It would be tremendously educational to take a day to loaf around the Booneville Veterinary Clinic, watching Dr. Charles Miesner work. That is impractical, since it is a business and doctors have better things to do all day than answer foolish questions; but I figure we could learn a great deal by doing it.

During a recent visit to my mother’s house, we were watching her flock scratching in the back yard. The question came up between us: Do chickens have knees? (That fully qualifies as a foolish question.)

You laugh at that inquiry, I suspect, but do you have the answer? I was headed toward town to run an errand, so I stopped off at the clinic to ask the question. The pleasant young lady who works the front counter did not know, so we asked the Vet about it. (In order not to seem too silly, I posed the question in terms of horses instead of chickens, since horses’ hind legs bend the same direction as do chickens’ legs.)

The anatomy of equine legs is a good deal more complex than I realized. The good Doctor took a few minutes to give me an illustrated lesson concerning fetlocks, hocks and stifles – at which point my mental apparatus went into overload. However, I did ascertain that there is nothing on the hind legs of horses that are commonly called “knees.”

Of course, the answer to one question always raises another. Since horses do have hocks, I now want to know how one “rattles his hocks.” You will find that expression in many western novels. It obviously means to move in a hurry, but I do not know the specific derivation of the term. Perhaps the sound made by a galloping horse’s hooves might be comparable to a rattle?

Swine have hocks, just as horses do. After all, ham hocks are a common pork dish. However, I am not altogether sure that the term refers to exactly the same place on both animals. After all, we do not ordinarily eat horses, nor do we normally ride hogs. All of which raises the question, Can a pig rattle his hocks?

When I worked for a box plant in Fort Smith, our designer was the resident wit. He would pose some interesting questions. One of them was: What would chairs look like if our legs bent the other direction? There is one that will keep you occupied for a while.

Moving logically from there, if you had to design a chair for a horse, since his legs bend both directions, depending on which part of the horse you are discussing, how would you do it? See all the questions arising from that one brief trip to the vet clinic?

And thus far we have totally neglected our original question. Do chickens have knees? Since horses do not have knees on their hind legs, and since chickens have only hind legs, then I suppose it is reasonable to assume that they do not have knees.

But if chickens have hind legs, do they have hocks? And if they have hocks, then why do we not have a dish called chicken hocks like we do ham hocks?

And then there is the old expression from the 1920s concerning bees’ knees, but we do not have time to go there. As you can see, this whole matter of animal anatomy can swarm out of control in a hurry.

And all that stemmed from just a few minutes at the vet clinic. Wonderfully educational places, these clinics.