Food for Thought-The Chicken Whisperer of Hyde County and Sacajawea’s Hurricane


A long time ago and by that I mean yesterday, the mail to this place was delivered by boat. The Aleta, as it was known, would ferry mail and passengers from Atlantic (not the ocean) to Ocracoke (the reality). Atlantic is a fishing village further down Pamlico Sound on the edge of a mythical land called Carteret. Many eons ago, I sojourned among its lakes, waters, and fair maidens. Released from its enchanting captivity by kissing a goat one Good Friday, the Icelandic Bishops who sought to Christianize this region of North America dispatched me to Ocracoke.

When the Aleta sank during Hurricane Sacagawea in 1863 (the same weekend as the Battle of Gettysburg, so many people were otherwise occupied), the Postal Department made the decision to buy three new hydroelectric ferries from the Saskatoon Department of Transportation. These wind driven devices relied on solar power and electricity and the wind, if it chose to blow. It would be possible to park cars, trucks, wagons, unicycles and official mail delivery vehicles on the deck of the ship. This solution was a marked improvement over the failed attempts at carrier chickens. A regional postmaster hired a “chicken whisperer” who lived near a small left turn in rural Hyde County. The Chickens, who found letters, electric bills, and parcels duct taped to their bodies, were encouraged to fly or swim over Pamlico Sound. Most died. Those that didn’t drown were barbecued and eaten. The “chicken whisperer” was later discovered to be well known among local residents as “the man with mental health issues who lives alone and believes he is having conversations with chickens”.

We needed to check the mail. Under the new, post chicken massacre postal plan, the mail is usually delivered by 3:00 pm. Sometime last week Little Bit ordered a new necklace; something called a choker. I learned a long time ago; I don’t ask questions. It sounds incredibly uncomfortable. Even so, Becky has one and Little Bit wants to wear one to school. According to the records of the United States Postal Service, the “choker” was shipped from New Jersey to Ocracoke last Thursday. As such, Little Bit thought the choker should have arrived Friday at dawn. Barcodes and scanners were meant to take the place of floating chickens. Yet cryptic phrases like, “out for delivery” or “this item has been received by station” were as understandable to Little Bit as the clucks of a drowning hen.

The second and third days of checking the post office box were exercises in terror, fright, and frustration.

“Why isn’t it here?” she asked. “Why does Jo-Jo always get her stuff first?” This was about to turn ugly. I suggested she use my Amazon prime account. No luck. After three days of this anger and disappointment, I swore I was never taking Little Bit back to the post office. Ever.

On the fourth day, we went back to the post office. Before she got in the car, I told her she needed to do one thing.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“I need you to swear on the Bible you won’t freak out if it’s not here.” I handed the small Bible I keep in the pocket of my driver’s side door.

“I’ll do better than that,” taking my iPad from the passenger seat and opening my Bible app. “I’ll swear on 15 Bibles,” she said.

Little Bit stayed in the car while I went to check the box. It was, as with the previous days, empty.  A pit began to form in the pit of my stomach. What would she do?

I walked out of the door with my hands up in a position that said, “Don’t shoot”.

“You’re cool”, I said. “If the tides are right, it will be here tomorrow.”

“Can we get ice cream?” she asked.

As long as we can get it to go, because it’s dinner time and we’re jamming south down Highway 12, fifteen miles an hour down the center stripe, windows down, our hair flowing in the wind, listening to All Things Considered, taking no quarter, like a puff of pollen covered Volkswagen thunder.