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the chickens were roosted in the safety of their coop taking a mid-afternoon nap. Willy, a sinister smirk on his face and a red towel tied around his waist in imitation of the garb worn by the participants in the Running of the Bulls, sat behind the chicken coop on his bicycle—one foot on a pedal ready for action, other foot down for balance—rocking gently back and forth, a full dozen brand-new, crisp playing cards taped securely to the bicycle’s front forks. We had been sure to arrange those cards quite carefully in order to produce the most racket when they would engage the spokes of the soon to be spinning front wheel. Thus the stage was set. And the play was about to begin.0

With squinting eyes, I cast my gaze back and forth over Willy’s and my own personal Pamplona. I eyed the children. I eyed the chickens. No parents in sight—all looked well. I looked at Willy; he nodded. I began pounding on the side wall of the chicken coop. As expected, all chickens still in the coop hurriedly exited the building, joining their fellow sisters in the yard. Fearful curiosity, caused by the coop pounding, soon spread to all the chickens, who were now on red alert, stretching their necks up high, jerking their heads alternately right and left with the stupid ratcheting motion chickens use when looking about. A few feeble, questioning “clucks” were heard. The questions were soon to be answered.

The pounding of the chicken coop wall had been Willy’s signal. After allowing the birds a few seconds to exit the coop, Willy pushed back his bike, then heaved forward with all his might and broke loose in a crazed pedaling frenzy—head down, elbows out, legs pumping, hair flying, clothes flapping, freckles stretching, wind-induced tears streaming back his cheeks, screaming for all he was worth, playing cards in the spokes working to perfection: BLAP-BLAP-BLAP-BLAP-BLAP-BLAP! The already on-alert chickens instantly stampeded—necks stretched out, wings spread wide, feet kicking them into overdrive, squawking for all they were worth—headed straight toward our intended victims.

The victims—hearing the awesome racket produced by the combination of several dozen berserk chickens; a furiously pedaled playing-cards-in-the-spoke bicycle; and two wildly screaming ten-year-old boys—looked up, the expressions on their faces showing reverence, fear and wonder, obviously thinking themselves under attack by crazed, child-killing chickens. As an added encouragement I waved my arms, jumped up and down, and yelled, “The chickens are going to eat you! The chickens are going to eat you!”

The children leapt straight up into the air (amazingly like chickens being shot in the butt with a water gun), and landed running, sprinting for the safety of their home—heads back, hair flying, arms pumping, legs spinning like whirligigs in a hurricane, tears of fear streaking back across their innocent faces—but the devious Willy herded several chickens around into their path, blocking their retreat, and the panicked children ran wildly back in the direction from whence they had just come.

Willy, grinning alike a fox in a hen house, zipped around the yard on the BLAP-BLAP-BLAPing bicycle, continuously circling, thwarting all escape attempts by child or chicken. Children ran every which way, they screamed—a shrill, pathetic cry rose above the din, “I didn’t eat none of them eggs!”—they climbed trees, they fell from trees, they bounced off fenceposts, fear-blinded chickens bounced off children, children bounced off each other, grass flew, dirt flew, feathers flew, chickens flew. It was a virtual tornado of children and chickens. Several fallen children were chicken-trampled in the melee. Several eggs somehow made their way onto the field of play. Several pairs of child’s trousers were wetted. It was like a cartoon come to life.

Seemingly, we had executed our scheme to perfection. I stomped my foot, slapped my knee, and fell to the ground doubled over laughing in hysterical delight. Tears of merriment streamed down Willy’s cheeks as he sped about the yard. But then from behind me I heard the distinct sound of the slamming of a kitchen’s screen door; and I looked over and saw Willy’s mother…she wasn’t laughing. The one mistake in our planning, I realized too late, had been our failure to account for the racket of the combo chicken/children pandemonium alerting the children’s overprotective mother. Maybe, I wistfully imagined for a split second, the seemingly angry mother would grow to appreciate our merry circus. But this quickly proved to be a false hope. She just stood there—hickory switch in hand, hands on hips, stern look on face—obviously seeing no humor whatsoever in our chicken exploits. Then she chased Willy down like an owl swoops down upon a mouse, nabbing the unsuspecting lad by the back of his shirt collar and lifting him from the speeding bicycle. The riderless bicycle continued on, BLAP-BLAP-BLAP-BLAP-BLAP, until crashing into a rose bush and falling on its side, the wheels slowly spinning to a stop, BLAP-BLAP-BLAP

Blap…blap…blap…bla…b…b. And then the bike lay still, a sad memento to National Geographic’s unintended effect on the minds of impressionable young lads not yet having the wisdom to consider the consequences of their own actions.
The hysterical, blubbering children, sensing their mother to be the only calm in a sea of storms, ran to her. Willy, beginning to blubber himself, dangled from the