from the book Island Avenue

Rev. Dunham and his wife lived next door to us in an imposing brick home. He was the minister at
the Congregational church. I have no memory of him other than the remembrance that I was not to play in
his yard. Our yards were fenceless, and a sea of lilies and shrubs lay between our properties.

Rev. Dunham had one thing that separated him from our other neighbors. He had chickens, but these
were not normal city chickens. They were free souls and wandered about his property, occasionally strutting
their way thorough the lilies into our yard where they'd do what chickens do, with gusto. It did not take long
for my mother to weary of this contribution to the environment. After an attempt to repel the fowl visitors with
her broom, and, after long consideration, rejecting the idea to cook Chicken ala Dunham, my mother
telephoned the minister's wife.

"I'm so sorry, my dear. I will tell Rev. Dunham," came the reply.

When a week went by and the visitors were still depositing their contributions in our territory, mom expressed
her great exasperation to my dad.

"Bill, you've got to do something about those chickens before I lose my mind!"

Mom was always losing something. I remember looking all over the house for her belt one day while mom
fumed about what happened to it, only to find she was wearing it hidden under her sweater.
Dad, wishing to have domestic tranquility, decided to act. My father had a close relationship with the Humane
society, as he had worked there and knew the ins and outs of animal regulations in the city of Toledo.
Now that one thing had led to another, he called the authorities. The Dunham's chickens were duly corralled, and all
seemed at last tranquil in inner city Toledo. A few days went by, and we were able to once again concentrate on
our own problems. The Dunhams ruffled feathers would be smoothed, and all would be well once again.

Friday night about 10 o'clock there was a knock at our door. My father cautiously turned the knob, and opened
the door. Standing on our porch, with a bright flashlight in our eyes a tall police officer began speaking,

"One of your neighbors has complained that you have a creaking chimney, and they are unable to sleep because of the noise."

"What was that Bill, what did they say?" my mother inquired.

Before she could get an answer, my father, obviously peeved, led the officers outside and positioned them beneath
our chimney to see what could be done about this disturbance to our neighbors domestic tranquility. It could be that we
were violating their constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The chimney was on the far side of the house away from the Dunhams' property, and at that time there was a vacant
lot between us and the next house, as well as over 70 yards of open space. As the officers listened to the occasional
creak of this chimney, they observed that the minister must be gifted with supernatural hearing, but this was not a case
for ordinary mortals like themselves. They suggested we work out our differences with our neighbors.

After they left, I went to bed. My room was only 15 feet from the chimney. I opened my window and lay in bed to
listen to the creaking. But try as I might, the next thing I knew it was morning, and I never did hear the chimney creak.
Perhaps the Reverend, because his attention was upwards, heard things the rest of us mortals were unable to receive.

This did nothing to encourage my father to return to church. He had gotten turned off by a Sunday School teacher's
behavior when he was a boy and had not yet returned. My mother, however, regularly took my sister and me to the
Congregational church. She had grown up in a Methodist family, and her father had been head deacon over the Sunday
school. While the meeting went on over my head, I attended the class in the basement where I would distinguish myself
by playing in the sandbox. I was really waiting for my favorite part, shaking hands with the minister as we walked out the door.
I loved to feel those big hands encompass my little hands. It gave me some concept of who God was.

One Sunday as we stood in line I had a revelation. I finally realized the minister was none other than the Reverend Dunham
himself. Reflecting on all that had happened I was tempted to make creaking noises as I approached those big hands. I was
practicing quietly when I looked up and his hands were reaching out for mine. As I put my hands in his palms I forgot the
chimney and the chickens.

Hands bigger than the Reverend's were somehow holding us all.

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