Thursday, May 19, 2005


Chook, by the way, is the Australian word for hen.

I got home the other day and the chooks had escaped.

Nothing sinister in that, you say. A few plump hens,wandering around the back yard in the sun, pecking in the garden for earthworms, a sufficiently bucolic and serene image for the most jaded palate. Et in arcadia chooks.

But how did they come to escape? I looked at the chook run and saw that the brick that usually holds the hen-house door closed had been tipped over. No one, no human being, could have done this. The only possible culprits were the cats, specifically "Fluffy", a Persian-Thylacaleo cross who lives in my brother's room. She often played near the chook's house.

So, the cat, despite my express instructions, had let the chooks free. And the horse, allegedly our noble servant, had stood by throughout this act of rebellion and done nothing.

It is clear the farm animals are rising against us.

This actually happened to this patient in Florey about two years back. He had been "breaking" a horse, and in the end it was him who ended up broken. He had got on the horse, been bucked off, landed on his back, got back on, been bucked off, landed on his side, lay there for a few moments, got back on, got bucked off again, landed on his head and neck, and was clambering on again when physically restrained by his sister and brought to the emergency department. He ended up having two fractures of the vertebrae of his back, two cracked ribs, a broken collarbone and a fracture of the spinous process of the fifth vertebrae in his neck.

More on the horrors of horse-riding later. But the thing with this guy is his brother had been in Florey a few months ago having been attacked by a swarm of dogs, and and last year his father had been cleaning the verandah and was sweeping the underside of the roof (!) to get rid of cobwebs, when he dislodged a huge nest of bees which fell onto his head. On holiday in Queensland that summer his sister had been stung by a box jellyfish and bitten by a bat.

I always imagined his family coming to visit him, stumbling across the car-park on their way to the wards, being swooped by vast predatory birds, their ankles lashed by venomous serpents, while lumbering she-bears break from the forest to maul them. For some reason the entire animal kingdom had declared war on them.

Anyway, enought of giggling at the misfortunes of others.

Enough, I say.

A few months back, when I was at my most stressed prior to the exam, I used to go out and stare at the chooks. They would cluster around the handfuls of grain I threw out, and I would
watch them standing in the early morning sunlight, clucking and ruffling and banging their almost brainless heads against the ground. I would see this and my heart would fill - and I know that sounds wanky, but it does, you actually physically feel some emotions rise in you - with emotions I don't know how to describe.

Tenderness, envy, exhaustion, awe, peace.

I don't know if there is a chook tao, but there ought to be.

This will excite contempt, but I think I derived such comfort from the chooks at that time because that was what I wanted to do with my life, something brainless and eternal and simple in the sun.

You know that almost last scene in "Minority Report", where the three psychics are on that island, sitting by the fire, reading big books with a few sheep outside? Phillip K Dick understood stuff you can't put in words, and then he put it in words.

Anyway, chooks are amongst my favourite creatures.

I should point out that these are pampered creatures. They get abundant food, they get to wander around the garden daily, they are protected from all harm. The other day they turned their beaks up at poppyseed bread. I should have got my German grandmother to talk to them. Half an hour of "think of the starving chickens in Ethiopia" and "When I was your age I would have been grateful for a bit of shell-grit and a puddle in the clay, never mind this fresh food and water foolishness", and they would have eaten themselves to death.



Blogger Chade said...

The film "Last Hero of China" has something similar to the toa of chickens when Jet Li realises the secret to defeat the "centipede-fu" of the bad guy.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Benedict 16th said...

Not Chook Tao but how about Tao Chicken?

7:15 PM  

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