Excommunication By Chicken

When I was a boy in a little farm village in upstate New York, my grandfather and the 10 Tobys (all of his dogs were named Toby) were unceremoniously and permanently expelled from church, much to my grandfather's vexation. He cared nothing for his own religious instruction, but, because he wasn't particularly expert in the category, felt the Tobys could benefit from the moral guidance.

My grandfather did a lot of work for the church, and had been given (he called it "incarcerated in") his own private section — because he refused to attend without his pipe or his dogs. "Smoking is how I pray," he insisted, so a section was cordoned off for him, the Tobys, and his pipe. He had a corner in the back near a window so his smoke could escape, and he was relatively pleased, though he occasionally became bored.

The cause of his estrangement from the church was a chicken named Mirabelle that somehow managed to slip in through a church window. Appropriately, the ensuing dog/chicken mayhem was nothing short of Biblical. Mirabelle flapped from one parishioner's head to another as the Tobys scrambled between the pews, knocking down children, getting stuck under seats, yowling, barking and leaping into the air as the chicken desperately tried to maintain altitude. Parishioners shrieked and dove for cover, the pastor levitated two feet in a supernatural updraft of personal outrage, and my grandfather sat in his roped-off corner, puffing his ever-present Falcon pipe with a sparkle in his eye recognizable only to his closest kin as amusement.

Appropriately, the ensuing dog/chicken mayhem was nothing short of Biblical.

Finally, as the carnage expanded to every corner of the church and parishioners fled to the street, my grandfather emptied his pipe of the Granger he'd been smoking, refilled it with Carter Hall, and lit up. It was how he signaled the dogs. Granger meant "at ease," while Carter Hall meant "heel." As soon as he lit it, the Tobys returned to him and sat at his feet. One of them had Mirabelle cradled in his jaws and placed her, unharmed, in my grandfather's lap, where she clucked at him about the indignity of the cataclysm. People started reorienting themselves and picking up various detritus left in the swath of the dog/chicken typhoon.

The pastor was not in a mood for turning the other cheek, especially when he discovered cornmeal spread on the sill of my grandfather's window. "What makes you think I put it there?" he asked, but the pastor just huffed and walked away.

That's how my grandfather's Sundays became available for fishing.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Editorial Humor Pipe Culture Satire


    • Jeremy S. on March 14, 2019
    • This story reminds me of the time that squirrel went berserk in the First Self Righteous Church in Pascagoula...

    • Jon DeCles on March 18, 2019
    • I am pretty sure I have read this story before, but it was long enough ago that I loved it all over again. Has a certain Twain twang to it that the author appropriates for the most highly cultural of reasons, which is to say humor. Thanks!

    • Ken the Dire Daddy on March 21, 2019
    • So, when God opens a window (and puts chicken scratch on it), He opens the door to go fishing?

      Since I take all things from Mr. Chuck as canonical, I will with all haste endeavor to consistently use a single tobacco to mean a single thing, to my dogs and others less worthy critters.

    • Mike Wadel on July 23, 2019
    • So are there 10 Tobys or 6 ??

    • Chuck Stanion on July 23, 2019
    • Mike Wadel:

      Both. This story tells about how my grandfather's pack of dogs grew from six to 10. In all the other grandpa stories, here and in _P&T_ magazine, there are 10 Tobys.

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