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Yes, we have pleasant memories of Grandpa and Grandma (Carl and Bessie Warfel) coloring eggs, hiding them around the yard, and watching twenty to thirty of their youngest grandchildren and neighborhood children scatter around the yard, filling their baskets with those eggs. That was Easter and it was special.

Every other day of the year collecting eggs was a chore. Between the ages of eight and sixteen, it was my morning and late afternoon chore. Later in the evening Mother (and sometimes I) would wash, weigh, size, and candle those eggs, preparing most of them for the egg man, who came regularly to pick up the surplus eggs, and provide the egg-money that purchased a good share of our needs beyond what we raised ourselves. (Of course there also was the creamery, too, that collected the cream and butter that we did not need for our own needs, and contributed to those grocery funds.)

The chicken house was a dusty place, lined with three walls of double and triple-decker metal egg-laying roosts, designed so that the egg, once laid, would roll down a slight incline into a holding tray, and the chicken could not reach it, though some chickens still managed to peck at the hand of the collector when he was trying to pick up their eggs. Old brown cotton gloves were a necessary protection. The chickens were supposed to lay their eggs in those contraptions, but there was always a dissident chicken or four, who made their own nest somewhere in the chicken house, or, in the pleasant weather, they would find some other private spot in the chicken yard. That required that the egg collector do a systematic search and rescue of the whole space that the two hundred or so chickens occupied.

Chickens are nervous creatures, and the slightest unexpected movement or sound sent all of them fluttering and crowding, cackling and squawking in one direction of another, raising new clouds of dust. This was before the era of face masks. It wasn’t always the most pleasant of tasks, but it had its rewards, especially when we came to breakfast, to the baked goods that amply filled our bellies, and to the other edible coatings, devilings, and sauces that made the table so irresistible.

I never developed a proper respect for the chicken brain, but as I reflect upon it, they were understandably possessive of their bodily output, understandably wary of the clunky, awkward robber who stole their most valuable possessions, and remarkably cooperative in their roosting and laying their eggs over ninety percent of the time in those metal contraptions.

Someday I think I’ll raise chickens again. Right here in the middle of town, perhaps, if the city changes its rules in that regard. Or out at the farm. Yes, most likely there, out on the farm.

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