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Momma hen with her baby chicks and three visiting ducks  

April 16, 2011

There is something very special indeed about a protective momma hen and her three cute and precious  baby chicks and darling, dabbling, ducky baby ducks.
A hen is the female bird of the domestic fowl. I wonder if our momma hen can slip away occasionally and go to a hen party? 
This momma hen is busy scratching in the manner that a hen scratches which is called hen scratch as most moma’s do for their little families each day.  Do we all not scratch around for merely survival of getting our three good meals each day for our own little chicks and ducks as we provide for our families as the moma of our children? 
My own Mother, Elizabeth Janette Lewis McReynolds was like a moma hen to my brother, Johnny  and me.  Moma was what we called her as most Southerners call their Mother’s...just “momma” with greatest of love and affection for her. 
In my bedroom on the dresser top by the big oval mirror is a treasured oval framed picture of my momma.  This very dresser, chest, and bed are all antiques that have been in our family for years.  This bedroom set belonged to my own parents, John and Elizabeth McReynolds, and this was one of the first purchases they made...they bought this bedroom suit as an antique furniture set after they married on December 22, 1935. They were married in a home wedding in this very old home that Frank, my husband,  and I live in today, at 501 Louisville Street in Starkville. This framed photo of momma sits on a gold/brass tiny easel.   
Momma told me a story once that I always cherished about her growing up in this family home that she was born in on July 9, 1911— the year that her own granddaddy, Wiley Bartley Pearson designed and built and finished the year she was born.
Momma told me that in the hot, sweltering, humid Mississippi summer time heat and after eating  a delicious home-grown vegetables straight from her daddy’s  garden dinner... (high noon time is called our noon dinner time and supper was around 6 p.m. when night was beginning to fall)... that the children and her momma, my granny, would all go outside on the big wrap-around front porch and pull down huge green bamboo blinds that surrounded the porch that stayed folded up. These would be un-folded to keep the hot afternoon sunshine and heat from getting into the house. Each one of them would take an afternoon “cat nap” for an hour or so after the old black Emerson fan that would swirl back and forth making a certain little squeaky sound as it was keeping your body sorta comfortable and cooled off as you began to get  to feel sleepy and your eye lids were beginning to close after consuming such a big dinner with that last piece of lemon ice-box pie and sip of cold sweet tea with mint and lemon on top!
The story I loved to hear was about what was underneath this old home place.  The home stood up taller than it is today and when it was restored back in the 1955’s momma and daddy lowered the front yard by bringing in loads of dirt to raise the front yard area.  It was so tall underneath, that Momma use to play underneath house where it was cool in the summer time to enjoy playing in this area. 
Who else enjoyed this little heaven of a spot?  A momma hen and her baby chicks would find refuge from the heat and the hot and very humid middle of the day time as a spot to keep cool too.  Momma said, “we use to fall asleep hearing the momma hen cackle. Hearing the sounds of the squeaking old Emerson fan plugged in as it swayed back and forth, and hearing the soft, relaxing sounds of the old momma hen cackling  and softly clucking would put all the children and the adults into a deep “cat nap” for an hour or so on the hot sweltering summer time afternoon! 
When they awakened from their “cat nap,” I can only imagine how relaxed and cool they must have felt to go ahead and face the rest of the hot summer time afternoon back years ago  in Starkville.
Where in this world and in this county did I find this subject for my painting? I was searching for something to paint one day.  When I go “searching,”I go riding way out into our beautiful Oktibbeha County on those country roads to find something that inspires me to stop and paint all day.  It was June 29, 1995, and  I was making my way down one of my favorite roads in all of this county, the  Sturgis/Maben Road. I had passed a big country church... and was getting on towards Maben. There to the left of the road was the old home place a “weather beaten” and “weather worn” old home just standing right there on the roadside.  It was a beautiful old grey wooden home with a porch, and underneath this old porch in the back was my subject “just begging” to be sketched and painted on my canvas. I pulled into the drive and stopped my car.  I had arrived at my destination for this early morning!
I went up to the front door of a mobile home right behind this treasured old homeplace and gently tapped on the front door.  There stood none other than Mr.. Dero Reed and his sweet wife standing right behind him. 
“Oh, Mr.. Dero Reed, you know me.. and I know you...I had no idea this is where you lived. You know me through the Boll Weevil Laboratory and my husband, Dr. Frank M. Davis, Sr.  We have met at several Christmas parties out at the Boll Weevil Laboratory, and you are one of the finest technicians and people who work out there.  Frank just loves you, and I do too!” 
Then I said, “Mr. Dero do you mind if I spend the day painting something you have underneath your old home place which is just beautiful?” 
“It is a momma hen and her baby chicks and those visiting baby ducks that I saw underneath your home.” 
Mr. Dero answered without any hesitation in his voice, “Miss Carole, my wife, (and then he turned to introduce me to her), and I  would be honored to have you spend a day with us, and paint... and we “welcome” you to our homes...both our trailer home and my old home place.  I want you to come with me now  and let me take you through the rooms of where I grew up years ago.  I just can not bring myself to ever tear it down cause it holds so many memories of my childhood...I just keep it sitting here empty and lonely, cause it is home to me... can’t tear down memories...can I?”
It was just like “they” left it years ago except lots of dirt dobbers insects had moved in too. He had an old refrigerator inside and electricity had been wired for the old house and especially to keep the old refrigerator working to keep cold water inside to offer to his visitors whenever one might “tour” inside.  He had an old Knox fruit jar besides the old fridge to offer a visitor a cool sip of water.
I unpacked all my art supplies I would need for the long day and afternoon ahead and set up my “outside art studio” right behind Dero Reed’s old home place and popped up my portable easel and big colorful umbrella to keep me cool too and the sunshine off the white watercolor hard board that I would be working on for the hours ahead of me. 
Dero soon left in his pick-up truck for some destination

down the road. I think he was going towards his church that I had just passed which he is a faithful member. He had a big lawn mower in the back bed of his old truck as it “rattled” out of the dirt drive way headed back towards Sturgis and that quaint big church and cemetery I had just passed. His sweet wife told me if I needed anything to just knock on the trailer door and ask her. She was sweet and kind too, and I already began to feel right at home as I began to sketch my subject for the day. 
I had my whole world right underneath this old home place. A momma hen doing her “hen scratching” in the manner in which she
scratches around for a bite or two for herself to eat and a bite or two for her three baby chicks. And now they are all joined by three baby ducks as their visiting pals and friends for the day. There was an old well and an old out house in the near by backyard.  Both left behind as  past relics of happy times and of the years long ago when life and living life... “use to be.”
Suddenly, I heard the cackle and the clucking of this happy momma hen. I heard the “peep,” “peep,””peep,” of her three little yellow fluffy chicks. I head the “gaggle,” “gaggle,” “gaggle,” of those visiting friends and pals of the chicks... the three yellow/white baby ducks who seemed almost to be “adopted” by this momma hen. They blended in with her own chick family...and fit in and were happy underneath the old home place. 
The rippled tin above their heads made have a nice touch to this subject. The dark, cool, dampness of the dark black background behind the bodies of the momma hen, her chicks and baby ducks made the yellow/white of their bodies pop out.
The scratched brown, Indian Red clay dirt gave the bottom of my watercolor board a nice contrast to the other colors in the painting. Look at the face of momma hen. She looks so confident and has a very protective expression in her yellow beak.  Her red head was so much fun to paint. Look at her determined one eye. Her big fat brownish body and her feet were nice too.  The tiny chick nearest to her seems to need “her” momma’s love, agree?  The other two chicks are maybe more independent that one chick. 
Now, we have all heard the expression, “like a hen with only one little chick.” A child is often referred to as a chick. We have all heard the expression too, ‘no spring chicken.” This means you are not as young as you use to be!
As I painted I thought underneath this old house has become the spot called a hen coop,  for keeping fowls.  This is her...hen house. A type of small shed (underneath the old house) for her to roost for the night. 
The middle of the afternoon was approaching, and I was getting to the end of this painting.  Dero Reed had come and gone back and forth up and down the old Sturgis/Maben road all day long. 
Mrs. Reed and I had spent the day together chatting and laughing as I created my painting.
She had gone back into her trailer home, and I suddenly saw a  snake slithering near by. I screamed and Mrs. Reed heard my scream. I am afraid of snakes and what a snake bite might be and feel like..so I really did scream “bloody murder.”
She quickly appeared, and went and got her garden hoe and began to kill the snake. The snake was gone to his “final resting spot”... and it was time to sign my name and turn around and head back home to Starkville and to my own home and my family. I hugged and thanked Mrs. Reed for being such a lovely hostess to me all day and afternoon long, and for handling the un-wanted snake for me.  About this time, Mr. Dero Reed appeared from his errands. I had the same opportunity to say, “thank you” to him also.
As I waved and drove back towards home, I thought back about the this word ...inspiration.  What really did inspire me to stop and paint this particular subject?  
It was the old story that I was told by my own momma, so many years ago. In the good ‘ole summertime on a hot, humid, sweltering day, I got to experience the sounds of a cackle of a hen, as she made her clucking music. I got to hear the gaggle of three baby ducks near by “playing” with their friends... these three darling chicks . I got to feel the protective and caring love of a momma hen as she tended to her little “chick family.” 
In my own imagination I could hear the squeaky sounds of  an old black Emerson fan moving from side to side as it kept me cool all day afternoon long. 
I felt like a momma hen too with my own now three grown children as if they use to be three little white/yellow chicks, and maybe had three little neighborhood friends over to play for the day...the three little ducks!
Now, I get to share with you, “my viewers “ in the Starkville Daily News years later, a 1995 painting in this year 2011... this fun and happy painting... called “A Momma Hen With Her Three Baby Chicks And Three Visiting Ducks.”

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