I grew up on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania. Our farm was not a dairy farm or a horse farm, but a farm with a menagerie of animals; rabbits, ducks, pigs, a few heifers, one bull, several cats, and a beagle named, Buddy. Oh, I left out the dreaded chickens, a few possessed roosters, and three or four guinea hens that acted like terrorists. The first list of animals were sweet, cute, and always brought a smile to my face. However, the second list scared the daylights out of me!
A journey down memory lane……..
I remember begging Mom not to send me to the hen house. She looked at me with her twinkly sky blue eyes, straight face, and listened as I gave my reasons for not collecting the eggs. As I remember it went something like this, ” But Mom, the chicken’s don’t like me. They won’t give up their eggs. The rooster pecks at my legs. And Mom, you will never guess what that dumb red rooster did yesterday!” Mom just kept staring at me, not saying a word. I continued, ” Mom, that rooster started scratching the straw on the floor, then, ran and flew high, and landed right on top of my head!” She kept looking at me, then said, ” Now, Cindy, they are just being chickens, and stop exaggerating about the rooster. He never bothers me. Now go do your chores.” ” But Mom!” “Go,” replied Mom as I slowly walked out the door. I took baby steps with my head hung low, dreading those chickens, when suddenly, I heard Mom, laughing and saying, ” That Cindy, she sure does have an overactive imagination!” I sighed and thought, ” I am not making it up, those chickens really don’t like me!” As I passed each cat and kitten, I shared my story about the wretched chickens. When, suddenly, I heard a voice, that made me pick of the speed. ” Cynthia! You have fifteen minutes to feed the chickens and collect the eggs! It was Dad. I knew better than to doddle. Then, as I quickly told the last cat my dreaded story, I had an idea.
I quickly ran back into the house and swiped my mother’s straw hat off the hook in the kitchen. It was the hat, Mom wore when she worked in the garden. Then, I ran up to the orchard and found a long stick, longer than my arm. I was ready!
As I entered the barn, I saw Dad feeding the heifers, so I bent over and quickly and quietly ran through the barn. However, I forgot that the back barn door squeaked and as I pushed it opened, all I heard was, creak, then a slam. Once again, I heard laughing, this time. is was Dad. I kept thinking, ” What is it with all the laughing today?”
Please say a prayer for me…….
I would be brave. I was prepared. I would conquer the red rooster, and I would get those eggs! As I stood at the dreaded door, I took a deep breath, checked to see if my hat was on right, grabbed hold of the stick, and slowly opened the door. I walked in, scanned the room, and to my surprise, the alien red rooster was eating and not paying attention to me.
The hens seemed content sitting in their boxes. I softly left out a breath and walked over to the first hen. I took my stick and very gently lifted her up just far enough to reach in and get her large, white egg. When suddenly, I realized that I had forgotten the egg basket!
I turned and went back out the door, opened the squeaky barn door, bent down, and quickly ran back, through the barn, hoping dad would not see me. As I approached the small white shed where we kept the egg basket, I remembered, Mom had taken it in the house.
So, I took Mom’s straw hat off, put the stick by the door and ran as fast as I could up the sidewalk. I opened the back door and stopped to see if my mother was in the kitchen. She wasn’t there, however, I heard her beautiful voice singing one of her favorite songs. Mom was nearby. I dashed over to the sink, grabbed the basket and flew out the door, ran back to the white shed, put on Mom’s hat, grabbed the stick, stood by the door, check to see where Dad was, heard him talking to Blackie, the bull, bent down, ran through, the barn, opened the squeaky door, and once again, heard Dad laugh.
I stood by the chicken coop door, caught my breath, as I fixed the tan hat, held the stick, and opened the door very slowly. This time, the red rooster was nowhere to be found. I decided to start at the last hen box since the rooster was not there to bother me. I used my stick to raise the hen, and as that white, cackling girl, pecked at the wood, I grabbed her egg! That was easy. In fact, the rest of the hens cooperated very nicely. My hen stick really worked! When all of a sudden, I heard something familiar. As I turned around, there he was in all of his glory, standing tall like a statue, right by the little chicken door that led out to the barnyard.
I swallowed hard and slowly started walking over to the door. The rooster started scratching at the straw, then stopped and looked at me. I froze and for a few seconds, it looked like we were having a staring contest. You know, like the contest, to see who would laugh first. But I wasn’t laughing. The rooster headed toward me and before I knew it, he was on top on Mom’s hat! His claws dug into the hat several times while I shook my head. Finally, he flew off and I ran out the door. As I stood shaking, I took my mother’s hat off and there it was……..
I put my hat back on my head and this time walked with my head held high back through the barn, put the basket of eggs in the shed, and headed to the house. Mom and Dad were having coffee, as I walked in the kitchen. They both stopped and looked at me for a few minutes. I stood there and did not say a word. The hat said it all!
My heartfelt feelings……..
Writing this story brought back a lot of fond memories of life on the farm. Even though I struggled with those chickens and that rebel rouser rooster, I would not have traded that time in my life for anything.
What is your favorite memory from your childhood?