Terry from Derry: No Spring Chicken - News and Events - iIrish

Terry from Derry: No Spring Chicken

Terry from Derry: No Spring Chicken!
By Terry Boyle

It’s so tempting to write about Sinn Fein and the recent elections in Northern Ireland. The possibilities and potential roadblocks this victory will unleash are matters of great speculation but, for once, I decided to not get into politics. And, instead, I’d like to tell you something about a strange experience we’ve had recently. 

Those who read this column on a regular basis will know that we moved to the Coachella valley in California almost three years ago. And, as with any move there are things to consider that you may not previously thought about before.  Moving from the winters of Chicago to the desert heat might seem like jumping from the frying pan into the fire to some but so far, no regrets.

There are many things you need to adjust to when living in the desert. For one thing, a lot of the residents who are here are snowbirds who own two places.  They stay for six months somewhere up north and come here during the worst of the winter months.  

Up until recently, most of the population was part-time, however, since Covid this has changed and more people are living in the desert full-time.  Quite a significant portion of the population are retirees who are tired of city life and want to live in a less stressful environment.  As a result, geriatric care (yes, that’s what it’s called for anyone over 60!), is extremely good.

Apart from the demographics, there are other factors to consider.  We live near the San Andreas fault, so there are earthquakes with everyone silently worrying about when the ‘big one’ will hit.

For those of us who hike, there are snakes to avoid, sightings of mountain lions and a whole string of things you didn’t need to consider when you were a townie. A lot of the communities here in the desert towns are gated communities.  When we started looking here first, a gated community was not on our list.  Until we discovered that most properties outside of these communities had desert-scape for landscape, which, if you have dogs makes it difficult especially in the very hot weather.  No dog in its right mind is going to like walking over hot stones to do its business.

 So, we ended up buying a condo in a gated community. This decision in itself brought us into yet another new experience, HOAs (Home Owners Associations). An HOA can be determined what you can or can’t do to the external part of your house.  They write the rules for each community they represent and this certainly has the potential to ruffle some feathers. Generally, though, you have a landscape that is maintained through your monthly HOA fee, and there is greater security.

And, while it wasn’t our first choice, we’ve enjoyed the benefits of such a community. The dogs certainly enjoy having grass to walk on rather than hot stones. One thing to be careful of while living here is coyotes. Since we have two small dogs, we’re always vigilant and keep the dogs on a leash.

It’s easy when you are retired to settle into regular life. We volunteer for four separate groups, which gives us something to do almost every day. Hiking is a love of ours, so we regularly traipse up one of the mountains that enclose the area. 

In three years, we’ve adjusted our minds to the new challenges of desert life, or at least we thought we had, until one morning when we heard a strange sound. Was it a coyote, or another menacing desert creature we had not previously encountered?  No, it was a chicken. 

It might be hard for some of you to picture how surreal this was, but if you can imagine living on the main street in a large city and coming across a chicken trying to cross the road, that’s how weird it was to listen to the clucking sounds of this rather healthy bird.  Of course, there’s always the possibility it’s a mirage, but no, this hen was doing her best to find her way back to where she came from. The question for us was where did she come from?

Over the next few days, we worried she would be food for the next coyote who wandered in. Our neighbours were always keen to talk about Henrietta, as she became known. Together we fed her and gave her water, but no one wanted to own her. 

The presence of Henrietta did something wonderful in our small community, it brought us together in a way we hadn’t been before. There were endless conversations about where she came from, how long she would last, and where did she sleep at night. 

The last question was answered when we saw her fly up into an olive tree. As soon as it started getting dark, Henrietta began her journey upwards. She would fly up to the first branch, weigh up her options, and then up several more branches until she was almost at the top of the tree. 

The question of her origin was quickly settled when we discovered that the landscaping company had its business near a farm. Henrietta, obviously an explorer, hitched a ride from one of the trucks and found herself living a life of luxury in a gated community. 

In the mornings, she’d go out clucking, hoping to find others like herself, only to be disappointed. She wasn’t too disappointed since these wanderings brought her to the doors of eager food providers, who were glad to see her. We all adjusted to our new reality.  There was a chicken living in our HOA. 

Sadly, this residency was short-lived.  Someone informed the landscape company and Henrietta was taken back. We never saw her captured but there were signs of feathers, scattered about the ground.

I’d like to believe that her repatriation was a good one, and she was able to settle back into the coop with others like herself. Though it’s not far from the realm of possibility that she’s been caught and cooked, something none of us want to consider.  Life has since settled back into its regular pattern, with a slim hope that maybe one morning we might wake up to the sound of clucking or if not that, some other absurdity to keep us amused.