“I dare you to walk along the roof of the house.”

“I won’t!”

“Chicken! You’re a chicken!”

Why do we compare scared people to chickens? Are chickens really as cowardly and afraid as we make out? Do they throw their wings into the air, at every moving shadow? Do they run in circles squawking, “A fox! A fox!” Do they lose their heads over nothing?

We once discovered a chicken without a head on our back lawn. There it lay motionless and headless, rather a grim sight. Our eldest son Duncan grabbed the shovel, scooped the hen up and carted it to the pet graveyard at the bottom of the garden, before his younger sisters could see it.

Even though the hen’s facial features were missing, I could tell it belonged to our next door neighbour. We discovered another headless chook. And another... All our neighbour’s hens must have raised their wings into the air and chased each other around in circles, clucking in terror, as danger approached. They hadn’t lost their heads over nothing. Their heads had been taken by a fox.

Sometimes it seems that it is wise to be afraid. And sometimes fear gets pushed out of the way by other emotions.

When I was eleven years old, a girl came running into our classroom screaming, “Dawn’s going to jump off the chapel roof!” The teacher flew out the door while we remained at our desks enthralled. Dawn was going to jump off the roof? Wow!

Dawn was a big clumsy girl with fat knees, and coarse hair plaited into braids that stuck out from behind her ears. No one liked Dawn. She was strange. Her mother was called to the school. She was beautiful, petite and elegant. We all thought, “Was Dawn adopted?”

Dawn didn’t end up sailing over the edge of the chapel roof. She didn’t end up splattered on the courtyard below. (Thank goodness.)  The drama dissolved when her mother persuaded her to come down. 

Later our teacher talked to us about Dawn. She told us what an unhappy child she was. She didn’t have any friends. Couldn’t we try and make her feel part of the group? We all felt a bit guilty. Did Dawn climb up onto the roof because we didn’t like her? We resolved to do better.

But Dawn never returned to school. I don’t know what happened to her. A class of eleven year old girls had driven her away.

I think of that chapel roof.  I would have been too afraid to climb up so high. I’d have been a chicken. But Dawn wasn’t scared. She didn’t even care whether she slipped or not. All she wanted was a friend. I could have gone against the crowd. I could have dared to be Dawn’s friend.

Peer pressure… It doesn’t bind us together, making us strong. It turns us into chickens.


PS: For my non-Australian friends, a chook is a chicken.

 chook! chook! chook! Can you hear those chickens clucking?

Post a Comment

  1. Maybe, Dawn was so scared of living that she overcame any fear of heights? Peer pressure can affect any age group, can't it? I think it's sad when innocent children are cruel to each other and baffling when mature adults do it.

    And, chickens really do behave like this, too. There was always a top hen in our coop, until we got a rooster. Then, he ruled the roost - very noisily, too, I might add! - until a yappy, little dog chased him under a car. The older boys did not enjoy scraping up the remains for the burial. And, they were even more annoyed when a fox undid their hard work and exhumed the body from the grave, the very same night.

    Hmm...I've written almost enough for another post about chickens - only ours wasn't headless. Legless, wingless and featherless but, from what I remember, we did actually bury a head.

    What are we going to write about for D, Sue?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vicky,

      Children can indeed be cruel to each other, and I agree that peer pressure can affect any age group.

      We've never had chickens, only chicken-sat our next door neighbour's when they went away on holiday (until the hens were decapitated). After reading about your chook adventures it seems to me it is a whole lot easier to buy eggs from the supermarket! Not so fresh or exciting though!

      "I've written almost enough for another post about chickens" You could copy and paste your comment, add a few chook photos and voila! A blog post of your very own.

      D? Dieting and why it's impossible. Tomorrow!

      Delete
  2. I remember a girl in my school who had no friends. She was shy and wore shabby clothes. She smelled a little. I felt sorry for her. Some people made fun of her. I didnt. I was nice to her but I didnt hang out with her. Peer pressure as you said. I have thought about her many times, wondering what ever happened to her. She is one of those people in the past who seem to gnaw at your conscience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Colleen,

      I think most of us can remember such a situation. I wasn't a popular kid at school, but I wasn't made fun of. I was just a bit too ordinary to be of interest. Maybe I was relieved that it was Dawn and not me who was thought strange. Most children just do not have the resources and strength to stand against the crowd. I hope everything turned out okay for the girl you remember. Sometimes surprising things happen.

      God bless!

      Delete
  3. How very sad. :( I wonder where she ended up?

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shannon,

      Yes, a sad story. Maybe Dawn got on better at her new school. Her mother obviously cared a lot about her. Perhaps she was able to help. Thanks for your comment!

      Delete
  4. Nice writing, sad story. Thanks
    We have chickens and they really aren't scared of anything, will happily fight the dogs for a scrap, in fact it's the dogs that are scared.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maggie,

      Thank you for sharing your own chicken story. Dogs afraid of chickens? That made me smile! Thanks for reading my story.

      Delete
  5. This is such a sad story, Sue. In some ways being completely overlooked as Dawn was can be sadder than being bullied. Bullying at least acknowledges the person's existence but having no friends says to the person, "You are invisible to us. Your feelings don't matter to us. It's as if you aren't here." And sometimes, like in Dawn's case, they really do try to make themselves disappear. I'm glad she didn't jump and I hope things turned out well for her.

    I agree with your comment that it's difficult for children to stand against the crowd - most of them don't want to be a target for others.

    Have you noticed how very young children easily accept others? So these behaviors are learned. No wonder little children go straight to heaven!

    I'm sure there were other times when I was young that I should have spoken up but didn't because of peer pressure but I remember one time in particular - it bothered me for years. Colleen's right about certain people gnawing at our consciences.

    Great post, Sue!




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary,

      I think everyone was expecting a funny story when I mentioned headless chickens, but it is unfortunately a sad story. I guess Dawn still bothers me a bit because as you can see, I never forgot her.

      Learnt behaviours? Little children are so beautiful. It is very sad when children get to the stage where they realise not everyone loves and likes everyone else.

      I remember Sophie used to like everyone without even thinking about it. She thought everyone liked her in return. One day she said, "Jane doesn't like me." I asked her why she thought that and she replied, "Jane said, 'I don't like you. Go away!'" That was blunt! Well, my heart almost broke. There are some hard lessons of life to learn. I still encourage Sophie to keep liking everyone but her confidence has been dented.

      Thank you for reading my C post!

      Delete
  6. Oh so sad. Great writing! Thanks sharing what a chook meant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dani,

      I'll have to write something a bit lighter next otherwise we'll all be depressed! Chook is such a great word. I didn't at first realise that not everyone understands its meaning. Thank you for visiting!

      Delete
  7. We call our chickens, chookens (they are also called chooks in NZ) and yes it is so much easier to buy free range eggs.

    Poor Dawn. I was one of the popular kids at school (more because of the cool kids I hung out with than me) but there were still times that the popular kids could be ostracised, especially at High School. I vividly remember crying and not wanting to go to school because of mean kids or my parents not accomodating my desires to fit in with my cool friends(we couldn't afford the cool stuff to wear and I was prohibited to wear nail polish, etc). I think nearly all kids suffer at some stage, some seem to have to their whole way through, which is just tragic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa,

      I suspected chook is also a New Zealand word. I like chookens!

      You were one of the cool group? And now you're friends with me who was one of the uncool kids!

      School is just so difficult. My mother wouldn't bend to pressure and buy me all the cool stuff either. I am so glad our kids are missing out on all that 'socialisation'!

      I'll be over later to read your own C post!

      Delete
  8. I enjoyed reading about chickens and unpopular kids. Chickens are cluelessly mean to each other. They mindlessly peck at the weakest chicken in the flock. And thinking about how kids can ignore a friendless child, because it might make them an outsider. Ooooh. I've been there, too. Your story of the girl who almost killed herself - if I had been you - that would've been the clincher for homeschooling my kids.

    My experience being bullied on long school bus rides for kindergarten through 3rd grade played a large part in my coming to homeschooling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amy,

      It sounds like chickens are just like children. Kids soon discover who's the weakest in the group.

      Our own experiences do affect what we want for our own children. I've been thinking about this. I don't want my kids to suffer some of the situations I had to endure as a child. But some people just say, "I survived. It made me tough. What's good enough for me, is good enough for my kids." I can't understand that.

      I'm so sorry to hear you were bullied. Sad that children are not protected properly.

      Thank you for stopping by!

      Delete
  9. Oooh, that smug attitude "I survived. They need to tough it out." I've heard that sort of thing from close relatives. Maybe, just maybe my experiences contributed to my hyper-awareness of those things...I don't know if it made me more compassionate. Or willing to risk my social standing, such as it was...yes, I was a little chicken!

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    Replies
    1. Amy,

      You are compassionate! My heart breaks when my children aren't treated properly but I ask them to remember how it feels, and to go out there and be nice to everyone regardless. I think it is easier for our children because we are more on the scene, and can see what is going on.

      Maybe people who say, "They need to tough it out" just close their minds to their own experiences. They don't want to think about it or deal with it.

      I've heard people say what a terrible experience they had at school, but they still send their children into a similar situation because it's easier than having to find an alternative, such as homeschooling. And maybe they just think the world is a tough place so kids might as well learn that, sooner rather than later.

      God bless!

      Delete
  10. I was always near the bottom of the pecking order going to school... poor Dawn. I wonder what happened to her? Perhaps Dawn's mother started homeschooling her, or maybe after some time away from school all together, just went to another school later. I wonder if Dawn was autistic. I wonder if she had disabilities that made her socially awkward. I wonder if she had something going on in her private life, like the loss of a loved one, or someone who abused her.... There are so many Dawns in the world. Poor Dawn. Wherever she is, I hope she's in a better place.

    When I was in school, though I was teased a LOT, (I HATED school because of it), even I had someone I picked on. There was a girl named Betty that no one liked. Betty was friendless... and one day I called her a name... she had reminded me of a monkey creature on a popular kids television show (well, it was at that time anyway), and the other kids hooted and called her that too. That poor girl. I didn't mean to give her a label that would follow her until graduation. All these years later, I still feel bad about not being nicer to Betty. I was no better than the ones who picked on me. I hope that somewhere out there, Betty can forgive me. I wish I knew where she was so I could apologize.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan,

      I think you've hit the nail on the head as far as Dawn goes. She was probably autistic or disadvantaged in some other way. Now I think of it, she had a hearing aid. I'd forgotten about that until now. Perhaps she found it hard to keep up with conversations and we might have been very impatient with her. Funny how memories suddenly return.

      We can all look back and wish we'd done better. School is not a nice environment most of the time. Kids tend to do what they need to do in order to survive. God forgives and He can put things right, and I guess we keep remembering because it keeps us humble and prevents us from making similar mistakes again.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Delete

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