I was down at Hendricks Head Beach one fine Maine day dubbing around with my Hasselblad film camera (I still use film as often as I can) when I noticed a beautiful young girl strolling down the driveway in front of what used to be Ruth Gardner's house, heading my way.
She had a brown chicken under one arm and a white chicken under the other. I was mesmerized (I think that's what I was). Anyway, I couldn't believe my eyes. The little girl, then maybe 10 years old, walked over to the seawall and launched the chickens out toward me and the ocean.
They fluttered down to the beach and began to strut around pecking and cackling the wonderful sound chickens make when they are happy and relaxed. Whoa! Beach chickens!
Ella's mom, Pam, told me that the chickens loved the beach and that they spent time regularly there after all the sun bathers departed. She said they just “hang out” along the shore paying little attention to anyone or anything, except Ella.
When they heard Ella's voice, both birds came to attention. As I watched the chickens that day, Eggs-merelda (pictured above) “struck a pose” on one of the rocks at the edge of the tide.
I remembered I had a camera and made what has become one of my most discussed calendar images ever. Eggs-merelda and Bell (the brown chicken) have some Chinese ancestry — a breed, I believe, known as Cochin. They have wonderful fluffy body feathers with great clumps of feathers at their feet.
Ella and her folks have raised both chickens since they were “peeps” which makes them more like pets than egg machines.
In the yard at home, they just waddle around the property and down to the shore, chattering and eating as they go. Made me want some chickens again. We had White Leghorns when I was growing up, but they were nasty and fought each other and pecked me.
Eggs-merelda and Bell are very chill. They are lucky chickens because Ella and her folks are perfectly happy to remain calm.