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COLUMN: Meet Alice Hen, my new alarm clock

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Alice Hen, who is 5 or 6 months old, has decided now is the time to lay little 2-inch-long eggs.

She wants to lay them in the little coop she grew up in with her mother, Eliza, and her sister, Donna.

The problem with her plan is that now Cookie Hen and her daughter, Baby Betty Daughter of Cookie, live in the little coop.

Now on cold days, Cookie and Baby Betty sometimes don’t want to leave their domicile of domestic bliss.

I can totally relate. Who wants to go outside in the snow and ice when you can stay cuddled up in a comfortable bed of mixed hay and straw?

I believe even good old Johnny Appleseed would take his time emerging from a haystack in the morning this time of year.

He had his bag of seeds that he got from a cider mill somewhere during the fall, hanging from one of the eaves to avoid varmint predation. The old horse he was looking to rehabilitate at the time would be peacefully munching away at the pile of hay that had been put before him late the night before.

The horse would not need water for several hours. So, why rush to get up and out of this marvelously insulated berth on a cold snowy day?

Plus, one of the farmer’s children would probably water the horse while tending to the other animals at about the crack of dawn.

That’s how things went when the farmers were just setting up in what was then called the frontier. Johnny was a welcome sight and guest. No trouble at all. Plus in several ways, he was viewed as a holy person whose journeys were made to improve people’s lives in simple ways.

Today we would say that Johnny’s horse was a rescue animal. But he wasn’t getting the animal back in condition to live out its days on some trust fund-supported ranch. He was rehabilitating this formerly neglected or unwanted animal to give to some farmer who needed, but for some reason could not easily get, a healthy, well-conditioned horse to help with farm work.

The horse might even be going to the farm where he was presently engaged snoring in the haystack.

Some folks viewed Johnny Appleseed as an “original Christian,” seeking neither fortune, fame nor wealth, but doing good works quietly, as his Bible directed.

How I digress.

I was talking about Alice Hen.

The reason I went on about sleeping in and such is because, when I am trying to sleep in, and Alice wants Cookie and Baby Betty out of the little straw-filled coop, she actually screams as if someone or something is about to wring her fool neck, or that doggone hawk is chasing chicks again.

The scream can be heard nearly a quarter-mile away. If that doesn’t rouse you out of bed, you are definitely deaf.

I might have been dreaming about walking along with good old Johnny Appleseed, enjoying a few good jokes, when suddenly I find myself in my PJs, downstairs, looking out the front door trying to figure out what that hellacious din was all about.

“Arg! It’s Alice, again, being my new alarm clock,” I tell Maggie. “I guess it’s time for coffee. I’ll joke with Johnny another day.”

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, N.Y. By the way, why is Maggie always up before me? Leave a message at


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