For some reason, the hallway outside my office smells just like a chicken coop. This brings back memories…

When I was a kid growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, my grandparents owned a pretty sweet abode. It was out in the country about ten miles north of town, and was situated on a hillside, halfway underground, with a large patio that overlooked a densely-wooded ravine. Even on a hot summer day it always seemed comfortably cool on that patio, which was shaded and quiet. Inside, the guest bedrooms were at the back of the house, in the underground portion, and I remember being fascinated by the window wells that let sunlight in from above. All manner of plants and animals made their homes in the wells, and from the bedroom one could watch this entire world — a sort of mini ecosystem. My favorite inhabitants were the green tree frogs and the huge, warty brown toads. In one corner of the house, next to the garage (which itself was home, at various times, to any number of stray cats and rescued squirrels), was my grandfather’s office. It was a cozy spot and it contained a very large television set. We watched “Dallas” with my grandma as my grandpa sat at his desk among ledgers and calculators.

But the best thing about grandma and grandpa’s house was unquestionably the chicken coop. It was off to the side of the patio, just on the edge of a large chigger-infested field. At a glance the structure appeared to be nothing more than a simple wooden shed, although there was an unusual gangplank leading up to its small door. I wasn’t often allowed inside that door, but I do remember distinctly what it was like in there. Light filtered through the empty spaces between the planks of wood that made up the walls. And, of course, there was that chicken-coop smell, which was not unpleasant at all. It smelled of chicken feed, mainly. My grandfather had about a dozen chickens, though I’m not entirely sure why he kept them. They produced eggs, but to my knowledge they were never butchered. I think he just enjoyed their company.

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