My memory of the wall is tinged with blue-green. A very pale blue-green, mind you.
I honestly don’t know if it’s real, or hopelessly colored and skewed by more than half a century.
I scoured old photographs this morning looking for it. Surely this white-washed cinderblock wall, with a hint of aqua, so prominent in my memories of Kagnew Station would show up in some pictures.
When I was 2 years old until I was just barely 5, my father was stationed at an army base in Ethiopia. My earliest memories are from there, but have been reduced largely to color.
Kagnew Station was blue-green.
Fort Devens was red-brown, like the color of bricks. Our address there was drilled into me, 84D Walnut Street.
Similarly, the distance between the earth and the sun was drilled into my youngest brother after we moved to Cooperstown.Why he needed to know that distance was beyond me, but my parents and older siblings made sure he could recite it, asking him often, “How many miles to the sun?” My tow-headed little brother would answer, “93 million miles,” and we would cheer.
That’s a memory draped in the lush green of Cooperstown and farm land and maples in summer.
But the wall around Kagnew Station — I remember my mother warning me about it. “Don’t go beyond it,” she said, “because there are rabid chickens on the other side.”
In my head, now, I know that’s ridiculous. I’m sure she never said a word about rabid chickens.
For one thing, rabies only affects mammals. I learned that as an adult when a veterinarian friend gave a presentation on rabies to our homeschool group. When he made that statement – rabies only affects mammals — I blurted out, “But what about chickens?” He looked at me long and hard, waiting to see if I was serious. Unfortunately, I was. The seed had been planted decades before.
For another, I don’t think the wall around the base was very high. A chicken could have flown over it.
My working theory is this: my mother warned me to stay away from the wall. I had heard my father talking about the dangers of rabies. At some point I saw a chicken fly over the wall. It all mashed together, like when bits and pieces of life swirl together into the implausible reality of a bizarre dream.
A rabid chicken sounds so dramatic, too. Picture an innocuous chicken. Add some drool and a deadly virus. Like Chanticleer meets Old Yeller. Maybe that was the scariest image 4-year-old me could conjure up.
The memory is covered in a pale blue-green haze.
In the meantime, I have an assignment to write about a place (#sorryLaura) and this is what came out.
Like a rabid chicken.