A letter to Julia, age 6 (Part One)

Jack wrote this to my daughter in June of 2000, while he was still living on his y2k property in New Mexico.

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Dear Julia,
In every flock of chickens, there’s usually one called the “cluck.” The cluck is the stupidest chicken in the flock–stupider even than the roosters, or other roosters, if it happens to be one itself.
I’ve watched this flock of chickens for a long time now, wondering which chicken was my cluck. For a while it was definitely the big white hen, whose name has slipped from my memory. Later, I thought it might be Crooked Beak– old Crooked Beak certainly is as stupid as a chicken needs to be.
The guineas don’t count– they ain’t bred for smart or stupid– they’re cunning, but really a lot more stupid than chickens–can’t find their way out of an opening they just came in. So who, says I, is my cluck?
I’ve thought a lot about this and finally reached a stunning realization: I have an entire flock of clucks! With the exception of Lady McBeth, every chicken I own is stupider than all the rest–stupider than a chicken has any business being, except Lady McBeth.
Can you imagine the odds against that? Thirty or forty clucks all in one flock? It’s like rolling boxcars 10 times in a row, or drawing to an inside straight (something no gentleman does) and ending up with a straight flush. For a while I wondered if there wasn’t money to be made from this, but I finally realized that nobody pays attention to such things anymore, more’s the pity.
Fact is, most people don’t even know what a cluck is. Some don’t even know what stupid looks like in a chicken. And some have so much in common with clucks that they find a sort of kinship with them– I suppose I’d have to put myself in that category. Shore do like these chickens, even though it’s plain to me they are a flock of clucks.
There are about 15 little chicks out there now. The chicks are a good mix, some of uncertain parentage, but one obvious silky, and the yellow one that had to come from an indiscretion by Rosencrantz. Likely he’s seen the error of his ways now, with this poor dogie chick that looks too much like him for deniability running around and wondering whether water is to drink or to drown in, and what became of its ma an pa. I’ve begun pulling eggs from the remaining brooding hens. Mostly they aren’t good mothers– likely as not to kill a chick if they don’t like the looks of it, or forget it’s theirs and not be a mama to it, letting it starve or get kicked around by other hens.
The yellow chicks have had a lot of that– one has been beaten up pretty badly and I think it won’t last the night. The other is the only one left, though healthy and protected for now. On the other hand, the mamas all seem to dote on the silky offspring. Guess they remind them of how sweet and cute and what good dancers their papas were.
Anyway, if you ever hear anyone refer to me as “the cluckster” you’ll know what they are referring to. When they say it, you might notice a bit of a sneer in their voice, or a curl to their lip, but never you mind. I’ve done as much to earn the title as any man on the planet and I’ll wear it with the same pride and charming savoir-faire as the idiot down the road wears the title “rancher.”  After all, the reason there are no clucks among cow critters is that exceptional stupidity is almost impossible to identify in creatures at that level. Who ever heard of a stupid snail or fish? Same’s pretty much true of ranchers these days I expect.
(to be continued)

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