This story begins with 1,000 chicks that took a big journey from a very big country to a very small island in the Caribbean. On the island of Wadadli, these chicks found a home on Mr. Sing’s farm which was located way out in the countryside.
Over the next four weeks the chicks grew, losing their soft, yellow downs and growing white feathers. During those weeks, some chicks grew full and hardy, some died and some were what would be considered runts.
Now runts either filled out, passed on to the feathery chicken heaven in the sky, or they just got wily. This was the case of one chicken that would pick fights with the other chickens. He was such a wily chicken that one of the farm hands took him out of the main area of the coop and tied him so that he would not return to pick fights with the others.
This is how I met him. I had visited the Sings’ farm and noticed the chicken tied to the side. Mrs. Sing asked Mr. Sing why this chicken was apart from the others. Mr. Sing explained that he was picking fights so they gave him a time out. It was so I gave the runt of a chicken the name Picken Joe, on the count that he was always picking fights. Unlike the other chickens, he was easy to identify as his head was heavily scarred from the fights he had gotten in.
From that point on, everyone on Sing’s farm called the wily chicken Picken Joe. That evening, after the Sings and I had finished our chores and were on the long journey home, Picken Joe was sizing up his name. It wasn’t too bad a name, in fact, it made him feel special.
“Hey, runt!” Up came one of the chickens who liked to pick on Joe, followed by two of his lackeys.
“Who are you calling runt?” Joe demanded.
“You’re the only runt over here, so it must be you,” the bigger chicken replied.
“Well, for your information, Nameless Chicken #1, I have a name and it’s Picken Joe, so if for any reason, you need to address me, please call me by my name.” With that said Picken Joe turned his back to his visitors and enjoyed the last rays of sunlight over the horizon.
This amused the chickens and seeing that they were unable to get a rise out of Joe, they resigned themselves to telling all the chickens about Picken Joe, the chicken with a name. News traveled fast in the main area and the last chicken to hear was Joe’s dearest friend.
This chicken had taken the long journey with Joe in the same box, right next to him. They had developed a bond that was more like best friends than brother and sister. Even though she was one of the biggest chickens in the coop, she still made time for her close friend. They would spend hours talking about anything and everything. Even though Joe was tied up away from the main area, she had planned on going over by him and sleeping close to him to keep him company.
“Picken Joe?” she called out, tentatively.
“Yesss.” Hearing her call his name was an added pleasure.
“Now, where did you get such a notion to call yourself Picken Joe?” she asked, sitting down next to where Joe stood.
“Well, for your information, the farmer’s friend gave me the name, and then all of them started calling me that. You know what? I like it! It makes me feel special, unique,” Joe explained.
“So what are you saying, Joe? The rest of us aren’t special, unique? I’m not special or unique?” she challenged.
“No, no, no! That’s not what I’m saying. I think you are special and to prove it, I’m going to give you a name. How does Louise sound?” a quick thinking Joe asked.
She burst out laughing, “Do I look like a Louise to you? If I was to choose a name it would be something regal, yet playful, just like me.”
“Well then, how about Mona, Janice, Lizzie or Ramona?” Joe tried.
“I kinda like Lizzie. Yes, that is the name I want,” and so Picken Joe’s dear friend became Lizzie, not knowing that Lizzie was the short version of Elizabeth and the Queen of England’s name was Elizabeth. Before long, all the chickens in the coop found out that another chicken had a name. Over the next days, chickens came to visit Picken Joe, looking for a name. Before long, all the chickens on Mr. Sing’s farm had name.
Some had traditional Western names like Albert, John, Allan. Some had African names like Nikesha, Obioma and Nkenge. The names came from far and near, and some names were everyday words, Bowl, Sun-sun and Duck. A chicken had to call the chickens by their name or they would have nothing to do with the chicken.
Picken Joe was on top of the world when he got his name, but he was over the moon when he was given the important task of naming all the chickens. Being busy with said task, he didn’t notice that he hadn’t seen Lizzie for a few days. This was strange indeed as she made it a point of visiting him at least once a day.
When Joe realized his friend had failed to see him over the period of four days, he grew worried. On the fifth day, he called over one of the other chickens.
“Sisal, hey, Sisal! Have you seen Lizzie? I haven’t seen her for a couple days now."
“Well, now that you mentioned it, I haven’t seen her in a while,” said Sisal. “Tell you what, I’ll ask around and get back to you.” He then made his way back to the main area.
It was the afternoon of the next day that Sisal returned to where Picken Joe was tied up.
“Picken Joe, I don’t know what to make of it. Lizzie is nowhere to be found and she’s not the only one. No one has seen Amy, Pete, James and Stewart. It’s weird, Joe, real weird.” With that said, Sisal walked away, shaking his head as though trying to make sense out of nonsense.
This didn’t sit well with Picken Joe, in fact it riled him up. What was happening on Sing’s Farm? Why were chickens disappearing? Why did Lizzie disappear? Joe got so frustrated, he did the one thing he did well, he picked. He picked at the one thing he had available, the rope that tied him to that spot. For the rest of the afternoon and straight through the night, Picken Joe picked at the rope.
By morning, Joe had picked through the rope and he sat on the part he had picked through. Picken Joe had a plan, he was busting out of Sing’s Farm and he was going to find Lizzie. So when the Sings opened up the farm and busied themselves with their chores, Joe waited for the right moment to slip out of the farm.
That moment came when Mr. Sing was feeding the chickens and Mrs. Sing was watering the plants behind the coup. Joe ran as quickly as his two legs could take him and he didn’t stop until the sounds of the chicken coup could barely be heard.
Picken Joe looked back in the direction he came. He was leaving everything he knew and now it was up to him to find food, water and shelter. It wasn’t going to be easy, but he would move heaven and earth to find his dear friend, Lizzie. And so began the Adventures of Picken Joe.