Thursday, July 13, 2017

John G. Davis and his famous old hen ...

It's kind of hard in this day and age to imagine that the Sunday Register would be interested in a story about an old broody hen who hitched a ride into Chariton and home again on a buggy top whilst sheltering her nest of eggs. Even though such a thing might still be possible, considering the mode of transport favored by our Amish neighbors.

But, as they say, the past is a foreign country and they do things differently there.

In any case, Benton Township farmer John G. Davis and his old hen did have their brief fling with fame back in 1937, when a Register artist picked up what by then was a 10-15-year-old story and illustrated it, then published it on a Sunday morning in July.

Chariton's Herald-Patriot republished the story --- and illustration --- in its edition of July 15, 1937, accompanied by the following text (giving rather carelessly two dates for the occurrence, 10 years earlier or 15 years ago). So I guess the famous ride of John's old hen occurred some time between 1922 and 1927.


"A buggy ride taken 10 years ago by John G. Davis, Lucas county farmer, provided the No. 1 "believe-it-or-not" for Artist Ken Eaton's "Iowa Oddities" in (the) July 11 edition of the Des Moines Sunday Register.

"Davis drove his buggy eight miles to Chariton through wind and rain before discovering that a hen had made her nest and was setting on top. Although she wobbled precariously as the buggy went lurching through mud on the trip back to the farm, the hen managed to keep her perch and protect her eggs. A few days later she hatched 10 chickens.

"The event occurred about 15 years ago, Davis recalled today.

"The buggy, he said, had not been used for two or three months.

"While the cartoon pictures only one man in the buggy, there were two. And behind it were a mare and a mule colt.

"The other buggy occupant was Henry Davis, neighbor of John. Henry Davis had sold a colt for delivery in Chariton, and because of the storm did not care to ride horseback into town. So John Davis volunteered to take him in his buggy with the mare, which the colt would follow, hitched behind. In his hurried preparations for the trip John Davis failed to notice the hen before leaving home."


Chickens are notoriously short-lived, so that old hen most likely went to glory within a year or so of her adventure.

John, however, lived a long, full and sometimes adventurous life --- passing during 1982 when nearly 97. He is buried in the Chariton Cemetery.

1 comment:

Nicholas said...

Thanks for this story about my Great Great Grandfather!