Tuesday, January 01, 2002


Bank the fire! Fill your pipe! Get comfy in your chair:
The Bard of Saratoga's here with tales both odd and rare.
She's going to tell a story; though we all know how it goes,
The fun is in the telling, the recounting of the blows
In this long-standing prank war twixt a lady and a lord
Of long acquaintance, rivalry and occasional kind word.

"The origin of this ritual is shrouded in the past,"
The Bard begins, "Who cares though how it's started? It's a blast!
The Passing of the Poultry! It's a marvelous event
And one on which all pains and care and effort are well spent.
One early salvo, I recall, came when like some devilish fox
The lord filled up the lady's yard with a dozen fighting cocks.

'I hear that she likes chickens' came the crowing explanation.
And that is all he ever said about this new sensation.
So all the while the roosters wandered 'round their new abode
At every mention of the jest the perpetrator glowed.
For her part, the lady bore the jape with one thought on her mind.
What else was there for her to do but to respond in kind?

Time passed, and all of us in town enjoyed indeed the wait.
When now would she strike? And how? What was the joker's fate?
Then one happy Christmas morning all of town let out a whoop,
For on the lord she had bestowed an ugly chicken coop.
It stayed there, quite an eyesore, till he had it hauled away,
Vowing underneath his breath that she would rue the day.

It seemed his turn, his time to strike – or so we at first thought.
But the coop was but a thread in this, the injured lady's plot.
A warning shot it was; a tiny token of esteem,
Foreshadowing, as so it proved, of this witty lady's dream.
For to the lore of Togie she would make this contribution:
For every Poultry Prank there must be Poultry Retribution.

And what came next you ask? What form then did vengeance take?
What filled the bird lord's yard upon the next year's Christmas break?
Alive and gobbling, ruffling downy feathers, oozing charm:
The brand new dwellers in the brand new Togie Turkey Farm.
(And just when he'd got rid of them, had thought that that was that,
Those turkeys' feathers showed up in the poor man's birthday hat!)

Well! No man's pride can e'er sustain so many heavy blows
Without a thought of sweet revenge, and sure 'nuff, one arose.
The lord engaged the aid of someone skilled with thread and needle,
And from some crusty mad old fart a union suit did wheedle.
The pair adorned with feathers that fell hideous underwear
Till it was something that would give a scarecrow quite a scare.

He topped the suit with something I'm near powerless to describe,
Something that he knew for sure would amuse the whole damned tribe.
In shape it's like a lady's cap in a painting by Renoir,
But that is not what he did hope would stick there in her craw:
For true to form and function and to meet all expectations
It was a chicken hat and he collected congratulations.

All innocence he joined for lunch the lady and their friends
And upped the ante in their epic game that never ends.
In front of all and sundry in the famous Wolf Hotel,
Bestowed his gift and smirked there when she told him it was... swell.
She wore the hat through lunch, I'm told, and bore it well, they say.
But not the suit; she said perhaps that's for another day.

She had of course already made her yearly Christmas move
As the rubber duck in his iced tea quite shortly was to prove.
The ducky was, of course, of her revenge but a small taste:
That selfsame morning she had with much calm and little haste
Built for her friend a duckpen in his very own front yard
And thoughtfully left also a most tasteful Christmas card.

Without the card and ducky we might still be unaware
Of what nature were those beasts that she left pooping in his care.
Silent they were and docile, but alarming to behold,
The most hideous ducks that ever, ever, came into the fold.
Of mottled black and white were they and of alarming size,
The foulest fowls that ever fouled a pair of mortal eyes.

When one escaped next day there was indeed a mad uproar.
'Help help, the devil's duck himself is scratching at my door!'
Came the all too typical complaint over the phone.
'Send on a cop or something; I can't face this beast alone!'
And that is how on one fine clear and cold December day
Our town crew found themselves at last a part of this whole fray.

A lady cop was first of all arriving on the scene.
She thought she'd catch the beastie but the beastie proved too keen.
So then our stalwart treasurer bravely came up to her aid
But of his brave attempts to help a mockery was made.
The ice was slick, the duck was quick, and so he quickly fell.
(But was not injured; last I heard, I heard he's doing well)

Next round the corner fighting off the weather and the chill,
Came our Minister of Fun with just the tool to fill the bill:
A fishing net turned out to be exactly just the tool
To snare the wily duck, to capture this unholy ghoul.
The trio brought the bird back home with nary a quake nor quack,
But some reason found the duck farmer did not want his duck back!

The ducks are gone by now on this cold quiet New Year's Day,
But I am sure the next attack is not too far away.
The lord cried foul and asked to have his lady friend arrested
For trespassing, but e'en in this the poor man has been bested.
The mayor gave his prankster foe a lifetime of immunity,
So the Passing of the Poultry can continue with impunity.

And that's the tale, though I am sure it's just the tale so far.
I know both parties, know full well how devilish they are.
The whole town waits and smiles now every year with bated breath
For we all know this aviary battle's to the death.
We've years of entertainment, laughs and cackles yet in store,
As each of them tries year by year to even up the score.

Monday, December 31, 2001


As I write this I'm just minutes away from heading out the door to our Best Ever Impromptu New Year's Eve Party. My ice fishing buddy, my brother in anthropology, the pumpkin/rock guy and the physician's assistant (there to keep the rest of us from overdoing it, perhaps?), and who knows who else will soon be partaking of a fabulous fish dinner of freshly caught trout and other delicacies, Guiness (it really does go with everything, even fish!), many different wines and asti at midnight.

Originally we had planned to go party hopping – all four Saratoga bars are open all night and have DJs and other hijinks planned, and Saratoga's one local band is due to play at the big fancy roadhouse just outside the city limits – but as my fishing buddy filleted and the physician's assistant looked up recipes and I looked over my vast stock of beverages and assorted hors d'oeuvres makings, we realized we would nowhere have as much fun as right there in the house.

Elsewhere people I love dearly are gathering to play charades up on the hill, and farther away my brothers and sisters in Secularity are gathering at Mr. Wilson's house (i.e. the house used in the Dennis the Menace movie as Mr. Wilson's house) to drink scotch, smoke cigars, and play the ever-popular Crunch Beast Game in formal wear.

Myself, I'm probably the only person who will be "dressed up" for our fish fry, but I do so in honor of Secular Johnson and... I'll bring a bib.

Already this is the best New Year's Eve since last year's.

2001 has been a tough year on both a national and a personal scale for pretty much everyone I know. I don't know of anyone who will be sorry to see it pass. It was a boring year until it became a terrible year for us all – but at the same time, it's a year in which amazing new friends came into my life at least, old friendships deepened, and my love for the land all around me and the people has deepened. Surely I'm not the only one...

Here's hoping that all of you who read me have something lovely to look forward to this evening and next year.

(I'll be drinking my first toast at 11 p.m. Mountain Time so I can share it with Sec-J – and especially with Opera, who was the one who finally got it through my thick head last year that it was indeed Richard Strauss who composed Also Sprach Zarathrusta in time for us to find the CD and play that tune at midnight last year).

I wonder what we'll play at midnight tonight?

Probably St. Booty.