This… is Matilda.
Matilda is a chicken.
A Rhode Island Red to be exact.
I didn’t go out and purchase Matilda.
I wasn’t given Matilda.
Matilda, like most of the animals in our home, including Jax, my pet squirrel, just appear to me, usually in dire need, and being who I am… I can’t seem to walk away.
Case in point: Matilda
It was Thursday night, 8pm, after hours at El Dorado park and my favorite time to walk there.
This night I was walking with my two adult friends, Frank and Abe and my 10-year-old friend Finn.
Finn, like me, seems to be some type of “animal whisperer” and so I was a bit concerned when we jumped the rail of the flood control and ran down the embankment to enter the park after hours that we might run into an injured skunk, coyote, goose, hawk, or owl… but I had no worries that we might run into a chicken. For God’s sake…. a chicken?
We were barely past the LBPD shooting range when we saw a small reddish animal bopping about in the grassline…
“Is that a chicken?” Frank asked.
We all stopped to watch as she made her way closer to us.
“It is a chicken,” Abe said.
We didn’t know what to do… I voted to finish our walk and when we looped back, see if she was still around. With Frank, Abe, and Finn all hailing from Arizona…. I knew that this chicken wasn’t going anywhere unless it was going to Ms. Wood’s house and I was trying my hardest to make sure that didn’t happen. I mean the menagerie was really getting ridiculous: Jax (my squirrel) her babies, three chihuahuas, four cats, seven dogs and a partridge in a pear tree; I wasn’t looking to add a chicken to the mix.
I swear I didn’t want to leave her because I’m heartless… I just thought… Maybe if we give it some time… she’ll magically go back to where she came from and I will be saved from care-taking yet another pet… but the boys weren’t having it.
The Arizonians were looking at me with pitiful sad little faces.
The chicken was looking at me with her pitiful sad little face.
“Come on…” I said to the boys as I strided ahead with purpose trying to get away from the bird, only to turn and find the chicken running after us all as she made the saddest little cooing sounds that seemed to say, “If you leave me I will be eaten by a coyote and you will never be happy when you walk in your park at night again, because you will always remember that you left me to die.”
I couldn’t do it.
It was horrible.
They were pulling at every one of my heart strings and they obviously knew just how to work me.
So… I just gave in and turning on my heal, marched towards the exit, while shouting in my best authoritative tone, “Come on, Matilda. Let’s go home!” and watched as she hustled to catch up and walk beside me… as if I were her best friend and we had never been parted.
After a few feet of walking, we realized that it would take forever to get Matilda out of the park at this pace, so Frank picked her up and carried her with both hands, arms extended straight out in front, as if Matilda were a hood ornament on his human car.
It wasn’t five minutes later that the Park Ranger pulled up next to us, rolled down his window and said, “My God! Is that a chicken?”
Apparently he had never seen a chicken in the park either and now, Matilda startled by his big shiny car and flashing police lights was out of Frank’s hands, on top of the hood of his car and pecking at her own reflection in his windshield, like this was all good fun.
Obviously, the park was a wonderful place for Matilda as long as she had humans to protect her.
I asked him if he wouldn’t mind driving Frank to my van and was pleasantly surprised when he agreed.
I smiled as I watched Frank drive off with a Park Ranger and a chicken and I spent the rest of my walk back to the Wardlow Street bridge whistling to myself and making up my own stupid little jokes about it:
So… a chicken and a Ranger walk into a bar……
Or…. Is that a chicken under your arm or are you just…
How did the chicken cross the road? By getting a ride in the Park Ranger’s car.
Before hoping back over the rail and walking to the van.
Frank was in the back when I got there, Matilda running around on the floor, pleased that she was in some type of cage that seemed more comfortable then the cold park at night.
We took her home… gave her some water… and watched as she climbed to the top shelf of the squirrel cage and bedded down for the night. Already content in her new environment.
“Good night Matilda,” I said as I turned off the porch light for the evening…. trying not to be attached to a chicken… but knowing… I was already totally in love.