Saturday, December 30, 2006

Chicken Peckings

Now what the heck is that title all about? And no "Bushism" to open with either, this is strange isn't it?

Are you sitting there asking yourself that? Well, sometimes things pop into my head from all kinds of other places, have not a thing to do with things going on today, or with society in general or my kids or grandkids -or well, with much of anything really. And, in the case of this post, that is sort of what's happened here.

But only "sort of" because you see, the idea of writing this episode from my life here came to me while I was reading some archived stuff on another website early this morning when I was unable to get to sleep and that reminded me of this event way back in my life.

It was Easter - the Saturday before Easter as a matter of fact - but whether I was four years old or five at the time, that part I don't remember exactly. But it was in that time span anyway.

My Dad's one sister - the one notorious for being pretty much the "black sheep" of the family, had called our neighbor across the street to tell them to tell my mother to be sure to bring me up to the house where my older aunt lived. To clarify just a tad here - my Dad had three sisters and they were the youngest living members of his family. THere had been a set of twin boys between the older sister and the middle sister, but one had either been born dead or died shortly after birth and the other died at the age of 20. So, by the time I came along, these three aunt were the "babies" of the 10 children in my Dad's family.

Now, the reason my Aunt Sis had called the neighbor's house, was - obviously - because we didn't have a phone in our house. Not too many folks back then, in the late 40's, did have a telephone in their home along our street so we weren't really the "odd family out" in that respect. It wasn't all that big of a deal if someone needed to contact someone else on this street to call which ever neighbor was closest and ask them to relay a message to our family or the folks on either side of our house or across the road from us, on either side of the family who had what could be construed as the neighborhood telephone contact point.

And so, that particular Saturday, Mom and I had gone into town - she needed to pick up a few last minute groceries anyway I'm sure because it's highly doubtful she would have made the 12-mile drive (one-way) if she didn't need to go there for another reason other than to stop at my Aunt's home.

Now, before I proceed further, perhaps I should explain a little as to why, exactly, it was that Aunt Sis, the aunt who had made the phone call, was the black sheep aunt. She drank. Sometimes only a few drinks, sometimes a whole lot. While I can only ever remember seeing her pretty tipsy one time in my life and that was a few years after this took place, I would be willing to bet money that she had been imbibing in a few brews for this to have happened on that particular Easter Saturday.

Mom and I arrived at my Aunt Lizzie's house and I remember going directly to the kitchen where Aunt Sis proudly presented me with this box and gleefully exclaimed to me, "Happy Easter, Sweetie!"

I took one look into the box and was squealing and so excited and well, just flabbergasted at the Easter present this box contained. There, inside this cardboard box were 12, yep a whole dozen, baby peeps in just about every color of the rainbow. This was back in the day when many stores would sell baby chicks that had some kind of dye injected into them that produced peeps with red, pink, orange, green, blue, violet downy feathers. Cute as all get out they were too probably to every kid around but not necessarily so cute to parents who had an inkling about what it entailed to raise those peeps into chickens.

My Mom, accustomed by then to Aunt Sis's penchant for gift giving to her nieces and nephews at virtually every holiday was shocked beyond belief. Prior to this episode, all the gifts I had received from Aunt Sis consisted of a new stuffed toy animal for Valentine's Day, Easter, Fourth of July, my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas -and now and again, maybe an oddball stuffed toy that she happened to see and liked and decided it was a gift for "just because you are you and your my favorite little niece day" thing!

Mom normally was not the type of person to do or say anything that would make the least kind of a scene either. And with Aunt Sis, up until this gift, she really had no reason to get a bit radical about anything that had been given to me anyway.

But, when she looked in the box and saw what it was I was so happy and excited over - and counted that there were 12 of those rainbow colored peeps in there too - she lost it. Completely!

"OH NO! No, absolutely not! You've gone too far, way too far this time, Sis!" I can remember her saying. I think Aunt Sis may have indulged in a few beers prior to our arrival that afternoon too because, had she been fully sober, I doubt she would have had the crest-fallen look on her face to see and hear my Mom's consternation over this gift, so lovingly selected to be presented to me for my Easter present that year.

I don't recall the rest of the conversation in full, other than that I learned she had also given my cousin, Mikie, a box also containing the same number of peeps for the holiday too. Apparently Aunt Lizzie - Mikie's mother - was fairly well resigned to the aspect of how some of Aunt Sis's presents to the kids in the family might not meet with full accord but that arguing with her was also pretty much useless.

After at least an hour of haggling about this present, the inappropriateness of the gift, the fact my Mom insisted there was absolutely NO WAY she was allowing me to keep ANY of these peeps, under any circumstances, finally a deal was hammered out.

Aunt Sis insisted that since it was my Easter present from her, that Mom could not refuse to allow me to have these chicks but this time, Mom persevered until finally, they decided it would be fair that I could select three of these cute little things to take home with us. The other nine would be given then to my cousin Mikie and he could maybe be on his way to beginning his own poultry farm in his parent's back yard or something.

So, we left and drove home to watch the look of shock then on my grandmother's face as we carted this box containing these three baby chicks in it into the house. Grandma's opinion matched pretty much along the lines of my Mom's but she and Grandpa decided well, they supposed since it was only three of these creatures and they did still have the little chicken coop way down in the back yard that they could stay and have that spot as their home.

Peeps grow into full-sized chickens fairly quickly - that much I remember too and by that summer, the family also realized exactly what they were too. Chickens yes, but they were also banty chickens and all three just happened to be roosters too!

Banty chickens aren't quite as large as other chickens and there's a lot of truth to the expression often used to describe people of a slight build but with a nasty temperment - "madder than a banty rooster!" Believe you me, these three had to be the meanest, most miserable little roosters at least in our entire village, if not the whole township.

That summer, and the following years when I would be outside playing, wearing shorts that left my legs completely exposed, I paid a high price for having those three wonderful little members of the fowl group as pets. There didn't seem to be a day that went by but what one -if not all three of these little so-and-so's -didn't sneak up behind me and decide to peck a hunk of flesh out of the back of my legs. I looked like I had a terrible case of chicken pox or was in constant contact with nests of chiggers!

Now, you have to realize here - and this was probably high on my Mom's list of concerns about taking these peeps home to begin with - my Grandfather loved animals - all animals! Even these mean little buggers that pecked the heck out of my legs for at least two, maybe three summers in a row. This was the man who about 10 years or so earlier had owned two turkeys that he regarded as his "pets" and those things were even meaner, according to my Mom, than were these three little hellions. So, there was no way anyone was ever going to even think about these roosters becoming a Sunday dinner - not as long as he had a say in it anyway.

Well, little did he know but in the late spring, early summer of 1951, even Grandpa's protective nature about these animals was going to go out the door, flying in the wind.

A family had recently purchased the house next door to ours - a family that had lots and lots of children as well as small grandchildren too. And one Saturday afternoon, while the patriarch of this clan and his oldest daughter's husband were working on getting the house fixed up for them to move in there, the oldest granddaughter was playing peacefully enough in the alley separating our property when all of a sudden, there was such a horrible noise and screaming coming from the alley, everyone in the neighborhood dropped whatever it was they were doing and came running to see what was happening.

As it turned out, there was Rosemarie, the granddaughter, with one of these mean, nasty little banty roosters on her back, clinging to her with his talons and pecking away at her shoulders and neck. Her Dad and Grandfather pulled him off her, she was checked over by her Mother, Grandmother, my Mom and Grandma too and ascertained she hadn't sustained any serious injuries except for the fact she was absolutely terrified of that chicken or either of the other two roosters as well.

The next day, being Sunday and the day my Grandma ALWAYS sat down and wrote letters to each of her sons and daughters, one letter that day went out to my aunt and uncle who lived up in Jamestown, New York. That uncle also just happened to be a butcher or meat-cutter by trade too. And the first thing she put in that letter was that "Butch has to come home next weekend and will have to kill these three chickens here." (My uncle's given name was Albin but most everyone just called him Uncle Butch because of his trade.) Grandma went into a little detail to him and my aunt, her daughter, as to what had happened but the law had been made and passed by Grandma and my Mom that this was the end of the happy home for those three roosters.

The next Sunday afternoon, we dined royally on roast chicken!

1 comment:

gale said...

Jeni, I loved it, my wife had a whoop ass turkey. It finally got to the point where I had gottened whuped for the last ime and not so calmly explained she was going to have to decide between my and the bird. I'm still here.