The old lady lived on a farm that matched her heart.
It was vast, fertile, and overgrown with many years of weeds and neglect.
She lived alone, with no one left to care either for her farm or for her heart, and her sanity
seemed to be fading with the years.
She was lonely, and, the neighbors would tell you, crazy.
It wasn’t so much that she talked ot her old hen as to her best friend, or even as to her
child, but that she honestly believed the hen talked back.
She and her feathered friend, whom she named Jessie, would have daily conversations,
sometimes for hours at a time, and she would entrust the secrets of her weathered
heart to the hen’s patient ear.
Their favorite topic of conversation was their children.
The old lady listened as her hen spoke fondly about her chicks, all of whom had
“flown the coop” for one reason or another.
Some had grown up and winged away, never to be heard from again.
Others had been baited away by neighbor kids; several wandered off into disaster.
She feared that many of her brood had been snatched and swallowed by the fox in the
How she longed to have them back one more time, to gather them all together in the
warm safety of her wings, to protect them from the dangers they could not wait to
The old lady understood.
“Human children are the same way, Jessie,” she told her friend.
“I once had many children, and I dreamed that they would live here together and work
my farm, but all of them have gone away for one reason or another.
One felt like I couldnever love her because she was adopted...she never understood that I
adopted her precisely so that I could love her.
Another didin’t think he had what it takes to work a farm.
Still others were drawn away by the excitement of the city.
One of them was seduced by a human “fox” who later turned on him and killed him.
They have so many reasons to go, and they can see no reason to stay.
I wish I could gather them all together myself, to hold them all in the circle of my arms
and spoil them rotten with sweet love...birthday presents and new clothes and big
Oh, sorry, I forgot who I was talking to.”
Jessie smiled: “I understand.”
“I know you do.
I am so sick with heartache now...I don’t know what I would do without you, my
The years continued to fade, and so did the old lady’s health.
Her ventures outside to the henhouse became shorter, less frequent.
For several weeks she didn’t go to the henhouse at all, and Jessie began to grow worried.
The aging hen summoned her strength and flapped her way to her friend’s window.
She saw a thin, sickly old woman, stumbling from bedroom to bath, bent over beneath the
weight of too many lonely years.
Something had to be done, so Jessie did the only thing she knew to do: she flew.
She flapped and fluttered with all her might across the landscape to the only
building she could see, a small, manicured farmhouse on the left edge of the
It took her a long time to reach the farmhouse, and she was out of breath when she got
there, but she managed to fly up to its front window and tap on it with her beak.
A man approached the window, and motioned for his wife to come over.
“Well, I’ll be.
It’s Crazy Ella’s old hen!
What in the world do you think shes’ doing here?”
“That mad old woman talks to that hen...poor bird is probably just trying to escape!”
“Well, we can sure use another hen...she looks pretty gamey, though.”
The couple noticed that the hen was waving her wings frantically up and down
before extending one of them in the direction of the old lady’s farm.
“Do you think that old bird knows something?”
“Could be. Let’s run over to Ella’s and see if anything is the matter.”
The couple disappeared, and Jessie slumped beneath the window, catching her breath.
She felt at one with her old friend, understanding how hard it is to be old and
alone, and hoping that her trip would somehow be able to help.
Before she could wonder very long, however, danger appeared from around the corner
of the farmhouse.