Friday, August 27, 2010

My Boss, the Chicken Farmer

I have a job that can be quite stressful. Many of my work days are running from one crisis to another on top of managing a number of projects and overseeing the work of four planners. I absolutely love it. But like anyone, I seek down time and pursue activities that divorce my mind from the complexities and chaos of my work environment. I play golf, bang on drums, play poker, write, surf the internet. Those are my distractions.

My boss raises chickens.

To be more precise, free-range chickens.

We work in downtown Orlando. Big city. Traffic whizzing by on I-4 right outside our window. When my work day is done, I retire to my apartment in Altamonte Springs, about 9 miles from downtown. Tony, my boss, goes to his home in DeBary, about 25 miles away, and moves chicken coops. Because, as I have found out, that is the “free” aspect of “free-range” chickens. I have learned a lot from Tony about the proper way to raise chickens.

So, many evenings, as I am sitting in a dive bar somewhere in Orlando trying to catch my inside straight on the river to take down another poker player or figuring out how to finesse a 7-iron to a sucker pin placement, my mind diverts to the thought of Tony, after a hard day’s work supervising me and the other planning managers, chasing chickens around. This mental image brings a smile to my face.

Tony was born and raised (on the free range?) in Iowa. He’s a farm boy. There is a term I have heard - ‘Gentleman Farmer’ and I have to admit that I am not totally sure what it means. But for Tony it is a perfect phrase. He is a farmer, and he is a gentleman. Unflappable, friendly, patient, intelligent, calm, collected. Tony has a large role in our company and has to juggle a myriad of projects and responsibilities. He moves with ease from one subject to the next, showing an aplomb rarely found, but naturally emanating from him.

And he also raises chickens! I’m sorry, but I just have to chuckle at that.

Tony was telling me how one day, as the chickens were out free-ranging, he moved the coop. Because that is, as I have found out, how free-range chickens have to be raised in order to be free - you let them cavort about, feeling the freedom of their chicken lives, and presumably there is a quality introduced in their lives that makes for…tastier dinners later on, I guess. But anyway, he moved the coop. And when the chickens returned, being, well, bird brains, they could not find the coop…Tony moved it about a hundred feet. And he is relating this story with a huge smile on his face, a gleam in his eye and a chuckle in his voice - he duped his chickens.

So why am I writing this story? Because I think Tony’s choice of recreation can be a source of solace for those of us that are having a rough day. If you are finding life being a rough slog, maybe the spouse is nagging at you or the kids are being recalcitrant, picture Tony W, LYNX Director of Planning, chasing his chickens around.

I bet you’ll smile.

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