31 March 2008


The only people on this island who do not have chickens are the Americans. Well almost.

Goats and chickens are the only "farm" elements in this non-agrarian society, and there are a lot more chickens than goats. For sure.

I guess it reveals what a total citified person I am that I never really paid a lot of attention to chickens before—-at least live ones. I mean sure, they walk funny, jerking the head forward with each step, they peck, and the cluck, cluck, cluck, but I never had the opportunity to observe them so close up and so often.

How close up? My next-door neighbors have chickens, and let me tell you, they are "free-range" in every sense of the word. While I haven't seen one in my house yet, I will not be surprised when I do. I keep my camera at the ready.

My neighbor's clutch (flock? brood, herd? Nah!) are all black. The hens, that is. They seem always to travel in a group, like nuns. No one seems to worry about these chickens wandering off- - one minute on the road, the next time over the wall. I assume they do not fly and walk around the end of the wall, but,…I don't know.

Perhaps, corralling the hens is one of the rooster's few assigned responsibilities. I have not seen my neighbor's rooster yet. Oh, we know he's there all right, he makes his presence very obvious early in the morning, but he seems relaxed enough to let the hens wander quite a bit off home turf. Now there's a guy with supreme self-confidence.

The rooster who prevails over the hens in the supermarket parking lot is much more neurotic. He patrols the borders of the flock, and very promptly pecks at and corrals any individualists. The hens are VERY obedient. The chicks, of course, follow the hens wherever they go. And they go everywhere in the parking lot—the grass median, the paved portion, under the shopping carts, everywhere.

Le coque's domination of his family is iconic of how the French human males see their role. At least, that's the illusion the human French males have tried to project over the centuries, but the reality is quite something else.

It should be no surprise that while the United States national symbol is the bald eagle, the French national symbol is le coque. They are gorgeous, all of them. Great red crowns and combs, tail feathers that would grace an Easter bonnet, they walk with a strut that tells everybody in sight who is in charge. Amazing.

Wonderful to watch. But in real life, the supremacy of le coque does not transfer to those who will ultimately dine on him. The DNA apparently cannot withstand the effect of the digestive juices. It is the French women who rule here, though they do a magnificent job of letting the men think otherwise. It's their secret weapon. Well, not so secret, maybe.

Just look at the state of today's French leadership to see proof of who really is in charge. Poor President Sarkozy, his wife leaves him for another man, and three months later he marries an Italian supermodel and entertainer, who, on their honeymoon, tells the press that she has had numerous liaisons before this one, and, what's more, she thinks monogamy is passé. Ouch. Then he goes on an international tour and the media focuses 100% of their attention on her, while he plays Dennis Kucinich.

Life on island reminds me of the tired line "I let my husband decide the important things, like world peace, while I decide the small stuff like where and how the family will live, etc." Only here, no one gives even a passing thought to foreign affairs. Barthians recognize they have zero influence on whether or not there will be world peace, and the consequences of wars sprinkled about the globe will likely have little or no effect on their daily comings and goings. What is important is the size and condition of the household, the state of the children's health and education, and whether the chickens are producing enough eggs…and enough chickens. Is le coque doing his job? If not, he's toast (well, to be literal, roast) and we'll get another. So even though the locals are French enough so that many of the "husbands and wives" on this island are not married, that status seems to have no effect on the parties' relative positions of power and influence inter se. I can't quite figure out how the women carry that off. Perhaps the island's scarcity of women is a factor, but I need to spend more time here and make an intensive study of the subject.

You know you can count on me to keep you fully informed of the results of my research.

A bientot.

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