My Inventive Miss Bessie

Every Good Thing

Bessie can be such a strong advocate for fairness and social causes. I began to get a glimpse of this when we were discussing eggs some time ago. She inspires me with her ability to ask difficult questions in search of fairness, even with things most of us might consider inconsequential.

“What’s that flat wooden thing?” Bessie wanted to know. “Can you eat it?” It smelled of food.

“It’s a popsicle stick. It holds ice cream or other cold treats so people can eat them.”

“Do chickens get popsicles and ice cream?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because no one has invented them for chickens yet.”

“Is that all? That seems like a very flimsy reason.”

“Well, people lick popsicles. Chickens don’t really lick anything. They peck.”

“That makes no sense. You don’t pop them. You lick them. Why do you call them POPsicles when you don’t pop them? Why don’t you call them LICKsicles?”

There really wasn’t much I could say. It certainly sounded logical to me.

“I will invent a PECKsicle. It will be just for chickens since people don’t peck.”

And that was the beginning of PECKsicles.

What would she use? How would it look? Would I dare to give it a taste? I had to admire her inventive spirit and the power of the three simple words “I will invent!”

My life with Gracie (and especially Bessie) showed me inventing is a very wonderful kind of giving, especially for those who feel left out.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

A Travel Bag For Amelia

A Travel Bag For Amelia

This is part of a series I’ve shared from time to time about Amelia and how she wants to be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back. Here is the most recent posting if you are a new reader or just want a refresher before reading today’s story.

“Amelia, I’ve made a bag of sunflower kernels for you, just in case you decide it’s time to travel far away when I’m not here.”

Amelia studied it carefully.

“There’s a sturdy loop of red yarn you can put your head through. It will be easier for you to carry around your neck, and you won’t lose it by accident.”

She looked at me the way she so often does, trying to figure out what it all meant.

So I explained, “This doesn’t mean I want you to go. It just means if you do go, I want you to be able to make your journey safely.”

She nodded to show she understood.

“And Amelia, there is just one more thing I put in there. It’s a little book for you with some drawings I made when I was just in the first grade.”

“What is first grade?” she asked.

“First grade is sort of like when you are just starting to learn what you need to learn in life. It’s like the first time you ever went outside to play on your own and to discover the world.”

I paused.

“Or sort of like what you might be doing now.”

“It sounds important. Don’t you want to keep it for yourself?”

“No. I’d rather you have it. I folded it up small so it won’t get in your way when you are flying. And I think it might help you if you want to come back home, but can’t.”

“Thank you.”

“I just want you to promise me you will read it only if you find that you are lost and want to get back home but can’t. It won’t mean much of anything to you otherwise.

“I know you’re worried about that. I don’t want your worrying to keep you from doing something you need to do.

“It’s not like any of the other stories I tell you and the others because it is to help you find your way home, but only if you want to come home and can’t.”

Amelia looked at the bag with its sturdy red yard and then back at me.

“Yes. I promise. I’m not sure I will be able to read any of the words.”

“It’s okay if you don’t know the words. I wrote it when I didn’t know very many words at all myself. So the pictures will tell the story for you…if you find you need them.”

“Does your story have a name?”

“Not really. But if you think it needs one after you read it, if you need to read it, you can give it one. Then you can tell me what it is.”

“Sometimes, like right now, I don’t understand you.”

“It’s fine when you do. It is fine when you don’t. I love you whether you understand me or not.”

“It’s like you know I will come back to tell you the names of the story…if I leave, I mean.”

“Maybe you aren’t the only one who wants to know if you can travel far away and not be afraid. Maybe I do too.”

Amelia looked surprised, but didn’t say anything.

“Maybe you aren’t the only one who wants to make sure you can get back home if your heart desires but can’t without help.“

“You must love me very much.”

“I do, Amelia. Indeed I do.”

“Would you teach me to read and write words. I might like to write a book about my travels one day. And it would help me read your book better if I ever needed it.”

“Yes, I will. We can get started right away. I have a feeling there is a great deal already in you that is worth writing down.”

I hung her homemade travel bag with its loop of red yarn where she could get to it. All she would need to do would be to fly up and out of the top of the doorway. The loose loop would fit over her head as she flew out and away. It would carry the only gifts I could give her for her journey. There were sunflower kernels for her body and a book for her heart.

And so Amelia began to learn to read and write. I didn’t need to teach her how to draw. She had watched me enough and had a natural talent for making marks, as all chickens do.

She learned a dozen words, the words I thought might be most important for her to know. Then there was no more time.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Amelia) taught me sometimes there is more to a gift than what is seen.

It looks like this may be my next writing project tentatively titled “Conversations With Amelia.” In my mind, it is shaping up to be more like a novel than a collection of stories like “Seasons Of Friendship.” This would mean, I think, fewer illustrations and no “chicken wisdom” at the end of each chapter.

If you’re thinking the small folded-up book in Amelia’s travel bag will be important, you just may be right! And if you are guessing the small folded-up book is based on something I actually made in first grade and still have, you just may be right again!

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Life With Gracie…An Uncomfortable Truth

An Uncomfortable Truth

It had to come out sometime, but I still always kept the hope of never having to discuss it. Bessie was the first to find out. She was flabbergasted. People eat chicken eggs.

The topic came up after I helped Bessie put on the master chef’s hat and apron I had made for her. We were discussing how she wanted to help people learn to cook things like roasted pumpkin seeds for their chickens.

Then we started talking about corn which chickens also like, and I shared how people enjoy corn and cornbread. Bessie had never had cornbread, only corn. So she asked what was in cornbread.

Cornmeal. Wheat flour. A little sugar because we are in the south. Baking powder. Butter and buttermilk from cows. (We did have to take a side trip to discuss cows because by not being on a farm, none of them had ever seen a cow.) And, of course, eggs.

The word was out of my mouth before I had a chance to think. Eggs.

After a very long explanation, Bessie found peace with the uncomfortable truth of people (including me, their own Chicken Daddy) eating eggs. I will never forget her still-baffled voice when she said, “And all along, we thought you were just tidying up the nesting boxes!”

It did help to let her know without Lefty or The Emperor around, their eggs would never have real chicks inside to hatch. It also helped letting her know the people who received their eggs were truly grateful for all of their hard work and dedication. Everyone, absolutely everyone, said their eggs were superior in every way.

“This changes everything,” she said as she turned and walked away. “I’d better let the others know.”

After the longest time, she came back and began to set down certain rules while standing on my foot to make sure I had her full attention.

“If people are going to eat our eggs, then they’d better serve them on the best possible plates they’ve got in the house. No exceptions.”

So I brought out one of my Blue Willow plates for approval by all six chickens. I explained it was one my grandparents had owned and how I had eaten off it since I was a little boy. They were my favorite and most treasured plates.

Blue Willow Plate

Their unanimous decision was these plates would be suitable, particularly since they had two young chickens flying in the air. (Yes, I know these are actually not supposed to be chickens, and I know chickens can’t fly that way. But sometimes it’s not always wise to share too many uncomfortable truths in a single day.)

“If people are going to eat our eggs, then they’d better know how to cook them properly. No sloppy cooking.”

I reassured Bessie we would test every single one of her recipes until it was perfect in every possible way. I did let her know it might be wise to not completely guarantee success because not everyone would be able to use eggs produced by her and the others. We had mutual agreement about how less than superior eggs could produce less than superior results.

Then Bessie began to tell more about what she wanted to do as a master chef and the kinds of recipes she would like to share. She had originally wanted only recipes like roasted pumpkin seeds for people to make for their chickens, but now she also wanted recipes for people to make for themselves.

Her ideas were expansive and so very beautiful, designed to honor their eggs and all they did to produce them. She even wanted to create recipes that could be made for both chickens and people. I was amazed at her graciousness so soon after discovering what happens with eggs.

“One more rule. If people are going to eat our eggs, then there have to be pictures with the recipes, and I’m going to draw them so anybody, even a child, can follow my recipes.”

My eagerness to discover what would come next grew, but Bessie would say no more. She had clearly taken control over anything food-related and now drawing-related too!

All I could think to say was, “Yes, Chef.” And we both smiled.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Bessie) expanded my heart to new and unexpected possibilities.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! This is the first post from a series. You may want to skip to the next post about Bessie’s dream of being a master chef.

An Uncomfortable Truth