Donald Duck and Mr. Chicken

by bj max

The late, great Donald Mills was a master carpenter, expert motorcyclist and in our wild and wooly days, he and I were the best of friends. We had a million laughs together and from the first day we met we gee-hawed. At some time or another, somebody, somewhere, tacked “Duck” onto the end of Donald’s name and it stuck and he was forever more “Donald Duck”, or most of the time just plain “Duck”. Duck was a very popular guy in his day and his status as “a good ‘ol boy” followed him wherever he roamed..

We rode Harley-Davidsons back then, except for Avon Gardner who rode a 450 Honda. In those days, if Avon hadn’t been such good company, we wouldn’t have tolerated that Honda, but he was and we did.

Avon, Paul Elzie, our resident mechanic, Pretty Boy Floyd, our resident philosopher, Gordon Moon, our resident ladies man, Donald Duck, our resident perfectionist and yours truly, our resident historian got together one Saturday morning and decided to ride down to Richardson Landing, an ancient and long forgotten river port on the Mississippi River. If you take Highway 59 west out of Covington, Tennessee you will, in eighteen point two miles, splash into the Big Muddy. Literally. Highway 59 runs right off into the water and doubles as a boat ramp. I’ve been going down there all my life and the nobility and charm of the Mississippi always has the same soothing effect. Kinda like watching goldfish in a bowl.

Just before arriving at the boat ramp, we peeled off on this picturesque gravel road that runs parallel to the river. It’s a very old road that dates back to the horse and buggy days and the roadbed is worn down and banked on each side. The banks are covered with trees, blackberry bushes and all manner of underbrush. Now and then a majestic old Oak, having had the misfortune of being born along the fence row, serves in humiliation as a fence post alongside scraggly old locust to form a bob-war’ (barbed wire) fence alongside the road. The county maintenance boys kept the side ditches gouged out to prevent erosion from washing the fence, the old road and all its bridges to the Gulf of Mexico.

We ripped and snorted up and down the hills and around the curves, power sliding through some of ‘em and in general having a plain old country boy good time. Then, as we rounded this one particular blind curve, we suddenly had to grab and stomp to avoid a common country road hazard. Chickens. Fifteen or twenty I would guess and they had the whole road blocked. Chickens, for some strange reason, love to hang out in the middle of the road and it’s not uncommon in the rural south for people to own a few chickens and let ‘em run free. You can do that with chickens ‘cause chickens won’t leave home like pigs and cows. You leave the gate open and pigs and cows will pack their bags and move to the next county but chickens ain’t that smart. They’ll hang around the house till doomsday and doomsday for chickens could be as close as next Sunday’s dinner.

We blipped the throttles a time or two to clear the road and those crazy chickens went berserk. They scattered, running and flapping for their lives, horrified at the sight and sound of the killer motorcycles bearing down on ‘em. After working our way through the chicken jam, we rode on around the next bend, up the bluff and pulled off the road into a grassy clearing that overlooked the big river. We stumbled off our bikes hootin’ and laughing at the antics of those stupid chickens and all of us agreed that on the fun meter, scaring the tar out of chickens ranked right up there with turpentined dogs.

We took a break, lit up a coffin nail and after watching a few towboats negotiate a bend in the river, we butted our smokes, kicked the Harleys to life and roared off back down the bluff. At the bottom of the hill, we slowed as we rounded the curve where the chickens had been, fully expecting ‘em to be back out in the middle of the road. You see, usually, after a car, or in our case, a motorcycle, passes on by, chickens will come right back out in the middle of the road and continue doing what chickens do best, scratching and clucking. But, strangely the road was clear with nary a sign of Colonel Sanders finest, so we twisted the loud grip.

What happened next has been debated for forty years. It happened so fast and furious, that everyone present has a different version of the chaotic events that took place. I remember it like this; at the sudden bellow of half a dozen uncorked Harleys throttled all at once, a lone, demonic Dominecker came flying out of the blackberry bushes and into the face of one Donald Duck. Now chickens can’t really fly. They’re just too round and heavy. Aerodynamically challenged you might say. Oh they can manage some semblance of flight but they don’t really fly in the true sense of the word. They’ll go running across the yard squawkin’ and flappin’ like crazy, expending enough energy to launch a fully loaded B-52, but for all their effort and enthusiasm they still only manage to eek out a series of pathetic leaps and bounds.

Taken completely by surprise by this winged bowling ball, Duck instinctively let go of the handlebars and began flaying his arms to ward off the malicious attack by this suicidal looney bird. Consequently, with no one at the controls, the Harley did what any self-respecting motorcycle would do. It went down. And like Evil Knivel on a bad day, Duck went flopping and tumbling across the road, the gravel conducting an impromptu road test of his Levi’s. He splashed into a standing pool of water in the side-ditch, evicting a family of bullfrogs, who were enraged and hopping mad about being thrown out of their home on such short notice. However, after realizing that their rude and most unwelcome guest was some kind of wild-eyed giant, they decided it would be a fine time to take a short vacation, which they did, hopping off in all directions.

Meanwhile, the maniacal chicken, still reeling from the impact, took off at a wobbling trot up the embankment and through the bob-war’ fence. Elated at the success of her Kamikaze attack on the marauding motorcycles, her chicken lips cracked painfully into a smile as she ran off to safety.

Her heroism was clucked about for years in the coops around west Tennessee and she became a legend in her own time. Even the low down male chauvinistic roosters of the area swallowed their pride and crowed about her bravery.

Other than a few scratches and bruised pride, Duck was remarkably unscathed. We stood straddling our bikes and laughed like a pack of hyenas. Still sitting in the frog family’s former living room, Duck railed, “What are you morons laughing at? Ah’ coulda’ been killed.” To which we replied, “Yeah, but you wouldn’t. If you had been killed it wouldn’t have been near bout’ as funny.”

We dismounted, pointed at Duck and laughed so hard we fell down and rolled around in the road kicking up a fog of dust. Duck finally regained his sense of humor a nd laughed along with us, no doubt realizing how lucky he was.

We were all in agreement. That had to be the most courageous chicken we had ever had the pleasure of meeting. In those days, we were all a bunch of low life male chauvinist pigs, so we bestowed on her the highest honor a male chauvinist pig could offer.

We christened her “Mister Chicken.”



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