I was doing chores at twilight when I heard men’s voices from one of my chicken coops. My first thought was that it must be visitors, but the only vehicles in the driveway were ours. The chicken coop sat dark and still, with cornfields stretching behind it as far as I could see and distant lightning flashing in the sky.
The coop where I heard voices was the same one we’d emptied of chickens a few days before. Our gourmet meat birds grow up so be so lively and vibrant that after we take them to the processor, their old coop seems eerie and desolate.
The longer I stood listening to the voices, the less they sounded like regular people. They varied in volume, sometimes were muffled, and sometimes were gone. I decided that a couple of stalkers were not chatting in my chicken coop, so it was safe for me to finish the chores.
I was almost done when my husband came down to meet me, telling me that he heard men talking. He thought we should check it out together. I was more of the opinion that we should head inside, but I didn’t want to leave my husband alone with the voices, so I agreed.
My husband reminded me of how my great aunt used to pick up radio signals in her filling, and he expected something around the coop was doing the same. This sounded possible. My mother’s friend had also picked late-night WCCO radio on his toilet seat and had to set a heavy book on the commode to quiet it down so he could sleep.
We stood by the edge of the chicken yard together, looking suspiciously at the mesh fence and wondering if it was acting like a radio. Then we gazed at the darkness behind it, split by lightning flashes. The voices reached us in waves, sounding confident and masculine, but just muffled enough so we couldn’t hear words.
It occurred to me that I’ve seen fireworks from that direction on the fourth of July, and I started wondering if maybe the turbulent atmosphere was intermittently carrying sounds from a celebration in New Prague.
I wanted to tell my husband this, but I couldn’t think of the words “New Prague.” As I stuttered and searched for the words, I apparently looked stricken with a flashlight casting spooky shadows on my face from below. My husband waited in suspense, wondering what unspeakable thing I was trying say. Finally I spit out the wrong words: “Maybe it’s a celebration in New Ulm!”
At this point, we started hearing polka music. It was a rollicking version of “The Chicken Dance.”
I have never been so happy to hear polka. We listened until the song ended and the sky to the southwest blinked with fireworks. If the people at that celebration were half as happy as I was to see those fireworks, then the event must have been a smashing success.