When it was time to play outside, Gracie watched from a distance and wondered if she would ever be able to dance again without the others making fun of her.
She had not acted in a way that would hurt anyone else. She had only been carried away by the beauty of spring, a spectacular beauty that had to find a way out from her heart.
The others quickly made up a game that would become a regular favorite. It was the simplest game imaginable.
“Bah-ŸawK!” someone would say before snatching up an earthworm and running. Everyone would follow and hope to grab it away from the lucky chick. There was only one direction—forward! And there was only one speed—as fast as their little feet would carry them!
Each worm would get passed around several times. It took great skill to dodge and block and eventually maneuver into a spot where the winner could gobble it down. Soon I was calling out “Bah-ŸawK!” right along with my little Olympians.
Eventually, Bessie convinced Gracie to join them, and Gracie discovered she had another gift besides dancing that the others truly did appreciate. Because she was so light on her feet from running and leaping, the earthworms could not tell she was sneaking up on them.
Lefty was never as clever. He would always make a lot of excited calls and sounds. Then he would stomp off to his favorite hunting spot, making a great show of himself. Everyone knew where he was going and what he was planning to do—especially the earthworms.
Gracie always found more worms than Lefty, and she usually found the longest worms too. Gracie and Bessie also kept more of the earthworms they found because they were a team. They would not say “Bah-ŸawK!” like the others did to announce their discovery. They only gave a very low “Bah-” as a secret signal to each other. If you weren’t listening for it, you would miss it. Then they would snatch the worm up out of the ground and flip it back and forth, leaving the others unsure who to chase.
Over time, the others forgot about what had happened that first day outside, but Gracie never did. Having them laugh at her had become The Bigger Scary Thing for her.
There were times when none of them could find any worms to use for their game. When they saw me take out the shovel, they would line up at the fence in anticipation. They watched in awe as I dug up a fresh batch of worms from the compost pile. Their eyes grew big, and they peeped and cheeped with delight when I said, “Bah-ŸawK! We have some, and they are whoppers!”
To them, I was the greatest worm hunter of all time, and they always seemed surprised that I never kept any of the earthworms for myself, not even the fattest.
Just as “Ÿawk!” had become my favorite Chicken Language word, “Whoppers!” soon became their favorite People Language word. “Who wants to play outside?” was a favorite question for all of us because we all did.
A day hardly went by without at least one round of their game. There was no keeping score. None of them knew how to count.
My little Olympians would run and play until they were completely exhausted. Then they would flop down on their tummies with their wings spread straight out and take a nap. This was what I called “going splat.”
Once they had finished playing their last game for the day, I would gently pick them up and return them to their brooder box for some dinner and a warm night of rest. To me, it seemed they had all they could possibly need with their friends and a world full of wonders.
But there was something Gracie needed far more. She needed to dance.