A Memory

In the places where I grew up, 4-H was a pretty big deal. It was something we elementary school kids looked forward to every month.  I always wanted to participate in the poster contest; it was my favorite activity.  I never won which was my greatest disappointment.  The year I was certain I’d made the best poster Dinah Stafford beat me with her “Burst into 4-H” theme and picture of a giant balloon.  I was crushed.   I needed a salve for my bitter heartbreak and lit on the perfect thing when they passed out the forms used to sign us up for the spring activities: farm animals!  The only thing that would soothe me was a bunny rabbit.  I would sign up to raise a bunny rabbit and be healed.  Unfortunately, bunny rabbits were bought at a higher price than I knew we could afford.  I signed up for the next best thing which was chickens.  Actually, a pig was the next best thing but a pig cost more than a rabbit.  Chickens it would be!  They were free!

I rocked merrily along, knowing my chickens would soon arrive. I was pretty excited about it.  Unfortunately my excitement never carried over into a conversation with Madre and Poppa about those chickens.  Their first inkling at my new endeavor came in the form of a note I brought home with the date and time I was to pick up my chickens, a whole week away.  Oh, I learned some new bad words then.

Poppa spent that whole week building a chicken coop for me.  I learned even more bad words during that time.  There was a lot of hammering and huffing and swearing but I had the prettiest chicken coop you ever did see by the time those chickens came home. 

Madre drove me over to the co-op (or wherever I was supposed to go – it’s been a few years) and there we got 25 baby chicks.  Oh, mercy, they were cute.  Little yellow balls of fluff that made tiny little noises and had no equilibrium at all.  They fell over each other and slept on top of each other and got stuck under the water bottle.  They pooped everywhere.  I didn’t mind. I fed and watered them every morning and night, cleaned out the newspaper in the bottom of their box and tucked them in under the warmer for the evening’s rest.  When they were large enough, I put them into their new chicken coop and again, fed them every morning and night.

Those baby chicks grew into the prettiest Rhode Island Reds, if you can call chickens pretty.  They had roosting boxes where they laid eggs.  Have you ever had farm fresh eggs?  The yolks were so yellow they were almost orange.  Also, it takes chickens a while to lay eggs correctly so sometimes you’d get a weird oblong cylinder egg, sometimes an egg with two yolks, sometimes an egg that would barely crack it was so tough.  I collected and sold those eggs and bought my first ten speed bike with that money. 

In the fall, I had to take five of my chickens to the fair to be judged.  I sort of knew this would happen but I didn’t know that those five chickens would be auctioned off to purchase the new chicks for next year.  I gathered up my five favorites, fat little birds with some serious attitude.  We loaded them up and took off for the judging.  When we got there, we watched in fascination as the judges weighed each chicken, measured the breast bone, checked the combs and the feathers and the feet and the beaks.  I didn’t really understand why the judges kept coming back to my five chickens until the winners were announced.  I WAS THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER!  I WAS THE MASTER OF RAISING CHICKENS!  I WAS SO PROUD!  It was probably best that I didn’t tell them that the one chick who got stuck under the water bottle when it was a baby suffered a broken leg that never healed right and was crippled as an adult.

After the judging, they began the chicken auction.  I remember looking at Madre with confusion.  “What are they doing?  Why are they acting like they are going to sell my chickens?”  Madre gently explained that the money would buy chickens for a 4th grader the next year. I got teary-eyed and shy.  Those were my babies.  Madre, a farm girl herself, seemed to understand without me saying a word and so she began to bid on my chickens. Someone kept bidding against us and we ended up paying $40 dollars for those five chickens that I had gotten for free.

With relief I rode home with Madre in her truck, clutching my purple grand prize ribbon and my trophy with the chicken on top, every so often looking in the bed of the truck at my award winning chickens. 

Madre and Poppa still have chickens today.  All that cussing and swearing and hammering Poppa did?  I’ll have you know he is the one who every night wanders out to lock those chickens in the chicken house to keep them safe from predators.  He is the one who collects the eggs.  He is the one who makes sure every scrap that would be remotely appealing to a chicken is saved and tossed into the pen with their nightly dinner.  Big old softie.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Woney
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 09:23:54

    This made me smile on a day I really needed something to smile about. Thank you! 🙂


  2. studiobukowski
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 09:31:54

    What a great memory! It made me smile and then I teared up at the end when you shared that Poppa takes care of those chickens. You have some great folks, Jimmie.


  3. Felix
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 14:51:03

    AWE!!!! What a touching memory! Thanks for sharing it with us.


  4. antonia
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 19:55:09

    THAT was an awesome memory! Thank you for sharing that 🙂


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