Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Horace Greeley and the Lovely Lyzette

Horace Greeley

and the Lovely Lyzette


A Tragedy in Too Many Parts

Scarcely have I regretted anything more than my tragic and ill planned interference in the affairs of Horace Greeley and Lyzette.

I wonder, occasionally, how things would have turned out if I had stayed my inclination, just for once, to always have the last word..the upper hand etc.... Could things have been different.. Would all that tragedy have been averted or perhaps just postponed? It doesn’t bear thinking about as the deed was done and cannot now be altered.

But like all regrets..mine are gnarled and tortured with thoughts of the Eden that could have been and how sadly it was destroyed.

Horace Greeley, or Greeley as he soon came to be called, was a magnificent creature..a Drake of the Muskogee tribe in full manhood with a great deep grey chest, a broad smoothly feathered back and that wondrous red Muskogee knob that grew across the top of his slick black bill and down the side of each cheek. His flock.. (there for awhile I thought it was my flock) consisted of four sturdy and matronly hens, Edgar the over-grown half-breed drake who lived out his life at the periphery of Greeley and his grand dames, and the lithe and lovely Lyzette.

Lyzette was also a halfbreed but the better for it. She was small, sleek..and like I said, lithe with a gentle and graceful demeanor. She was not a bit uppity and never lorded it over the older and plainer ladies as they moved ponderously and seriously about the tasks Greeley set for them and for their part they treated her with a respectful gentleness I found hard to explain.

In the normal course of events I would never have been aware of Greeley’s management of his little flock but early that first spring, after a week or two of Greeley’s rather harsh and violent attentions, the hens began to lay large, white eggs willy-nilly all over the yard and barnyard. I herded the little group into the small yard between the house and the barn, rigged an open-faced, sloped roof shelter, filled a rubber feed pan with water and hoped the hens would take to motherhood. Greeley saw the potential immediately and set the hens to their task.

How he did this was simple but a little awesome. Every morning he herded them, one at a time, to the rubber feed pan of water and if they didn’t get in he would grab them by the neck and flog them with a two-foot wing until they did, whereupon he would dribble water over their backs with his bill and nibble under and around each wing to make sure it was wetted. As often as not this would incite him to a little play time but as soon as his lust was satisfied the hen would be driven back to the pile of eggs where she was expected to stay. And stay they did.

I saw him do this morning after morning. The purpose of the water was to keep the eggs moist I guess, an important component in the hatching of duck and goose goslings.

But Lyzette was totally exempt from Greeley’s hygienic attentions and was not required to attend to any eggs. She was his darling, the jewel in his crown..his personal pleasure. He kept her close and Edgar far. Much of Greeley’s day, after the hens were taken care of, was spent in keeping Edgar in his place and away from any contact with Lyzette. This was strange as Lyzette was never subjected to the somewhat manic physical attention Greeley visited periodically upon the poor working girls.

But Greeley was devoted to her and she to him. She moved lightly, always at his left side and he would speak in that chuckly cooing sound of contented water fowel and she would answer in a voice just a little more gentle as he called her to some choice morsel: ..a grub in the mulch under the forsythia..a half-sprouted kernel of corn over looked a few days ago... a hapless grasshopper downed by a swift and furious attack from Greeley’s bill.

And in the warm afternoons..when Muskogees take their rest, Greeley and Lyzette would lie breast to breast and he would allow her to rest her small white head upon him right at that juncture where the wing connects to the body and she would doze and he might doze but mostly he watched for Edgar.

But Edgar..poor Edgar.. My heart was moved by the vicious attacks inflicted upon him. His loneliness haunted me. To see a creature so alone but not alone was sad and needed a remedy. Or so I thought. And so the dye was cast.

I decided four hens were enough for Greeley and Edgar should have the gentle Lyzette. Oh that it could be undone but it cannot.

To achieve this goal I created a pen within a pen around the communal mound of eggs where the four hens were ensconced and herded Greeley in with them and fastened the wire. It took him about thirty seconds to see the separation of Lyzette and he called her to him and she came and paced the wire her side and he paced the wire on his.

Thinking they would adjust to this arrangement I went into the house to shower.

But I had grossly misjudged Edgar’s character. Just out of the shower and standing at the tall windows on the north side of the house, I witnessed the rape of Lyzette.

Edgar, once having understood that Greeley could not touch him and realizing Lyzettes helplessness, attacked with a vengeance I would never have attributed to any creature other than human. He grabbed Lyzette by the neck threw her repeatedly into the fence at Greeley’s feet until she was too stunned to evade him..and he did the dirty deed.

Greeley, insane with anger, and what I then recognized as grief, beat the ground, the wire and anything he could reach with both great wings. But I couldn’t get there fast enough and the innocence that was Lyzettes was gone.

I kicked at Edgar and cursed the day he was hatched and he merely shrugged as all creatures with small souls do when caught in some dastardliness but how was I to know his soul was so small? Oh, how was I to know?

I tore the fence down and hoped Greeley would tear Edgar apart but he did not. He went to Lyzette, a poor rumpled and traumatized Lyzette, and looked long and hard at her, turned his back and waddled away.

Who knows what goes on in Muskogee minds? All I know is that nothing was ever the same between them. All that was gentle and beautiful had been destroyed. No more gentle chuckles and coos between them, no more offerings of tender more afternoon snoozes..Greeley dozed alone.

For a few days Lyzette followed dejectedly behind Greeley as of old but he no longer acknowledged her. She lost that lovely sleekness and became a little disheveled and I realized that it had been Greeley who kept her groomed and glowing. Finally, for lack of any company at all, she joined the pedestrian ladies, lying at the edge of the communal egg pile, far lonelier than Edgar had ever been.


  1. Grandma.. this is one of your most absurd and most beautiful pieces I've read. Incredible. How you turn such a story into something that causes me to tear up I do not know but your talent for it is clear. PLEASE publish some of these for others to read, and not just in a blog.

  2. Thanks so much for the encouragement Sweetie. Of course I wouldn't have a clue as to how to publish anything. Just in case anyone asks I do know they are MUSCOVY ducks but here in N MO they are called Muskogees.

    As for the absurdity of it all..I do agree. But every word is true. What I wrote of here happened. It haunts me still. In normal circumstances water fowel mate underwater and geese do mate for life. There is far more to God's creatures than meets the self centered eye of his human creation.