|The Chicken Band is very much a Northeast Wisconsin sort of group,
with an unconventional repertory, an impeccable backbeat supplied by Frusnelda
the drummer, and a tendency to sit down and lay eggs in moments of crisis.
Irmgard, the leader, keeps the ladies in line, and Hermengilda is both
her closest ally and biggest problem, having an assertive personality and
a unique technique on the trombone.
It all started when the chickens got loose a couple of years ago. They had just laid an egg (in fact, several) at the Trout Festival Parade here in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, and decided they were ready for the big time. Off they went to Atlanta, no, not to the Olympics, but as the Chicken Pickers' Nickel Pluckin' Pickle Band, playing for the Pickling Puckered Huckleberry Pickers of America. Eggs were laid there, too, and they began to rethink their organization, which resulted in the hiring of a Guest Conductor. Well, said Frusnelda, if it works for the Chicago Symphony, why not for us, too? So here came Alfredo Fettucini, Maestro to you, and the band began rehearsals for the Christmas Parade.
They took a break and headed out to Boston for the Armistice Day Parade
(Veterans' Day to all you squirts born after 1940). Unfortunately a flood
of water hit the parade, and they were nearly washed out to sea. So they
returned to Wisconsin, only to find that Alfredo Fettucini and Ma'mzelle
Treci, one of the celebrated Three French Hens, had eloped.
|Their chagrin was eased by an invitation to play in the Macy's Thanksgiving
Parade in New York, for which they adopted a new name: the Chicken Coop
Super Yooper Whoopers. But alas, Peka panicked when the Woody Woodpecker
balloon got too close; she laid an egg, and the band was thrown off the
float. All it took was the balloon crew tripping over Hermengilda's trombone,
and they were blacklisted from Maine to Florida ...
Well, tomorrow is another day, and the girls headed off to California for the Rose Bowl Parade. They managed a little surfing, but the night before the parade, some ratty little students at the campgrounds stole Hermengilda's egg, and after the ensuing riot Irmgard had to call her cousin Ethelfrida to bail them out. The judge imposed two conditions on their release: that they never enter California again, and that they never play "Surfer Chicks" again.
So they caught the plane to New Orleans for the Super Bowl, but Hermengilda decided to entertain the pilots by playing "Chicken in the Sky" -- and the crew acted on the assumption that the trombone was a weapon, so they arrived in New Orleans under somewhat of a cloud. But even though they couldn't play in an official capacity, they took to the street, and "Cheap Chopped Chicken Feather Rag" was a great hit.
And then things turned serious. How serious? National-Catastrophe, Panic-Inducing,
Red-Alert with Sirens, that's how serious. No sooner were they back
in Northeast Wisconsin than ...
"Hermengilda, we'll have to put our heads together if we're going to get into a Packer practice, I'm rather annoyed that they would doubt our loyalty, and calling us the Salmonella Sextet ... well, let's go see my cousin Mechtilda, she'll know how to handle this, oh, didn't I tell you? she was bounced from the Pullet's Quilting League, and just wait till I tell you what she did, Frusnelda, simmer down, for Hen's sake ..."
"Well, hello, girls, I'm Mechtilda, oh, Cousin Irmgard, it's so good to see you, yes, I'd be delighted to tell you about the Quilting League, well, they threw me out for no reason at all, but I asked around and found this delightful gentleman, so polite, such a charming foreign accent, and he supplied me with, I forget, Oh yes, it's French for Plastic, and I planted it in the middle of the prize quilt the night before, and when the quilt was sold, WHAT a blast, cotton batting came down for the next three hours, why yes, Cousin Irmgard, I'd be happy to give you his phone number, no, he has no name, just a phone number ... "
"Hello, is this 555-5555? Oh good, this is Mechtilda's cousin Irmgard, and she tells me you had just the thing for her Quilting League problem, yes, well, our organization has been, how shall I put it, slighted, and I'd like to teach those people a little lesson ... oh, you do, ... yes, the city has about 100,000 people, I see, where is Ground What? Ground Zero? I'm not sure I understand you ... Mechtilda was right, your accent is charming ... You can ship the device, is that right, in a suitcase, direct from Russia? Russia?? Mr. ... Mr. ... Whatever your name is, I don't think I like the drift of this ... oh, please hold on, my other line is ringing ... Hello? ... "
"Hello, yes, this is the Chicken Band ... oh,
Your Holmness, how wonderful of you to ... a special autographing
session? ... and a practice ... oh, Mr. Coach, I mean ... yes, we'll
be there ... I assure you, the Packers have no more
supporters than us Chickens ... just one moment, Coach, I'll be
right back with you ... Hello? Is this Mr. Whatever your name is?
Well, you can take your Russian suitcase and put it where the
don't grow, is that clear? Good-bye! ... Hello, Coach? We
are so looking forward to seeing you, especially Hermengilda ...
Why yes, she is the trombone player ... you've heard of her? ...
Well, thank you so much, good-bye ... Oh, girls ... "
"Well, girls, we're finally going to a Packer practice, and they're going to be autographing as well ... no, Peka, not your egg, quite unsuitable, yes, Hermengilda, Brett Favre will be there, and Frusnelda, Reggie White will, oh, somebody pick Frusnelda up, my goodness, I didn't think she'd faint, and His Holmness especially asked for the Cheap Chopped Chicken Feather Rag, and I've been working on an original number called Buck-a-Buck-a-Buck for the Pack-a-Pack-a-Pack, with an extensive trombone solo and some really tricky drum work, oh, girls, isn't it thrilling?"
"For WPAK sports, this is Biff Orpington, bringing
you today's sports action, and first up tonight, an unprecedented event
unfolding right here at a special Packer practice and autographing session
this afternoon, we have that tape, and here you see special guests The
Chicken Band, really unique sound, nothing like it in my experience,
and zooming in we can see the trombone player break loose and make a dash
for Brett Favre, shrieking something, "Favre's My Fave," something like
that, and Brett is turning pale, he's backing away, and he's off down the
field, and good grief, there goes another chicken headed directly for Reggie
White, he goes back, back, but the hen is down, in a dead faint,
but wait, that trombone is headed down the field at a tremendous
rate of speed, past the forty-yard line, thirty, twenty, ten, what a thrill!
. . ."
"Oh, girls, it's a good thing the Packers flattened the Pats or I think they would have been rather annoyed with us, but they've been very nice, of course it will be a while before we can expect to be asked there again, and perhaps they're a teensy bit embarrassed that Hermengilda outran three of their best defensive team, and carrying a trombone, too, but I think Mr. White was sincerely touched by Frusnelda fainting dead away like that, oh, and Peka, it wasn't very tactful to lay an egg in His Holmness's hat, well, never mind, Thanksgiving is coming, does anyone have a suggestion for a new name that Macy's won't recognize? ..."
The winter of 1997-98 was a busy time for the
band. Hermengilda ran for Mayor of Kewaunee (she lost), and just as the
fires of democracy burnt themselves out, the ladies got a call from California,
to deal with a drought with their raindance spectacular. This turned out
rather badly, as the excessive rains brought on mudslides, but the ladies
had barely touched the ground at Green Bay's Austin Straubel Airport when
a call came through from the East Coast, who needed the Band to do their
drying-out spectacular on the flooding. However, the Band, on its way in
to Boston from Logan International Airport (they turned down a limo and
marched), took a wrong turn and wound up in New York, so they wearily hopped
the next plane for home.
The Chicken Band."What a beautiful day, girls, and just think, weíre headed east on Route 29 toward our home town, letís just try to put all that unpleasantness at the airport behind us, itís so nice to see pickup trucks again, oh, thereís one stopping ahead on the shoulder, and those folks look like nice Kewaunee AWK no, madam, we are not stray chickens, weíre the Chicken Band, in fact weíre Kewauneeís Own Chicken Band, Iíll have you know, so kindly take your hands off Frusnelda, there, serve you right, good work Hermengilda, but thatís enough now, she wonít get rid of those bruises in a hurry, are you all right, Frusnelda, dear, well, shake your feathers into place, and letís lift our spirits with the inspiring strains of Cheap Chopped Chicken Feather Rag, and Hermengilda, more soul, thatís the spirit ..."
The Chicken Band. "Goodness, girls, it certainly is hot, and I'm getting awfully tired of jumping into the bushes every time we spot a pickup truck, but as Hermengilda says, beaks up, Kewaunee's getting closer, oh, there's a sign, Birchwood Gardens, what's that say underneath it, Frusnelda? Broasted what? Chicken?? oh my gosh, here comes a pickup truck from Birchwood Road, quick, into the bushes, I tell you, Peka, it will be so nice to get to town where people understand what fine musical entertainment is all about, whew, the coast is clear, all right, girls, back onto Route 29 heading east, let's see, how about the Tropical Heat Wave Polka, twiddly oop, twiddly boom, that's the spirit!..."
The Chicken Band. "Forge ahead, that's right, girls, oh look, there's a sign, "Fresh Corn," sounds delicious, Hermengilda, you wouldn't happen to have a little money, I seem to be temporarily ... really, Hermengilda, what a thing to say, I thought you were more refined, well, no, perhaps you aren't, Peka, oh, thank you, well, let's see, six ears for a buck, no, madam, for the last time we are not ... stray ... chickens ... we are Kewaunee's Own Chicken Band, don't you ever listen to music? Yes, we do call that music, and I'll thank you to keep your .. everybody's a music critic here, aren't they, well, keep going, and one, two AWK into the bushes, oh girls, I don't know about you, but this trip has been a bit wearing for me ..."
The Chicken Band. "Quiet, girls, we're getting close to downtown, good thing tomorrow is recycling day, lots of boxes to duck behind, don't clutch my tail feathers so tight, Hermengilda, hide, girls, police car coming, oo, is he handsome! whew, one last mad dash down Ellis Street and we're there, thank goodness everything's closed, Peka? where's Peka? well, someone get her out of the dumpster, I don't care if she's hungry, we have to have shelter for the night, oh look, this store is still empty, goodness, we haven't been home for some time now, have we? and let's see, it says "Moved ... across ... the ... street ... Kewaunee ... Star" oh darn, it's locked, keep going, hmmmm, is that a tugboat tied up in the harbor? oh, here's the sign, Open 10-6, and a gangplank too, quick, girls, get on board, well, there has to be a corner where we can stay hidden but first things first, Peka, if you'll just return to that dumpster and see if there are any tasty tidbits lying about I could certainly stand a little snack ... "
The Chicken Band. "Settle down, girls, it's nearly ten a.m. and someone will be coming any minute, my, the crew on this tugboat had such comfy quarters, these drawers under the bunks will make dandy hiding places, why Hermengilda had to crawl down under the engines is more than I can figure out, unless she wanted to be close to her trombone, yes, she popped it into one of the engines and closed the top, Frusnelda, kindly lower your drumstick, no, not that drumstick, that drumstick, thank you, that was quite painful, goodness, it gets warm in here, doesn't it, Peka, Peka? I forbid you to lay an egg here, it's far too crowded, and ... shhhh ... I hear someone walking around, sounds like a little boy ... quiet ... AWK and what are you staring at, you little troll, that's right, go crying to Mom that there's a monster chicken in there, come on, girls, we'll have to make a break for it, someone get Hermengilda, we'll rendezvous behind the Coop, come along, Peka, into the drink and let's swim for it, oopsy-daisy! ... "
The Chicken Band. "Is everybody here? ...
that's the last time I get on a boat, way too crowded, Hermengilda,
is your trombone all right, play a little something on it, oo, well,
a little hammering here and there and it'll be right as rain ... now, the
Coop is not a healthy location for us, girls, too many of those
pickup trucks, what's that, Peka, oh, you think behind the dumpster, the
one where you found those delicious little snacks last night? well, it's
worth a try, but we'll have to split up and ... no, wait,
we're not going to sneak around town, that's what stray chickens do, we're
going down Milwaukee Street with our heads up and we're going to
find a place to stay like any other band, by golly, girls, we'll show them
what being chicken-hearted really means, now, "Be kind to your fine
feathered friend, for a hen may be somebody's mother ... " hit it, and
Frusnelda, square on the beat, that's the spirit ..."
The Chicken Band. "Is everybody all right? Sir, you almost ran us down ... may I have your license and ... what do you mean, we don't belong in the middle of the road, and don't even think about uttering that wisecrack ... Hermengilda, no, not now ... sir ... sir, we were conducting a parade, yes, we're Kewaunee's Own Chicken Band, what am I doing? I'm writing down the license tag on your pickup truck, that's what I'm doing, I'm getting sick of these Kewaunee pickup trucks, think they own the road, oh, Officer, I'm so glad you stopped ... no, we are not ... stray ... chickens .. oh, what's the use, come on, girls, oh my gosh, there's another pickup truck, and they're getting out ... they're headed this way ... Officer, I claim protective custody, our lives aren't worth a plugged nickel in this town! Oh, good, in the back of the squad car? in you go, Frusnelda, pick up that drumstick, yes, that drumstick, thank you, Officer, let's get out of here, oh Hermengilda, let's have a little snatch of song to cheer us up, let's see, how about Take the Last Train to Clucksville ... just extend the instrument out of the window in an unobtrusive manner, that's how ..."
The Chicken Band. "Come on, Hermengilda, get out of the squad car now, that handsome young officer wants to talk to all of the parties to the accident on Milwaukee Street ... yes, you too, you roadhogging maniac, and don't you dare talk to me like that, if I weren't responsible for the welfare of my band, I'd ... yes, Frusnelda, come along, dear, right in here, oh dear, this certainly isn't a very big office, is it, Officer ... Hermengilda, would you please hold that trombone straight up, it's poking me in the ... all right, all of you, come in, well, Hermengilda, stick it out the window, for heaven's sakes, do I have to think of everything for you? ... good Lord, here come all those people in the pickup truck, I don't know how they're going to get in here with all of us and the police and Godzilla's brother-in-law there, well, the same to you, buster, and many of them ... Peka, stop jostling ... yes, Officer? Oh, I'm over here in the corner, I know you can't see me but shout and I'll hear you, Hermengilda, not now, AWK Officer, that woman in the pickup truck is trying to kidnap me ... Madam, the Kewaunee Police only fire one warning shot and then it's Good Night Marie, so let go of me right this instant ... Officer! Officer! Help!"
The Chicken Band. "You're from the Sheriff,
I see, well, officer, I mean deputy, it's perfectly
simple, this insane trucker, this man standing right here trying to look innocent, nearly killed us all
as we were marching down Milwaukee Street, what? parade permit? no, no, you don't understand, I can see I'd better fill you in, why would you want to talk with the police officer, he's just been trying to get the facts and I was telling him the whole story, but he's so handsome I kept getting distracted, then that woman, no, that fiend from the pickup truck tried to abduct me, I know she has murder in her heart ... Hermengilda, dear, I do think you can stop playing now, what? oh, the deputy says he would like you to stop playing too, really, deputy, it isn't a vile racket, it's Cheap Chopped Chicken Feather Rag, please, everybody, the deputy says if you all could stop yelling for just a minute ... "
The Chicken Band. "All I said, Deputy,
was that I don't think Kewaunee Police headquarters is the place
to settle all this, it's far too crowded, I mean this homicidal
used his car phone to call his brother-in-law and his cousin, as if they
could testify about anything, and as for you, madam, if you think
you'll get away with abducting a chicken here, even with the assistance
of that squinty-eyed husband of yours, or those children, if you can call
them children ... what? ... Peka,
no, dear, this is not the
moment to perch on the Chief's desk, oh dear, not another egg, I
assure you, Officer, it's the
stress ... oh, is that your phone
ringing? Reinforcements? Good Heavens, Deputy,
look out the window, we're surrounded, I can't see who they are
with the headlights shining in like that ... Hermengilda, please,
not now! If you don't pull that trombone in it's likely to AWK they shot
your trombone? Deputy, what is going on? Oh, the Sheriff's
emergency response team, surely there must be a non-violent way
to resolve this ... oh dear, I feel faint ... "
The Chicken Band. "Oh, Hermengilda, I just
don't want to talk about it, all those Sheriff's deputies and Kewaunee
police (oo, they were all so handsome!) pointing guns at us poor
chickens, and when that State Police chopper came in overhead and they
starting shouting through that bullhorn, that was the end, just
the limit, even the lunatic quieted down, well, our complaint
has been withdrawn, and it's all over, and Etheldreda, a little
quieter on that tuba, please, I have such a headache, and I have
think ... oh girls, how about seeing if Macy's Parade in New
York might have forgotten our last ... really, Frusnelda, there's
no need to be rude ... "
The Chicken Band. "Well, girls, this whole encounter with law enforcement has certainly given us a lot to think about, but we must put it behind us and look forward and upward, well, except you, Etheldreda, kindly keep your eyes on the ground so you don't trip, dents in a Helikon tuba are so hard to hammer out, ... anyway, girls, somehow we don't seem to have found our true calling as yet, parades and athletic events haven't exactly worked out, have they, what with court costs and medical bills, what's that, Frusnelda, TV? no, dear, we don't have time to watch TV right now, oh, you mean go on TV? ... hmmmmm ... "
TV Stars Always Have Power English Muffins
The Chicken Band. "Oh girls, I'm so excited, I telephoned Cousin Ethelfrida in California, you remember she bailed us out after that unfortunate Rose Bowl incident? and I told her about Frusnelda's inspiration, that we should bring our unique musical talents to television, and she was just overcome, she could hardly speak for several minutes, but she says she'll fly in this week, no, Hermengilda, on an airplane like a civilized chicken, and Cousin Mechtilda is volunteering her services to handle sound equipment, although I did warn her that "dynamite sound" does not include actual dynamite, but in the meantime we must address ourselves to repertory, yes, Peka, we'll certainly include 'Take the Egg Train', and girls, we all need to lose a little weight, you know what they say about the camera adding pounds ..."
The Chicken Band. "Well, girls,
Cousin Ethelfrida just called, and she won't be able to fly in here
to help out on our television debut, but we discussed strategy at length,
and she feels that it's necessary to begin with a special, a show
for the Christmas season, with music and comedy and possibly a celebrity
guest star, and I pointed out to her that we already
and I won't dignify her answer by repeating it, but all the same
she has a point, and I'd like some suggestions about guest stars,
yes, Peka, oh, the dishy Titanic stud? well, he might be a trifle
expensive, being so popular, but good heavens, what's a telephone for
if we can't just call someone? Now, let's run through "One o'Cluck
Rock," and Hermengilda, let's see some
rockin' hip action there,
and six seven eight ..."
The Chicken Band. "Oh, girls, pay attention now, I met a gentleman at Larry & Mona's (oo, he's so foxy!), and it seems he's been intimately involved with television production for years, and he was so struck with my scenario for our special, just speechless, I mean he actually went pale and clutched the table, and when he'd recovered he said he couldn't wait to hear us doing one of our signature tunes, what do you think, girls, perhaps Cheap Chopped Chicken Feather Rag? and here he comes, oh girls, I'd like you to meet Mr. Red Renard, Peka, not now, dear, do excuse her, Mr. Renard, it's just her way of handling stress, and we seem to have had a lot of that lately ..."
The Chicken Band. "Well, girls, Red Renard
and I had an extensive pre-production discussion over corn pancakes,
he says as a power breakfast it will wow those West Coast celebrities,
they're all sick to death of yogurt and underripe fruit, where was
I, oh yes, he was diplomatic but he agrees with me that we
all need to shed a few grams if we're to look our best for the cameras,
so corn pancakes, alas, will have to
go, and Hermengilda, do you
think you could learn to like yogurt,
really, Hermengilda, language
like that does not belong in a civilized group, oh dear,
I hope that the rigors of the show business lifestyle won't interfere with
our esprit de corn ..."
The Chicken Band. "Good morning,
girls, time for our first post-Christmas rehearsal, how is everyone feeling
after the holiday, I will admit I cheated a little on my diet, those
corn fritters with syrup, yum, but Frusnelda, what's this
I hear about you getting through six plates of corn pancakes, and
Hermengilda, platters of corn pone with butter are no help to your
diet either, and Etheldreda, I saw you squeezing into that tuba,
when you can't fit into a tuba you know you're in trouble, let's
face it, girls, it's yogurt, yogurt, yogurt, if we're going to be
a smash hit on television, what do you mean you're going on strike?
Girls, girls, oh dear, I feel faint ... "
The Chicken Band. "Oh, girls, I
don't have the heart to put you on a diet of yogurt and unripe fruit,
after all, we want to keep the zip in our step, and the heck
with the cameras, we'll just be the Chubby Chicken Band and if the producer
doesn't like it he can ... oh, Hermengilda, have you seen him in the last
day or two, I don't know where he's gotten to, he may be
clever, but Red Renard is a little too elusive for my taste, Frusnelda,
go on over to Larry and Mona's and see if he's doing that Power English
muffin thing again, and while we wait, girls, let's have a little run through
We're Cluckin' at them Pearly Gates, and one, two..."
The Chicken Band. "Oh, I should have known it was too good to be true, that scoundrel who passed himself off as Red Renard was that villain Reynard Fox, how could I have fallen for those sunglasses, and the silk jacket, and the pocket phone, and the Porsche, and the Power English Muffin thing, and the handkissing, and, and, oh, I'm so ashamed, and all that money we chipped in for production costs, he forged my chicken scratches on a check and it's all gone, every penny, and to think his face is posted in every chicken postoffice in the country, oh, I'm too dispirited to lead you, Hermengilda, will you take over, just for a little while, I need to roost and meditate and try to find some meaning in all this ..."
The Chicken Band. "Well, girls,
I've meditated my tailfeathers off, and it's clear to me now that
we were in error, trying to wallow in
vainglory, television could
only bring us
grief, and I think we had a Divine Warning, from now
on, it's live performance only, or possibly a CD? no, there
I go again, oh Hermengilda, maybe I should be playing trombone and you
should be leading, really, girls, chickens should be above
that kind of language, anyway, I
do think one good thing came out
of this, who'll join me at Larry & Mona's for a Power English Muffin?
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