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Our annual hen show had become all fowled up

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Our local TV channel has been teaching navigation, I suppose a sop to our mahogany summer yachtsmen who are in season at the moment, and I feel an essay coming on.

The State of Maine owes many debts to the sea and today they show up in highlander guise and we don't notice they're crusted with salt.

When I was a boy our town had a poultry association that held an annual "hen show" in December, bringing thousands of hens and roosters to our town hall, where they were exhibited in wire cages kept for that purpose. The birds competed for prizes, and people came to see them for want of movies, radio, television, and other diversion.

The hen show was a great deal of work, all volunteered by townspeople who liked hens. The clerical work listed every bird, breed, and origin; prizes if any; and the owner's name and address. The cages had to be set up and taken down, and returned to storage. The hall had to be cleaned.

The annual banquet of the poultry association was held at Pythian Hall. It was a baked-bean affair and not, as you might suppose, chicken pie. Anybody could attend, and did, and a lecture was heard on some phase of poultry, usually by a land-grant university professor. The hen show continued until changing times put the dollar sign on eggs and meat, and "utility" put good looks out of business.

The hen show of my home town began at sea. Maine ships were lofted and launched by Maine craftsmen in Maine yards, owned by Maine investors, sailed by Maine crews with a Maine master, and by every galley was a cage with sea-going hens that laid breakfast the world around.

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