You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy. Commentator Andrew Parsons grew up on one and wonders if it was ever in him to begin with.
HOST INTRO: You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy. Commentator Andrew Parsons grew up on one and wonders if it was ever in him to begin with.
I had been living in New York City for two years when someone offered me a rescue chicken. For me, it was a no-brainer. She was docile, curled up on my lap like an awesome feathered cat and had a great backstory.
Lady Albert had been found running down the streets of Brooklyn missing all her neck feathers followed by an old man yelling “chicken soup, chicken soup.” My friend Kate and some friends took picked her up and offered her to me. I accepted because she reinforced an identity that I had spent my years in New York flaunting. I was a country boy, a hillbilly.
I grew up in the woods of Pennsylvania, my parents had chickens and ducks. We grew acres of vegetables. So I brought my love of the outdoors to Brooklyn. I walked around my first job barefoot, grew a beard and climbed trees at every chance. Everyone said oh that’s just Andrew – yeah, he’s from a farm. And he owns a chicken.
Lady Albert lived in my backyard and was invited into my apartment for parties. A few years later, a raccoon broke into her cage and killed her. I was devastated, a grieving farmboy.
But shortly after Lady Albert died, my Uncle Jim died. He’s my father’s little brother and we shared a middle name. My dad is a university professor fluent in three languages. He’s from a small town in West Virginia, the only one of his 5 siblings who went to college. And the only man in his family who hasn’t worked in a coal mine. My Uncle Jim never even went to high school.
I hadn’t spent time with my Dad’s side of the family for years but I did my best to update them on my life. It was hard to explain what I did when I said I produced radio documentaries. I hoped to impress them by talking about Lady Albert – but in Peyton City, West Virginia a lot of people own chickens. So I meandered through the family gatherings listening, more than talking.
After everyone had gone to sleep, my father poured shots of tequila for the two of us. He said it meant a lot to him that I had come to Uncle Jim’s funeral. He recognized that it wasn’t exactly my comfort zone.
“You’re not hillbilly,” he said. “After a few days here, I can blend in but I know it’s not easy for you.” And he was right. He had been the one to leave the country and become a fish out of water. Yeah, my parents owned chickens and some farmland but I never did much farm work. I spent most of my childhood going to private schools, not milking cows at sunrise.
So when I came back to the city, I didn’t exactly change who I am. I still love chickens, flannel shirts and my ample beard. But my father worked hard to ensure that I my life wasn’t his. I recognize that I’m a sum of my parts – and I’m one part city-person too.
BACK ANNOUNCE: Andrew Parsons knows that in the end he’s probably just another Brooklyn hipster.