Chickens don’t run around because they are afraid. They run to avoid conflict and danger, but when summoned to provide assistance, chickens will always be willing to provide a fist, or a beak.
My friend, and my brother’s best friend, Michael Linerud aka, Chicken Lenny, was no chicken even in the Spring. In our neighborhood, where we played baseball, tackle football, sans the pads, and even boxed in a basement full of harmless blood, Chicken Lenny ran like a chicken, but could cluck like a truck. I never saw fear in his eyes, but, rather a gleaming spectrum of recognition and intelligence regarding his surroundings. It was nice knowing he was on our side.
Growing up as the shadow amongst six older brothers, I would often look to Chicken Lenny for that soft, yet tough touch. Many of my older brothers’ friends would pick on me. They’d call me names such as tow head, reject, gimpy, lumpy, little bastard, and even muffin top. While my brothers would laugh, knowing I could handle it, Mike, sometimes, would step in front of those wisecrackers, and say, “Hey, we are four years older than him.” He would then provide the age old wonderful statement any hero would add at the age of 12, “Pick on someone you own size, namely me.” My brothers would always have my back, but Chicken Lenny was the guy they could defer to if they had others to deal with when bartering candy on Halloween. Never a fist was thrown, and I was safe.
Years later, when the others were entering high school, some of us were left behind in the neighborhood mob. After elementary school would dismiss us, many of my older friends were attending high school and preoccupied with athletics or detention. Therefore, I would decide to roam the neighborhood on my bicycle. It was like tossing corn to some of the chickens in our valley. I was fair game.
Never being a participant of idolatry, I did ,however, have heroes. One of my heroes showed up one day to provide assistance when I was in trouble. Chicken Lenny had broken his hand, and fortunately for me, he had taken the day off of school for a doctor’s appointment. He lived close by, and was taking a walk in the street when he found me being picked on by someone twice my size and twice my age. I was willing to fight, but my chances in Vegas ruled me a billion to one underdog. Just like heaven sends us Angels, Chicken Lenny was mine that day. He diffused the situation immediately with his clear sense of anger witnessing a young friend being picked upon. The fear in the bully was obvious, and not a person was harmed. Chicken Lenny even walked me home that day. No one followed. Chicken Lenny and his Shadow were both safe. I’ll never forget it.
I wish I’d have written this before his demise. That’s the damnedest of it all.