BeakSpeak Book

The Cows Come Home and Other Cliches

The heifers finally arrived and grew so quickly eating all that good grass that I needed to get my first bull to he Double Bar M pronto.

All of the cattle were beautiful Red Brangus from the JB L Ranch in Matagorda County. My nephew, Dillon, loved to drive the golf cart through them and down to the hay field every time he would visit.

After two cuttings of hay the first year, we stacked over a thousand square bales in that barn. There was hardly room to move around and climb on top of them to get them out. I sold most of the bales and threw the rest to the cattle for a couple of years, but that got really old. Whew. It was too much work for me, even in those younger years. So, the next hay season I started baling six-foot round bales and letting Poppin’ Jenny do the work. My nephew, Justin, would help when he and his parents would visit.

While the stock was getting to know the place, I would go about my chores, which involved changing out the chicken water, cleaning their laying stalls and raking the coop litter. Under some of the litter I found an old, dirty letter. The writing looked like chicken scratch, and I don’t mean the grain I threw them every day. With much difficulty, I barely made out what it said. Let’s see if you can guess which pullet from BeakSpeak wrote it:

Dear Sir,

There is this pullet that seems to have an axe to grind with me. She treats me like I’m on the bottom of her pecking order. She hates me; its as plain as the beak on my face. It’s taken me a wing and a leg to get her to even look at me. I appealed to a friendly Buff Orpington hen, an oldie but goldie, without any luck. She just told me to try to look on the bright side of things. So, I decided to complain to Mr. Chanticleer, himself. It gave me ants in my pants to work up the courage to do it, but I did. He just shrugged me off and said, “if you’re not a wolf with one paw on the chicken coop,” he had more important things to attend to. I said to myself: are you a rooster or a mouse? After all, maybe he is scared of All-the-Same Jayne, too. She is so big and mean. As luck would have it, she’s always the one who would get the first worm every morning, too. I can’t even count on the owner of this flock. She’s always asleep at the wheel.

Try giving your students or children this letter and, with them, translate the cliches into what the pullet means to say. I’m not going to tell you who wrote the letter. You’ll have to read BeakSpeak to find that out, but I will give you my translation at the end of this blog.

Anyway, it happened one day that I looked out my sun room window, into my large back yard, and saw a beautiful blue-neck peacock at my bird-seed tray. The blue ones come from Sri Lanka (India), the green ones from Myanmar (what used to be Burma). Where did he come from, I wondered? I hadn’t heard or seen him before, and no farm or ranch around me had peafowl. The call of the peacock is very distinct. it sounds like a very loud “HELP”. It’s so alarming you’d swear someone is in deep distress. Well, from wherever he came, Peter took up residence at the Double Bar M for a very long while.

One day a friend threw a slice of bread to him but missed the front of his beak. He looked funny dragging that bread around on his tail feathers all day. The guineas I had acquired by then chased him for it. When they learned Peter didn’t liked to be chased, every now and then they’d have a go at him, round and round the workman’s quarters, mercilessly. It was always a hoot. The guineas seemed to be laughing at him, too, because they would make that hideous, ear-spitting, shanky-shank racket that made your toes curl.

Every now and then, Peter would reward us by fanning his tail feathers. Nothing on the place was ever prettier than that. Toward the end of the summer, he would shed those feathers. I’d always pick them up and put them in vases; I’d also give many to friends

Before you know it, I had another surprise. A beautiful green-neck peahen just appeared out of thin air. It was Easter, so I named her Lily. All in due time, two eggs appeared. Green peafowl lay two-to-four eggs, blue peafowl, four-to-eight. She laid those two eggs on the ground right in the open, and I knew neither Lily nor those eggs would be long for this world on my place if I left them unprotected like that. Peafowl are very large birds; they’d tear you to pieces if you tried to handle them, but a pack of coyotes would win in the end. I found a large cage without a bottom, put it over her and secured it so it couldn’t be raised. It had a small door that provided access for food and water. In a month, I had two pea chicks, but one was born with only one eye. The poor little thing could only walk in circles, so I raised her in my chicken coop to make sure no harm with come to her.

.I imagine by now you realize all the italicized words in the blog are cliches, far more than in the letter. Let’s translate them as they appeared in the text now:

Cows come home – in a long, long while; That got really old – very tiring; Chicken scratch – poor handwriting or skimpy on food; Axe to grind – get revenge; Bottom of the pecking order – last place or worthless; Plain as the beak (nose) on my (your) face – overtly obvious; Wing (arm) and a leg – very costly or extreme effort; Look on the bright side of things – be positive; Ants in my pants – nervous; Work up the courage – get brave; Shrugged me off – ignored; One paw on the chicken coop – a real threat; Rooster (man) or mouse – brave or cowardly; As luck would have it – generally fortunate, or unfortunate, situation for someone; One who gets the first worm – ambitious; Asleep at the wheel – unaware; It happened one day – generally unexpected; Made your toes curl – cringed; Every now and then – at times; Before you know it – soon; Appeared out of thin air- surprising appearance; All in due time – as expected; (Would not be) long for this world – life threatening.

BeakSpeak’s All-the-Same Jane would want to defend herself, of course. She might say something like “the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Yes, that’s figurative language, too, like cliches, and some may also call it a cliche, but it’s really more an adage (a proverb or general truth). The point she’s trying to make is that the pullet who wrote the letter and the author of this blog are both nut jobs. She may be right! 🙂 However, just because I’m the author of both BeakSpeak and the blog doesn’t mean Jane’s propensity to categorize chickens or people is a proper thing to do. I’ll tackle Jane’s thinking and language problems in another blog. With all this talking to myself, I’m beginning to think BeakSpeak might be a psychological book as well as a language and social skills one. I’ve got to close this. All this talking to myself is making me kind of heady. 🙂

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