The whole flock of baby chickens lay scattered around the pen. A mink had somehow got in and in a frenzy had killed them all. All that is, but one we found bitten, but alive. We took her up without a lot of hope, and put her in a box beside the kitchen stove to keep her warm. I went back to the barn with a shovel, waited quietly, and, when the curious mink came back for a second look at his handywork, killed him too. Such an inauspicious beginning , but such a story developed around this bundle of feathers with a brave heart.
Miss Chick Pea, as she called herself, grew up believing she was not a chicken. I would not say she thought herself to be a human being either, perhaps a little better than that: certainly a person. When she grew old enough to peck around outside during the day she would also peck on the window in a friendly but assertive way to be let in for the night. Heather would open the door, lower her wrist, and Chick Pea would hop up and be carried regally to bed. When we bought Shiriri a few months later, and our plans went into high gear we began to think that perhaps she should be incorporated into the flock of older laying hens. Not a success. She would stand at the barn window waiting for anyone to pass by and call beseechingly " Look, you forgot me! There is some BIG mistake!" If we threw handfuls of grain into the pen, the flock would dive for the food, but Chick Pea just flapped her tiny wings and said "Hello,Hello! At LAST you have come for me!'
This insubordination could not continue, steps were taken,... and I made a small and special cage for her personal and private night time security. About this time too we rented out our main house and our log cabin and moved temporarily into a little studio in our forest. That way we could work on Shiriri and have the income to pay for the raw materials that I was turning into the rebuilt interior of our big schooner. Chick Pea was now laying her first eggs in her little house and she easily adjusted to a new wilder world without flower and vegetable gardens to dig in. I began to draw up designs for a seagoing chicken house as it was obvious from remarks dropped among the grain that we were not to be trusted to manage at sea on our own. I imagined how she would act as lookout and spy new islands in tropic seas, or keep watch for us on particularly stormy nights. She could ring the ships bell on foggy days and lay eggs.
On winter afternoons, Heather sometimes walked down to the harbour to check on my progress and then we would drive home for supper. One dark evening on our return, we found the cage empty. No Chick Pea! With foreboding, we remembered hearing a snowy owl hooting that morning, and sure enough, the next morning a little pile of feathers was all there was to show for the death of our unique little chicken. We took it hard, but perhaps because there was only a very small patch of feathers, we continued to think that she was still part of our sailing plans. Later, when I carved Shiriri`s figurehead ( and she was the kind of classic boat that could carry one) I imagined her to be a little Amerindian girl like one of those we had taught in South America. It was suddenly obvious that she should hold Chick Pea in her arms. So you see, Chick Pea got her own way in the end as usual. We were so pleased to have her aboard.