Early Influences – The Chickens


Dave at Age 2

Dave on his second birthday, with a glass of milk and his favorite food.

My parents read to me before I was able to read for myself. One of the books they read–and there were many–was The Big Golden Book of Poetry. The first edition was published in 1947 when I would’ve been two years old, and I suspect they got a copy hot off the presses.

In the collection was an anonymous poem titled The Chickens. It was toward the back of the volume and didn’t have the color illustrations that more important poems got. There’s no obvious reason why it should’ve appealed to me.

But it did. My folks swear that I insisted on hearing The Chickens every night. Furthermore I demanded that they read it to me, even though I had the poem memorized and could recite it by heart. They got very, very tired of The Chickens; but as dutiful parents they read it to me anyway.

In later years I would have forgotten about the poem except for hearing my folks tell the story. Out of curiosity, I looked it up again a few years ago. I was really shocked by what I learned. I didn’t remember The Chickens at all; but the philosophy of it is the one I’ve lived my life by.

The Chickens, an anonymous poem

Said the first little chicken,
With a queer little squirm,
“I wish I could find
A fat little worm!”

Said the next little chicken,
With an odd little shrug,
“I wish I could find
A fat little bug!”

Said the third little chicken,
With a small sigh of grief:
“I wish I could find
A green little leaf!”

Said the fourth little chicken,
With a faint little moan:
“I wish I could find
A wee gravel stone!”

“Now see here!” said the mother,
From the green garden patch,
“If you want any breakfast,
Just come here and scratch!”

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