I got into poison ivy, and the itching is keeping me awake. Luckily, typing seems to help keep my mind off it . . . My grandmother was born one of four sisters to the most feminine, dainty, perfumed lady you can imagine, and to a man who loved nothing more than to work his ranch until you could barely see the man beneath the dust. Of the four sisters, my grandmother was the only one who inherited her father's interests. She made sure to marry a cowboy and always have a ranch to roam about on. Of course, chickens are a must on any proper ranch. Early in their marriage, my grandparents bought property and built a house on it. Red tailed hawks swept the skies, and my grandmother's free ranging chickens were doomed to disappear, one by one, into piles of bloodied feathers. My grandmother would clean up those piles in silent agony, quickly rushing off to do the many chores that could briefly take her mind off the birds of prey soaring above her in the clouds. That Christmas was a chicken-less one. But the family gathered that year at the new house, and general troubles were replaced by the troubles a woman has when acting hostess to numerous loving and hungry relatives. Inevitably, the hunger is sated and thoughts turn to the exchanging of gifts. The children were indulged first, while my grandfather sat, like a lord among his people, waiting for the moment when he could bestow complete and utter happiness upon his beloved. When the moment came, he handed my grandmother what every woman he knew lusted over in those days; a gorgeous mink coat. When opened, it caused a collective gasp of appreciation from my grandmother's sisters. My grandmother smiled brightly and thanked my grandfather profusely. Later that night, my grandfather was preparing for bed when he heard sobbing coming from the closet. He opened the door to find my grandmother clutching her knees and trying desperately to stifle her sobs. Her reason for the sobs startled him. She didn't want the coat. She hated the coat. How could you ride a horse in a mink coat? What good was any coat when you didn't have chickens, and why-oh-why couldn't a man read his wife's mind and realize that she wanted a hawk proof chicken coop for Christmas? What on earth could he have been thinking? A week later the hated coat was gone, and concrete was being poured to keep burrowing creatures out. Weak wire was voted down in favor of wire tough enough to withstand the most crafty of raccoons. Perches, nest boxes, automatic waterers and hanging feeders, and, of course, a wire top, to keep the missiles of the air out. My grandmother chose the paint more carefully than she had chosen the interior of her own home, and the joy in her eyes was not the facade of a well trained hostess. You can't fake true happiness. When the coop was finished, every neighbor, friend, and family member was sent fancy invitations to attend my grandparent's coop warming party. There was barbecue, punch, games, gifts and of course a delighted hostess with a husband who couldn't help but feel he had found something truly special in a wife. The guests gave a mighty cheer when my grandparents stood proudly by the coop, and my grandmother broke a bottle of wine against a corner post as though the coop was a ship, and all the guests went home late that night, with a deep sense of satisfaction at having celebrated something especially silly and wonderful. Since then, my grandfather has vowed to never again make the mistake of giving the special lady in his life fancy coats or expensive jewelry, and their many chickens have lived long, happy lives, unmolested by their soaring cousins in the sky.