By PETTUS READ
It is amazing these days the number of people who do not have common sense or what my grandfather called “walking around sense.”
It seems we are raising the academic scores everyday for college entrance exams, but we are starting to run into problems when it comes to the amount of common sense that is being absorbed by the citizenry of this country. Just watch how Congress has been acting lately and you will see my point.
Common sense has to be taught at home, school or by experience. The latter is a dear teacher, but probably one of the best on the subject. Coming from a farm, I found experience taught me common sense every time I stepped out the backdoor. It just seems that there are more opportunities to teach common sense in a farm setting. Not to degrade the importance of advanced education, but without “good ole horse sense” a person is doomed to a life of pushing on doors that should be pulled to open.
One place that increased this valuable commodity for me was in the chicken house. You learn really fast as a child to never expect the expected when entering a dark chicken house.
Ours was a large structure covered with green rolled roofing, located just off from the garden. Many people today are getting into the backyard chicken and egg business, but their houses are much more “city-fied” than the poultry abode we had on our farm. The chicken nests were made out of wooden apple boxes nailed to the wall fairly high off the ground for a youngster. It was my job when I got home from school to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. Feeding the chickens was not that big of a deal, but reaching high over my head to get the eggs out of the nests was a different matter altogether. The nests were just high enough for me not to be able to see in them, and I had to reach high and feel around to locate next morning’s breakfast.
I had heard all of the stories told by local old timers of finding snakes and other varmints in the nests and was always careful to feel my way along slowly as I reached above my head in the darkness. However, one spring day, I guess the call of going hunting in the woods with my favorite dog after gathering the eggs caused me to forget my concern of what just might be lurking in the darkness.
I went from apple crate nest to apple crate nest in an unusual hurry to finish my afternoon’s chores. I had almost finished and could already hear “ole Kate” barking in the hickory thicket behind the chicken house. She had treed a large fox squirrel and I hurried to get the last eggs from the last nest on the wall.
I reached high and fast to get the hen’s daily donation. However, what I felt was not the usual oblong shape of a brown egg from a Rhode Island Red hen. Instead it was warm and furry and seemed to cover the entire area inside the nest. With a scream of horror and thoughts of being attached by a wild animal, I withdrew my hand hoping only to have all of my fingers attached where they were supposed to be. Before I knew it, I was in the barn lot making tracks to the house, with brown hen eggs splattering the trail that I was making through the jimson weeds.
Once safely on the back porch, I sounded the alarm that the hen house had been overtaken by wild animals. Mother summoned my father to get the gun to protect the unsuspecting hens.
With the entire family in attendance, we approached the dark structure near the garden with utmost caution. My father slowly strained his eyes to adjust to the light of the darkened house and looked over in the nest. With a laugh that only a father can utter when he has something of embarrassment on his child, he reached in to withdraw six gray kittens that our old cat had deposited in the nest earlier in the day.
From that day on I was much more careful when checking the nests and you can be sure that I didn’t sound the emergency alarm without checking my facts.
That same bit of common sense I still use today. It is better to be careful and check your facts, than to jump to an early conclusion. If you don’t, your nest eggs may turn into furry kittens.
- Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org