Dr. STEVE COKER: Chicken in a sack

MUG Steve Coker 2Years ago, before industrialization took over agriculture, especially chicken farming, many families had a flock of chickens on their farms. My PaPa was one of them. I remember that when he needed to introduce new chickens to the roost, we would do it at night.

On several occasions at night, I remember helping him go into one hen house and gather several hens and stuff them in a large sack. We would take them down the road to another hen house and enter while they were asleep also.
PaPa would place the hens in their new home at night. When I asked him why we did it this way he explained that he was avoiding a lot of stress and strain on all the chickens involved. He went on to say that the old chickens would awaken the next morning and see the new chickens. They would think that the new chickens had been there all night because they were there in the morning when they woke up. Therefore, it must be all right. He then explained that the new chickens would wake up in the new hen house and also think that they too must have been there all night, so they would think it was all right to be there.
In short, all the chickens knew that there was a change, yet nothing was different. As a result, there were no major chicken fights over territorial domain, only a minor sorting out of the order of things. Basically, they avoided what we classically calle “the pecking order” which could be nasty and sometimes deadly. Well, it all seemed to work in the hen house just fine!
As I have gotten older, I have often wondered who did the study on the minds and habits of chickens. Specifically, I have wondered who found out that waking up in a different place some mornings made everything okay.
When I asked PaPa about this concern, he laughed and said it was because chickens can’t remember from one day to the next what’s going on. However, sometimes I wonder that about myself.
Recently, after all the end-of-school activities finally ceased for this year, such as boys’ and girls’ State play-offs in sports, graduation events at all four schools including high school, academic and attendance awards for all grade levels, retirement receptions for employees leaving our employment as well as basic end-of-school shutdown procedures, the gas has finally run out of this school year! Whew!
The day after all these events finally ceased, I find the school buildings are empty of children and teachers while cleaning crews scrub walls, clean kitchens and bathrooms and move every student desk into the hallway to wax every square tile in every building. Also, in the buildings, the heating and cooling systems are all cleaned and checked. On the hill at the bus barn, all the buses are lined up like cows waiting to be milked for their turn for new tires, oil changes and airbrake modifications. Down at the Central Office there is an eighteen-wheeler unloading school supplies, textbooks and all sorts of new technology. There is a line of teachers and students needing letters of recommendation for further education acceptance, prospective financial aid and job and certification verification. Yes, there is a push; there are only eight weeks to get these things accomplished.
In case you’re guessing, I do feel like that chicken in a sack. How did we go from all that wonderful excitement two weeks ago to hard-core maintenance and summer time fleeing past us so fast?
It is like a total change in the hen house. Another thing I remember about farm chickens is that when you try to get their eggs, they will peck you, yes they will! What sack you dumped them out of didn’t seem to make any difference, however.

Dr. Steve Coker is Superintendent of the Houston School District. He can be reached at 456-3332.

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