By John Rolfe
Last October, I wrote here about convalescing with a chicken. Her name was Freda. She had a digestive ailment. I had Covid. I fully recovered. She did not.
A Rhode Island Red hen named after my late mother-in-law, Freda was returned to our flock of six after a month of recuperation in our basement. Ordinarily, chickens are not welcomed back after an absence even if they’re fully healthy. It takes time to reintegrate them. So, for several weeks my wife and I had to remand Freda’s attackers to “chicken jail” (a fenced-off part of their compound) or use a “bully-blaster” squirt gun to make them back off her, which they did … for a while.
Chickens may be cute but they are ruthless about ridding their flock of the sick and injured, lest they spread disease or attract predators. Unfortunately for Freda, her ailment defied the many remedies we tried. It improved, but her gastric condition was still obvious to her coop-mates, who shunned her. She spent the winter by herself while the others foraged and sat together.
One recent morning, I forgot to let the hens out of their little house before I left for work. Cooped up for an extra hour or so until my wife discovered them, the other hens got restless and started pecking Freda, leaving her with a nickel-sized open wound on the back of her head. My wife isolated her in the compound, but Freda’s new digs weren’t totally secure. We knew the other hens could get in by flying over their house, but we didn’t think they would.
It was wishful thinking.
One morning not long after, my wife found Freda with gruesome head injuries. The other hens had finished their ghastly job. We spent several days trying to save her, but she died, leaving us heartsick. During her earlier stretch in our basement, she had bonded with my wife and become our favorite.
This sad saga left me kicking myself and stewing about violence, nature and human behavior. People make chickens look like pikers when it comes to savagery, but if the pandemic proves anything, it’s that we are the odd ducks.
Some fearful folks have been directing their violence at Asians while blaming China for “creating” the virus that has so far killed more than 3.5 million people worldwide. But too many others — and this totally blows my mind — are directing abuse at those who try to prevent the spread of infection by wearing masks.
Unable or unwilling to grasp the concept that masks (a time-tested form of pandemic containment) mainly protect not the wearer but others, and consumed by the hideously mistaken belief that they are bravely defying the virus by going barefaced, nitwits have been verbally and physically assaulting innocent people for more than a year.
People have been killed in disputes about wearing or not wearing a mask. Public health and government officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer receive death threats and need security protection simply because they tried to warn the public about the severity of the virus and make us take steps to thwart its spread.
And as if enough feathers aren’t flying in Chicken Coop America, muttonheads are being egged on by crowing loudmouths like Tucker Carlson of Fox News, who in April condemned mask-wearers as “the aggressors” in a war on freedom.
“It’s our job to brush them back and restore the society we were born in,” Carlson declared. “So the next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or on the bike path, do not hesitate. Ask politely but firmly, ‘Would you please take off your mask? Science shows there is no reason for you to be wearing it. Your mask is making me uncomfortable.’”
Ye gods. A mask is just a piece of cloth you wear for brief periods in various places. And you can take it off. You can’t take Covid off after you get it. But Carlson even went as far as to say making kids wear masks outdoors is child abuse and cause for calling the police or child protective services.
If stupidity were a virus, people like him and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene would be on life support. Taylor Greene has unapologetically equated mask mandates with Hitler’s marking of the Jews for extermination during the Holocaust and claimed “this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about."
Chickens may be vicious, but to their credit they don’t come up with utter, contemptible nonsense like this. Chickens aren’t idiotically political. They have a valid excuse (pure survival instinct) for their ugliest acts. But humans? What’s ours?
John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website Celestialchuckle.com (https://celestialchuckle.com) with the meter running.