While visiting the family cottage in southwestern Michigan recently, I made the acquaintance of an elderly gentleman. Mr. Roth is 84 years old and still manages the farm he owns in the area.
A storm blew through one night. In the morning the ground was strewn with broken tree limbs, some as thick as my forearm. A particularly large limb straddled the border with Mr. Roth’s yard. He and I worked together sawing the limb into manageable lengths in order to drag them into the stand of trees across the road.
A car pulled into his driveway. On its door was the Great Seal of the State of Michigan and the words Department of Revenue.
“Mr. Roth,” said the woman who emerged from the car. “My name is Elizabeth Hoover. We’ve spoken on the phone.”
“Hello, Miss Hoover,” Mr. Roth said. “Quite the storm last night.”
Miss Hoover surveyed the scene. “Yes. Quite. I’m here to follow up on our investigation into allegations that you are not paying proper wages to your employees. Please provide me with a list of the positions you employ and their wages.”
Mr. Roth said, “Lemme see. There’s my foreman. He’s been with me three years. I pay him $600 per week plus free room and board. I have two farm hands. I pay them each $500 a week plus free room and board. I have a cook/housekeeper I pay $500 a week plus free room and board. Then there’s the half-wit who works about 18 hours a day, seven days a week and does about 90 percent of all the work. He makes about $10 a week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night.”
Ms. Hoover arched her eyebrow. “I would like to talk to the ‘half-wit.’”
Mr. Roth said, “That would be me.”
Later, my mother-in-law asked me to run down to the produce stand on CR 684 and buy some corn for dinner. I like corn, but nobody likes corn the way midwestern girls like corn. At suppertime, if the timing is off and the corn is ready before the rest of the meal, the corn is the first course.
Anyway, I was driving down the road trying not to get lost. I could feel the cornfields closing in on me from both sides of the road when, suddenly, a chicken darted out in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes and avoided hitting it. The chicken kept running down the road, so I tried to follow it. Even at 30 mph I couldn’t catch it. I followed it onto a small farm. The poultry stopped in a front yard. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It had three legs. I looked around and all the chickens had three legs.
A farmer came out of the house and approached me. I expressed my astonishment at the three-legged chickens. He told me he liked drumsticks so he bred them that way.
“How does a three-legged chicken taste?” I asked.
“Don’t know,” the farmer said. “I haven’t caught one yet.”