Random Acts of Poetry

By Mike Heenan
Literary Editor
True North Perspective

Many of us, as kids in the '50's, had our own versions of "Boo" Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Proper mental health care just wasn't there and the afflicted had to make do at home or be banished to the "Looneybin" in Brockville.

At MacLaren's Landing we kids had our beloved Henery "Chickenhawk" Dolan. He'd earned his nickname by leaping out an upper barn door and snaggin a marauding Chickenhawk on the wing in mid-air.

He limped for the rest of his short life, but was our local hero for this unique act of derring-do, and his many kindnesses to folks of all ages in MacLaren's Landing. 

Henery “Chickenhawk” Dolan

Henery got his first name, ‘cuz
He came to the end of the branch,
Where the family tree don’t fork no more
And the brothers get the ranch.

Henery figured that out and said,
“I don’t mind, ‘cuz they’ll tend her well.”
Old Henery knew he was born to fight
The forces that came from Hell.

First miracle that I recall,
How Henery earned his name,
Was flying’ off the high barn door
And breakin’ his leg for lame

But 'neath his outstretched form in red
Lay a Chickenhawk  … real dead.
Now Henery wore an old straw hat
His Grandma wove for him

An’ he slipped two feathers from that hawk
Boldly in the brim.
He limped around The Landing
And worked a patch or two

For cottagers with gardens
That needed tending to.
He’d turn the earth at springtime
And mow the lawns in June

He’d help bring cottage harvests in
Then turn the earth in fall
He never charged the widows
Nor folks who couldn’t cope at all,

He’d just grin & say,
“I’ll catch youse in the spring.”
When spring rolled by he’d drawl,
“I’ll catch youse in the fall.”

When Henery turned 36, he got to drive the truck
And took us Landing Kids to dance
To the tunes of the Family Buck.
We leapt to the fiddle and sprang and pranced

Til Henery “had to go home,” he sed.
At 10:00 p.m. from The Bay we lay,
Staring at moonlight, in his old truck bed
With all around us sweet-mown hay.

And we were all from Mars.
Loving this visit to the Earth
And the smell of working sweat and hay
Gave us all a sense of worth.

With Henery driving through Woodlawn
Farm lights we’d seen a hundred times
From  Constance Bay to old Kilmaurs
Some turned off and some still on.

He’d drop us off and we floated in
To our soft beds through parents’ din.
“Have fun?” they’d say and never know
The mysteries of youth that glowed.

One Friday noon we’re told to stay
Until the Fireman had their way
To scraping Henery off The Oak
We’d all climbed together and thought a joke.

Because it was so strong and clean
We never thought it could be mean
Enough to crush his truck and splatter
Henery’s parts and vital matters.

With paper bags we picked up bits
Of Henery the Firemen missed.
But he started to stink within two days,
So we fired his parts with cedar and maize.

He gave us life, yet took his own
For a pain so hard he’d never shown.
But he let us know with his own grace
That our Old Oak was a Holy Place.

© Mike Heenan, 2008

Mike Heenan BA, BJ, MA