“So, I suppose you know what will be here very soon,” said Gracie. She was trying to hide her excitement.
Bessie stretched out her neck to examine my face for any telltale clues. “You haven’t forgotten, have you?”
“It’s your Hatchday in only a few more days, right?” I asked, trying to appear as aloof as I could, but not quite managing it successfully. The day is almost as special to me as it is to them.
“Yes! Don’t act like you have forgotten either! Will there be anything special for us to give like last year?”
Last year for their Hatchday, we made our first book, Seasons Of Friendship, available as a free download before it was officially released for sale.
But this year, our newest book is much longer with thirty-five chapters instead of twelve, and there are at least three times as many illustrations. It’s not ready yet.
“I was thinking since we can’t give everyone a free read this year, we might want to give everyone a free board game instead. It would still be a gift to celebrate your Hatchday.”
“Will it have earthworms?”
“You know, it really has to have earthworms.”
“Otherwise who would ever enjoy playing it?”
They nodded together in agreement.
“I’m sure if we put our heads together, we can come up with a brilliant board game.”
“One that includes worms?”
“Yes, one that includes worms.”
And so we sat together and thought and thought and then thought some more. Finally, Gracie asked the question they had been hesitant to ask. “So what is a board game?”
“That’s a very good question. I suppose you do need to know what you’re trying to think up before you can think up a new one.”
“We don’t know much about being bored. There is always something to do right here in our own backyard.”
“I see. This is a different kind of board. But you can play a board game whether you are bored or not.”
Bessie tilted her head to one side trying to understand. “Are you deliberately trying to confuse us?”
“Not at all. A board game is made on a board, like the boards of your coop. But really anything like stiff paper can be used.”
“And what do people do on this board?”
“They move small things around.”
“Like small chickens?”
“Yes, they can move little pictures of chickens around on the board.”
“Back and forth and down and up like chickens really move?”
“Yes, I suppose so. Until one of them gets to the end and is the winner.”
They looked at each other and then at me and said together, “We have the perfect bored-or-not-bored board game for you!”
“Land on a worm, move backwards and down!” said Gracie, a fierce hunter who will dig down as deep as she can to snag a tasty earthworm.
“Land on a hay bale, move forwards and up!” said Bessie, a strong flyer who reaches high places effortlessly.
And that was the beginning of “Worms And Hay Bales.”
The rules they made up are quite simple.
“Land on a worm, move backwards and down. Land on a straw bale, move forwards and up!”
It doesn’t get much easier.
It had to be a game chickens can play because any of our readers who have chickens would certainly want to play with their chickens. Over the following days, we worked out everything for the game, and as disappointed as they were, I finally convinced them the game would work best without real worms.
“They would always be moving off of the board,” I explained, “And if anyone wanted to play at home with their own chickens, most of the game would be eaten before it even got started.”
The sadness on their faces was almost heartbreaking, but they could see the likelihood of this happening, since that is exactly what happened when the two of them played a test version. We settled on having real worms as prizes for the chicken winners and candy worms for the people winners. Everybody likes getting a prize.
During all of our planning, I realized we have never really discussed their tradition of giving gifts rather than receiving gifts on their hatchdays. Somehow to them it just seems natural, and if I were to say, “That’s not the people way of doing things,” I’m sure they would simply reply, “It is the chicken way of doing things.”
I must admit I do like the chicken way of doing things.
My Life With Gracie (and Bessie) reminded me every life (even yours and mine) is a gift to the world, and gifts are meant for giving.
Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!
Watch for “Worms And Straw Bales” next Saturday which is Hatchday for Gracie and Bessie when they will be three years old! There will be game rules and PDF files to download and print so you can play with your own chickens…or children! (Genuine edible earthworms not included.)