How Big Chicken Stole Chesapeake Bay

Bill Dennison ·
25 December 2014
Science Communication | 


This blog was posted three weeks ago on Christmas Day, and since that time I have received extreme praise as well as extreme condemnation. I was striving for neither of these reactions. For those people who felt that this parody was in poor taste or felt that it was an affront to them, I apologize. It was intended as a whimsical parody of a holiday favorite. It is my opinion that agricultural solutions to developing sustainable practices that do not harm Chesapeake Bay are NOT likely to derive from onerous legislation or overly prescriptive incentive programs, rather they ARE likely to derive from within the agricultural community applying their ingenuity and creativity. I have had the good fortune of meeting very talented and committed people in the agricultural community who are doing amazing things every day to grow the food we eat while protecting the environment and I would never intentionally disparage their efforts.


I have always loved the Christmas classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). I consider the best part of the story to be when the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes, representing his redemption. I look forward to when the poultry industry on the Delmarva peninsula can continue to prosper while retaining the ecological integrity of Chesapeake Bay, in short, having its heart grow three sizes.

                                   How Big Chicken Stole Chesapeake Bay

William C. Dennison

Every WhoDelmarva

Over in Delmarva

Loved Chesapeake a lot...


But Big Chicken,

Who lived in the middle of Delmarva,

Did NOT!


The Big Chicken hated Chesapeake! The whole Chesapeake Bay!

Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows what to say.

It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.Chicken-color



Whatever the reason,

His heart or his shoes,

He stood there next to Chesapeake Bay, hating the Whos,

Staring down from his processing plant with a sour, Chicky frown

At the warm lighted windows below in their town.

For he knew every Who down in the Delmarva clan,

Was busy now, making a watershed implementation plan.


normal_ian-symbol-inputs-nutrients-2"And they're reducing their nutrients!" he snarled with a sneer.

"Tomorrow is the Chesapeake agreement! It's practically here!"

Then he growled, as his chicken claws nervously drummed,

"I MUST find a way to keep Chesapeake from being saved!"

For, tomorrow, he knew...


...All the Who Jimmies and sooks

Would wake up bright and early. They'd rush to balance the nutrient books!

And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

That's one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

Blue crab


Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.

And they'd feast! And they'd feast!


They would start on blue crabs, and rare oysters

Which was something Big Chicken couldn't stand in the least!



They'd do something he liked least of all!

OysterEvery Who over in Delmarva, the tall and the small,

Would stand close together, with Chesapeake songs ringing.

They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!


They'd sing! And they'd sing!


And the more Big Chicken thought of the Who-Chesapeake-Sing

The more Big Chicken thought, "I must stop this whole thing!

"Why for thirty years I've put up with it now!

I MUST stop Chesapeake from saving!

...But HOW?"


Then he got an idea!

An awful idea!




"I know just what to do!" Big Chicken Laughed in his throat.

And he made a quick waterman hat and a coat.

And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great Chicky plan!

"With this coat and this hat, I'll look just like a Waterman!"


"All I need is a skipjack..."

Big Chicken looked around.normal_ian-symbol-skipjack

But since skipjacks are scarce, there was none to be found.

Did that stop Big Chicken...?

No! Big Chicken simply said,

"If I can't find a skipjack, I'll make one instead!"

So he called his friend Max. Then he took some old float

And hoisted a big mast and he had a new boat.



He loaded some bags

Chicken-whiteAnd some old empty sacks

On a ramshakle boat

With his crew member named Max.


Then Big Chicken said, "Anchors aweigh!"

And the skipjack started down

Toward the homes where the Whos

Lay a-snooze in their town.


normal_ian-symbol-suburban-house-2All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.

All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care

When he came to the first house in the square.

"This is stop number one," The old Big Chicken hissed

And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.


Then he sailed around the Bay. Which made his tummy sicken,normal_ian-symbol-usa-md-va-chesapeake-bay-3d

But if John Smith could do it, then so could Big Chicken.

He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.

But Max jumped out and pushed, his obedient crew

And he sailed up the tribs from where the water flowed

That agreement, he realized, would lessen the nutrient load.


Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,

Around the whole Bay, and he took everything present!

Salt marshes! And clams! Aquatic grasses! Crabs!

Striped bass,! Croakers! Spot! And oysters!

And he stuffed them in bags. Then Big Chicken, began to pack,

Stuffed all the bags, one by one, into his skipjack!


Then he slunk to the icebox. He took each Whos' dish!

He took the Who-pudding! He took the rockfish!

He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.

Why, that Big Chicken even took their last can of Who-hash!


Then he stuffed all the food into the hold with glee.

"And NOW!" grinned Big Chicken, "It is all just for me!"


And Big Chicken grabbed the mooring lines, and off he began to shove

When he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.

He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who!normal_ian-symbol-leiostomus-xanthurus

Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.


Big Chicken had been caught by this little Who daughter

Who'd got out of bed for a cup of cold water.

She stared at Big Chicken and said, "Mr. Waterman, why,

"Why are you taking our Chesapeake Bay? WHY?"


But, you know, that Big Chicken was so smart and so slick

He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!

normal_ian-symbol-concentration-low-dissolved-oxygen"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Waterman lied,

"There's dissolved oxygen in this Bay that can't be restored on high tide.

"So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear.

"I'll fix it up there. Then I'll bring it back here."


And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head

And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.

And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup,

HE went to the skipjack and left the Bay stuffed up!



Then the last thing he took in large sets

Was all of the line for their fishing nets.

Then he went to the skipjack himself, the old liar.

On their walls he left nothing but fishhooks, and some wire.


And the one speck of food

That he left in the house

Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.normal_ian-symbol-suburban-house-4



He did the same thing

To the other Whos' houses


Leaving crumbs

Much too small

For the other Whos' mouses!


normal_ian-symbol-acipenser-oxyrinchusIt was quarter past dawn...

All the Whos, still a-bed

All the Whos, still a-snooze

When he packed up his boat,

Packed it up with their crabs! The oysters! The rockfish!

The sturgeon! And the shad! The bluefish! The muskrat trappings!


Two hundreds miles long! He sailed to the river Severn,

He sailed there to watch the agreement burn!

"Pooh-pooh to the Whos!" he was Chick-ish-ly humming.

normal_ian-symbol-sebastes-crameri"They're finding out now that no Chesapeake is worth saving!

"They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!

"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two

"The all the Whos over in Delmarva will all cry BOO-HOO!"


"That's a noise," grinned Big Chicken,

"That I simply must hear!"

So he paused. And Big Chicken put a hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising over the Bay.

It started in spurts. Then the sound began to stay...


normal_ian-symbol-familyBut the sound wasn't sad!

Why, this sound sounded merry!

It couldn't be so!

But it WAS merry! VERY!


He stared over at Delmarva!

Big Chicken popped his eyes!

Then he shook!

What he saw was a shocking surprise!


Every Who down in Delmarva, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without any rockfish at all!

He HADN'T stopped Chesapeake from being saved!normal_ian-symbol-oyster-3Dreef

The Agreement CAME!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!


And Big Chicken, with his chicken-claw feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?

It came without oysters! It came without cooks!

"It came without rockfish, jimmies or sooks!"

And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.


normal_ian-symbol-spartina-sppThen Big Chicken thought of something he hadn't before!

"Maybe Chesapeake," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.

"Maybe Chesapeake...perhaps...means a little bit more!"


And what happened then...? Delmarva they say

That Big Chicken's small heart

Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight,

normal_ian-symbol-morone-saxatilisHe sailed with his load through the bright morning light

And he brought back aquatic grasses! And the food for each dish!

And he...



Big Chicken filleted the rockfish!


* All images courtesy of the Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

Next Post > Salt marshes and Superfund sites – a trip to coastal Georgia

Post a comment