Don’t beak the chalk line

longtime sketch artist for Hallmark Cards, George Mackenzie recalled his
father’s story in his own autobiography of corporate life, Orbiting
the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace
published by Viking in

visiting his aunt and uncle’s Ontario farm, the young city boy bonded
with his cousin and the two 10-year-olds quickly set about making
mischief. One Sunday as the aunt and uncle prepared to leave for church
services, the youngsters feigned stomachaches so they could spend the
morning breathing in the freedom of the farm instead of the virtue of
the pews.

after the adults departed, the cousin asked Mackenzie, “Do you know how
to mesmerize a chicken?” Fascinated, the city boy watched as his country
cousin lifted a white hen from the coop and carried her to the front
porch. Picking up a piece of chalk, he drew a line down the porch. Then
he placed the chicken on the porch, pointed her beak to the chalk line,
and held it for a couple of minutes. When he finally removed his hand,
the chicken remained perfectly still. Mesmerized.

was so delighted by the sight of the mesmerized chicken that he
persuaded his cousin to do it again … and again … and again … until the
porch was lined with about 70 chickens. Seventy, beaks-down, tails-up,
perfectly still, mesmerized chickens.

The boys
couldn’t wait to show their handiwork to the adults, expecting them to
be amused by the whole thing. And they probably would have been amused
but for one small detail: They’d invited their strict Presbyterian
minister home to lunch.

uncle was so embarrassed to arrive with the preacher in tow to find his
porch lined with chickens and two mischief-making boys who’d so
obviously lied about their stomach ailments that he began kicking at the
chickens to bring them back to their senses. The chickens started
flapping and clucking, feathers started flying, the uncle started
swearing … and the minister turned his carriage and fled back to town.

So the
next time someone tries to mesmerize you into going along with something
you know isn’t in your best interest, no matter how inviting it sounds,
think about those chickens. Lift your beak, flap your feathers, and
start squawking. Let the world know, you will not just quietly beak the
chalk line.