By Sally Gracie
From the minute she was crowded into the shoebox with her eight sisters, Laverne knew she didn’t fit in. For the several weeks that followed her arrival at the Weagants’ place, she quietly endured her confinement to the coop.
When she finally entered the yard, spending long days with her adolescent sisters, Laverne realized for certain that she was an outsider.
Oh, she tried to get along with Glenda and Maureen, with Turd and Hocus, but as Laverne listened to their gossip she knew their dreams of laying eggs and hatching new chicks were not hers.
As they grew, the hens spent their days scratching for juicy morsels in the grass, clucking over each others’ stories and purring as they satisfied themselves with the feed that Julian and Magnolia placed in their coop. When they gathered around the hanging water trough, only Beaker, a Lilliputian chicken with a naked neck, was nice to Laverne. Beaker was tiny. Her featherless neck left her susceptible to sunburn. She was different. Like Laverne. The two outsiders got along.
As Laverne rested in her nesting box one night, she pondered her situation. She knew she was growing a wattle-like thing under her neck that her sisters didn’t have. She sighed. Her comb looked different than her sisters’, too, higher on the top of her head. And her feathers were shinier and darker.
That very night Laverne dreamed an intense dream. She was a rooster! She was awakened by the sound of a rooster’s crowing – a rooster with a high-pitched, breaking voice – crowing his heart out. She awoke to her own crowing, “I’m not a hen after all! I am a rooster,” Laverne crowed. In less than a day, Laverne came out to the others. “I am no longer Laverne,” he proudly told his sisters, ruffling their feathers as he came near. “I am Vern.”
Rose Weagant, a novice chicken farmer, who had brought the baby chicks home just a few months earlier, had this to say about Vern’s new sexual identity: “I’m all for free options. If Laverne wants to be Vern, who am I to get in the way?”
Rose plans to keep Vern. She’s not so kind about the “sexing” that’s done by Big R in Omak, calling herself a victim of “pullet roulette.”
“One of those chicks in the shoe box might be a rooster, but you’re not sure which one,” Rose said. Until he crows!
My cat Barley (aka Mrs. Wattles) has given me three gifts this summer, three lovely snakes dropped ceremoniously at my back door. I called my neighbor to ask 9-year-old Gage to help me remove the first gift, a 20-inch rubber boa. He and his friend Dylan came over right away.
Why did I assume that all little boys would love to handle a snake? Dylan’s first impulse was to poke it to see if it would move. It did. “All you have to do is grab it close to the head, then carry it down to the edge of the yard,” I said as I pointed in that direction. Gage sort of looked down and away. Dylan’s snake poking seemed to be as far as he would go. So I picked the snake up myself, but I grabbed it too low on its body, and it started to twist and writhe in my hand. “Grab it close to its head while I have it,” I begged the boys.
Dylan (who is a couple of years older than Gage) stood up to the challenge and carried the snake to the back of the yard as I told them all the good things snakes like this one do in our gardens. Having gained confidence through the first experience, I picked up the second on my own. Sadly, the third snake was beyond rescuing. I had to clean up its gooey innards from the cement at the foot of the porch steps. Bad cat.