Small ones, downy gray ones, a few long black ones — these things always come when you aren't looking for them.
Each step I took, I saw another and when I finally stopped to take stock, I discovered I was surrounded by feathers.
And — with no match in the immediately surrounding wild kingdom — there was only one possible source for them.
The realization came on like a flood, and at the same time, I knew it was too many feathers for it to be another of our harrowing adventures that concluded in a happy homecoming.
This time the outcome would be different.
How can a stupid chicken work its way into your heart?
An animal that makes its way to dinner tables, albeit as the main course, in home after home every night.
An animal renowned for having a brain the size of a pea.
One who delights in scratching its way through piles of manure in search of delectable grubs and maggots.
And yet, she did.
Brainless, poop scratching, walking buffalo wings and all.
I never wanted a chicken, but somehow, Molly wasn't really like a chicken ... she was just Molly
Maybe it was all the narrow misses — the times she ran away from home only to be found making her way back up the road with a lost look on her face.
Or the time she got stuck in the roof of the barn for several days, scrambling and scratching and so very relieved when it was pried open so she could flap to the ground.
Perhaps it came when she lost most of her feathers in a pet carrier trying to weather a blizzard from the garage.
But then again, maybe it was in the way she waddled my way top speed when she saw me heading to the barn, ducking under fences and hopping over anything in her way to walk with me the rest of the way.
Or it could have been the way she pecked at my boots then flapped up to perch on the side of the feed bag to let me know I needed to hurry up and get her scoop of corn.
And the fact that she liked to stay close to the horses, weaving in and out of their hooves and perching on the sides of their stalls just to be near them.
Following the trail of feathers, for once, I wished it was one of her skillfully hidden, funky shaped eggs I was hunting.
I found her fairly quick, on the ground where the dog had tried to drag her from the yard only to be stopped by the fence.
In all my time with Molly, I saw her bobble and run, try to fly, peck and scratch, squawk and duck — but even when she roosted, all tucked into a ball, I had never seen her so still.
And it was heartbreaking.
Maybe she was just a dumb hen, maybe she was brainless and liked to play in manure.
But when her spark was ended, a still fell over the barn that hasn't lifted since.
Yeah, hers was a small and simple soul whose mark was very little in the greater scheme of things.
Yet it was a mark nonetheless.
Date unknown – 2012
Beloved hen, greatly missed
Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at: