Saturday, March 6, 2010

While Looking for Eggs

       Most of the time our chickens were reasonable chickens, content with their henhouse, with their individual boxes where they were happy to lay their eggs and sit on them.  But every year, we had one or two adventurous chickens, crazy chickens, not content with their house, those “idiots’’ as my mother called them, those chickens who would sneak away and build a nest in the hedges in the pasture, near our house.  There they lay their eggs and, if they were not discovered, sit on them.  One of my duties is to find them or to uncover the nests before the foxes or the snakes found them or so they did not become chicks.

       This year there were two adventurous chickens, a beautiful black one which we called “L’Espagnole’’  and a beautiful redhead which we called “La Normande.’’  I was looking for their nests.  After having walked the length of the hedgerow, I retraced my steps and suddenly I saw under the grass, well hidden, a beautiful nest containing many eggs. 

  I began to put the eggs in my basket when I heard some voices from the other side of the hedgerow.  Across the underbrush I saw two young women seated face to face in a little pit, one had hair the color of copper, so brilliant that it looked like a helmet.  The other had very black hair, a helmet of ebony.   Both were so made up that one would have said that they were wearing masks.  
  Since the war, we saw all sorts of people in our little village of Moiry. Primarily, workers and their families came from Barcelona and from Madrid to build the American Camp because all the strong young French men were at war.  Then the American soldiers came, and also all sorts of women who did not look at all like our women of the village.   I asked Maman, “Where do these women come from? What do they do?’’
  She answered me, “Ah, these are the women of war.  I believe that they work at the Camp.  Enough questions!  Get to work! ’’

      It was like that when I asked her where babies came from.  She answered, “From Paris.’’  As there were many state children in Moiry and since their mothers went to get them in Paris, I accepted this response.

      From my side of the hedgerow, I listened silently.  I thought, “There is something mysterious in all of this.’’
The mystery became more profound when I heard from across the hedgerow, the bronze head saying to the black head, “ I have made 89 francs.  And you?’’

      “Me, I have made only 53 francs.  However, I am prettier than you.’’  They got up and, shaking the grass from their skirts, they took the road to Magny-Cours.

      From the house, Maman, called me, “Rebecca, what takes you so long to find the nests?’’

Translation: Rebecca Goethe DeVries
Copyright: Lucy DeVries Duffy, May 12, 2001, Brewster, MA, 02631, U.S.A

American Hospital of Mars-su-Allier
Postcard collection of Lucy DeVries Duffy
  Photographer unknown

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