Playing Chicken


My grandparents’ house in Ladner, BC, sometime before we moved to 100 Mile House, the tiny BC-interior town in which i grew up. I must have been four years old. There was some kind of dinner party going on, which meant that i got shuffled off into my grandparents’ bedroom early. This was cool, though, because my mom and grandma wheeled in the TV (yes, TVs had wheels once upon a time; yes, i’m that old) and set it up so i could watch myself to sleep. I remember seeing a bit of something that i think was Land of the Giants — a plane crashed, people in it, a giant picking the plane up and rolling it from side to side. (A quick check of Wikipedia says that the year fits, 1968.) Then a movie came on. Some historical or fantasy thing, a medieval city, a market square, people in tunics and bad Prince Valiant haircuts. Maybe it was Prince Valiant (1954 says Wikipedia) for all i know.

Here’s what i remember. There was a scene in the aforementioned market square where one group of guys smashed into another group of guys and a fight broke out. Swords and clubs were unleashed, horses were panicking, farmers’ stalls were smashed, including a large rack of cages holding chickens. I remember one chicken who, as if completely unconcerned with all the chaos transpiring around him, stood completely calm on the top of his cage as the Hollywood imbroglio spiraled around him. He wasn’t tied down or anything, as i remember him walking at his own sedate pace, pecking, clucking, doing chicken stuff. He just didn’t seem to worry too much about the fight, seeing as how it didn’t concern him. At four years old, i thought that was pretty cool.

My grandmother came in right about then to see if i was asleep, and i remember pointing to the melee just now wrapping up on the screen and excitedly telling her at great, great length about the chicken that had stood there and must have been scared but hadn’t even run away. I remember her smiling in a way that, looking back on it now, meant that she had no idea what i was on about. However, i remember seeing her smile then and thinking that this demonstration of bravery was a special thing that only she and i and the chicken would ever understand.