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Feather's Miscellany: Ben Boothman

Ben Bootham came up with the perfect sign when speeding motorists started to mow down his errant prize-winning hens, as John Waddington-Feather’s poem reveals.

Ben Boothman was a chicken-man,
who farmed on Lansdale Hill;
a canny man, like all his kind,
whose coffers he did fill.

He’d started with a small-holding,
ten acres up a track,
where few folk went, a tranquil place,
with peace and quiet we lack.

But Ben began expanding fast
and bought another lot,
which took his farm towards the road,
a hundred acre plot.

His free-range chicks went everywhere,
they ranged his entire land
and laid like clockwork every day
the finest eggs, quite grand.

He won the County Laying Cup,
grew famous far and wide,
continued breeding first-class chicks,
which were his joy and pride.

Yet pride, they say, precedes a fall
And so it was with Ben.
They built a highway through his farm
Which left him scarce a hen.

For maniac drivers sped along
and slaughtered Ben’s best hens,
which wandered on the mad roadway
and came to feathery ends.

In anguish Ben phoned up the man
who ran the County’s roads,
demanding that those driving fast
observed the Highway Codes.

They set up signs: “Go Slow”, “Take Care”
and others all the way
where drivers sped along the road:
“Slow down! Children at play!”

But not the least effect they had,
those drivers zoomed along
ignoring all the warning signs –
they knew not right from wrong.

Until the day Ben’s bright idea
brought speeding to a halt;
they crawled in line past Benny’s farm
with eyes stuck out like bolts.

For Ben had placed a dozen signs
with letters big and slick:

John Waddington-Feather ©


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