"Just A Giant Chicken!"


Logline:Nick and Heath count their blessings as they head home to celebrate Thanksgiving

Set-Up:This story takes place within the first year of Heath's arrival at the Barkley Ranch. Heath is celebrating his first Thanksgiving with the Barkleys. Featured characters are Heath and Nick, along with Victoria in the closing. Liberties have been taken. Some research (thanks Mary) shows that indeed there were wild turkeys in the Stockton, Calif. area in the mid to late 1800's, while others say no. Also information varies on whether or not a farmer might have turkeys on his farm. I figured...it's fiction...it's fun and I'd done too much research for this little story. Enjoy!

  "We should have just done what Mother wanted to do in the first place and picked a plump bird from old man Jenkins," Heath complained, as he tugged at his rain slicker that was failing to keep him dry. It had been raining for three days straight and was showing no sign of letting up.

"But...no, we had to go trompin' all over the range to find our own birds! Only to end up at old man Jenkins farm anyway. It'll take me hours to get all the mud off my boots and even longer for them to dry out!"

"Quit your whining. If you'd break down and buy a new pair of boots your feet wouldn't be soaked!" Nick scolded. "Who would've thought that we'd not see one wild bird out there today. Just last week there was a flock of 'em running across the pasture just north of Sky Meadow," he explained.

"First off, my boots are just fine, there is still plenty of good wear on 'em. And I'm wonderin' why in tarnation if you saw some wild turkey at Sky Meadow...why is that the only place you haven't had me hikin' for the last five hours?" The blonde Barkley was becoming more irritated the colder he got.

"Well...Heath, the birds were runnin' away from there not settin' down roots. I figured that they were just passin' through and we'd find 'em in the outlying areas around Sky Meadow. I don't know what all the hubbub is about a giant chicken anyway. Seems to me if we're going to celebrate we should be eatin' beef, now that's real meat not some stupid bird with a brain the size of a piece a grain. Did you see those fowl at old man Jenkins, just standin' there all huddled together, all yelping at the same time making that annoying racket? And the smell, good Lord!" Nick rambled on, both hands in the air as he talked.

Heath watched his brother's hands dance in the air as he made his point and wondered why he was the one hauling two fifteen pound birds and his rifle when it had been Nick's idea to go hunting in the first place.

"You should know about squawking on an' on! Here, you carry 'em for awhile," Heath fumed as he shoved the turkeys' legs at his brother.

"Sure are ugly, aren't they?" Nick questioned as he took the birds from his younger brother.

"Feathers are kinda pretty, and they can't help God made 'em stupid," Heath laughed.

"They kinda remind me of Mimi and Florence Winters, all gaggle and fluff...no brains,"

Nick laughed.

"Seems to me you didn't mind Flo's gaggle and fluff last Saturday night," Heath taunted.

"Well, she did look pretty in that hat with all those feathers, and that green dress sure showed off her form, if you catch my meanin'. But that girl can't carry on a conversation. Good for kissin', but not for talkin'," Nick confessed.

"Yep, I'd say you need a woman who can carry her end of a discussion. Lord knows she'll always have a debate on her hands," Heath said and then jumped out of the way as Nick swung the birds his way in an attempt to hit him.

"You and Miss Mimi took several turns around the dance floor, if I remember right. Me being with Flo and you with Mimi made me think how interesting it could be if we married sisters. Wouldn't that be somethin'?" Nick declared as he flashed a smile his brother's way.

"That would be somethin', all right. Mimi sure isn't the marryin' type, not for me anyway. Her name says it all....me...me! All she can talk about is herself. And she sure does like to jabber on and on. Guess we'll have to keep lookin' for a better sister duo. Or maybe we each had the wrong sister, we could switch next Saturday night. I just have to figure out how to tell Audra it'd be best if she'd let me find my own way when it comes to selectin' a gal," the blonde Barkley shared, as he remembered the last three socials where Audra had at least three of her friends lined up to have their chance with her newest brother.

"She's still playing matchmaker? Want me to talk to her?" Nick asked, putting on his best big brother face.

"Naw, she means well. I'll find a time to tell her, just don't want to hurt her feelings,"

Heath assured.

"Does the family have turkey every Thanksgivin'?" Heath questioned, as he changed the subject.

Nick smiled. How easy it was to forget that Heath had not always been with them.

"There were a few years we had some other dish but we've had our share of turkey over the years. Silas can roast this bird till the meat falls off the bone, it does have a fine flavor, but I sure wouldn't want a steady diet of it. Did you and your Mama have a big dinner on the holiday?" Nick used the door Heath had opened to ask a few questions of his own.

Heath gave that crooked grin that was so endearing,

"We would celebrate after Mama got home from workin' at the hotel. Sometimes there would be leftover meats from the meals served at the dining room. If so, Mama could sneak some home for us, at least a taste. Turkey or not...we always had blessings to be thankful for and Mama, Hannah and Aunt Rachel would spend time talkin' about all the good things we had. You know, Nick, havin' turkey is for special days, it's like havin' church clothes and everyday wear. Chicken is everyday and turkey is Sunday duds. "

Nick saw Heath's face flush, and, just quick as he had started sharing some history about his past, it was over.

"You know, Heath, we like hearin' about your Mama and your life in Strawberry. It just draws us closer to you. Goodness sakes, you hear about our lives all the time and you must get mighty tired of it. As far as your educating me on the difference between chicken and turkey...poultry is poultry!"

"Guess we'll never agree on these birds but, Big Brother, talkin' about the family's days with father helps me understand Tom Barkley. Hearin' some of those tales sure makes me wish I could have known him," Heath's honesty touched Nick.

"Me and him, use to go huntin' all the time. It wasn't something Jarrod enjoyed doin', so it was just the two of us. Was never the same after he died. I guess that's why I wanted to do it so bad this year, you remind me so much of him, Heath," Nick shared, stopping to make eye contact, wanting to make his point.

Heath wasn't sure how to answer, but he knew that Nick was speaking from the heart.

"Thanks, Nick. It's been a good day. Next year we'll do better at finding our own game. Wonder what Mother will say when she finds out where those giant chicken's came from?" Heath teased, lightening the mood.

"She'll never have to know. I paid old man Jenkins an extra three dollars to keep his mouth shut and as for you...if you start waggin' your tongue it will be your goose that gets cooked!" Nick laughed as he threw an arm around his brother's shoulder.

"I was just thinkin', Father must have been a fine lookin' man, right?" Heath questioned his older brother.

"Yeah, why?" Nick wondered.

"Well...if I remind you of him, he had to be good lookin', cause Mimi says I'm the most handsome of the Barkley Brothers."

"So Mimi is an authority on Barkley men?" the dark haired bother interrogated.

"She thinks so, just like you're an authority on giant chicken hunting!" Heath laughed, as he darted away with his brother in hot pursuit.


From the house Victoria watched from the parlor window as her two sons raced toward the house, splashing and sliding in the mud.

"Mother, what are you watching so intently?" Jarrod asked as he stood behind her following her gaze.

"Your brothers, they're back from hunting and it looks like they have tomorrow's dinner with them," she smiled.

"Just look at them, they must be soaked to the bone. And I'll bet Nick is complaining up a storm. I'll go tell Silas to have some towels ready at the back door," Jarrod laughed as he left the room.

Victoria's heart was full of unspeakable joy as she watched her two grown-up kids. She turned and walked over to the fireplace. The warmth she felt was not due to the heat from the roaring fire that blazed, but at watching her family bond even closer, day by day. She looked up at the portrait that hung over the mantel. So many times she had come to this very spot to converse silently with her husband. The portrait of Tom allowed her to look into his eyes and find comfort in the ponderings of her heart. Today it was not worry that she wanted to share, but delight. For one son had found someone to share a tradition that had been lost with the death of his father. And for the other, he was truly becoming more a part of the family, creating memories he would hold dear and share with his own children someday. He was no longer Tom's son, he was Heath Barkley.

"So many blessings to count, My Love, so many," Victoria lifted her cup of tea, toward the image of her late husband in a toast.


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