a lair in the snow.”
“It’s a cave on the edge of the sea.” Ryan stated.
“Ryan,” I said in Dad’s tone of voice, “it’s hardly on the edge of the sea.
It would take a tidal wave to bring the sea up here. Even then, I don’t
think the water would come this far. We are on the side of a mountain,
“But there would be a sea of people. They would be camped here in
our garden in tents, and we’d have to make room for them, and feed
them, and I am sure they would like this cave. Then it would really be a
cave on the edge of a sea of people”.
I wondered what does he think about down here!
“I’m going back, Mum wants you to come up soon, after you’ve finished
“Go back to your own cave then”, Ryan sounded almost sorry to see
me go. “I don’t have a cave, Ryan.”
“Yes, you do. Your room is like a cave. The light is all blacked out and
no air gets in there.”
“Oh, it’s just that I like it dark. I’d paint the walls black if they would let
Hurry up and find your gold, then come up for dinner.”
When I was near the house I noticed how overgrown our dirt cave on
the edge of the sandpit had become. A new chookhouse has been built
near there, with a rope ladder for the chooks to climb up.
We hadn’t played there for a long time, because we had grown a lot
and we’re older now.
The grass has grown long and little bushes had established themselves in the rich red-brown earth.
We had called it the Red Dirt cave and our friends had helped us clear a large section inside the lantana clump.
We all had little axes and tomahawks and we cut down all the overgrowth inside a 3 metre circle.
We took our bottles of soda and chips and lollies down there and had
quite a party. It was sort of boy play and our friends enjoyed it.
I went inside, looked at the red dirt floor and realised it wouldn’t take
much to clean it up. Ryan and I could do it in one afternoon.
Maybe he would like that.
While standing there, I thought about his idea of a cave, a den.
A safe place, somewhere where we like to be.
So I like my den and he likes his cave, and that’s OK.
It’s OK that we are different and It’s OK to be me.
The end (just for now)
Footnote from the Author.
These chicken stories were started in 1997 and have been added to, up to 2013. They are based on true incidences, with small changes and a few imagined additions at the end, like Ryan digging for gold and his cave on the edge of the sea. This is where the stories transform from young childhood and tap into the world of fantasy with endless possibilities.
Notes to the reader.
I have written these stories as a teaching tool and as a memento for all my grandchildren.
I want the stories to be a reminder of the idyllic time of their childhood, and to show them that you can achieve what you want to do if you persist and improve your skills.
I have enjoyed the challenge of writing these stories, in the voice of the eldest child, Lloyd, and structuring them in an interesting and visual way. I want them to touch you emotionally and cause you to think about the stories long after you have finished reading them.
I have more to add, because I would like to express the joy and pleasure my children and grandchildren gave me as they were growing up.
I also acknowledge the gifts of knowledge and experience my father gave me in our own garden, despite the hardships of my earlier life.
© Copyright 2008 to Megan Sampson All rights reserved.
13 Alkera cres West Wollongong. NSW 2500 Australia ph 61242285774 email to
firstname.lastname@example.org .and www.permaculturevisions.com