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Taking care of the biddies and stuff

Quite a while back I got a letter and a picture from my good friend, Angela Poellnitz Busch. The picture was of a mama duck and her ducklings walking about in Angela’s grandmamma, Lillie Whitcomb Poellnitz’s, barnyard down around Rembert Hills.

Angela remembered, as I recollect my own daddy did, of Ms. Lillie putting white, porcelain doorknobs in the nest to trick the hens into laying an egg to go with the “one” already in the nest. Angela recalled Ms. Lillie chopping a chicken snake in two to retrieve the doorknob swallowed by mistake by Mr. No Shoulders.

Some memories just get repeated by this old writer, and I appreciate y’all putting up with some repetitive stuff, but I’m smiling still as I think back to going into the Linden post office right next to Little Drug Store back then and hearing biddies chirping back there to beat the band. Even more exciting when I knew Daddy would be picking up one hundred of those little chicks to carry over to our waiting brooder.

I never remember much trouble with chicken snakes, but one morning we went out to check on the new passel of baby chicks, and a danged old Norway rat had come in from the field and had killed every one and stuffed them in a hole for later feasting. Daddy caught that rat in a steel trap and chopped his head off, but we had to reorder the biddies.

One night, soon after Daddy got home from World War II, there was a commotion out in the hen house, so Daddy headed out there with a shotgun and a flashlight. Ma was standing on the back porch with Billy in her arms and me by her side when we heard that 12 gauge blast. When Daddy came walking back I never will forget Ma calmly asking, “Who was it, Tom?” Daddy started laughing at that question and answered that he had not shot anybody. It was just a possum.

I always figured I wasn’t scared of much, but I have to admit, at my advanced age, about two problems I had as a youngest around the chicken yard. I just didn’t like sticking my hand under a setting hen to fetch eggs and getting pecked. I didn’t tell Daddy, but I had me a stick hid out, and I’d pin that chicken’s head up against the back of the box nest and then reach for the eggs.

The other problem was a durn Rhode Island Red Rooster name of Toughie. That he man chicken could jump up even with my eyes and commence to attack with those spurs on his feet. Daddy make him mean by letting him fight his shoes, but it made me pretty mad to be skeptical of going in my own chicken yard on account of an intimidating bird.

Ten or twelve years ago some wild Canadian geese hatched out some goslings at my cow farm pond. I rode the Gator down there, and two of those babies got up under my vehicle. The Goose and Gander were standing over there real close looking straight at me when I reached down to shoo the babies up towards mama and papa geese. I was a little skeptical about that as I remembered Ms. Minnie Limback’s “tame” geese she raised close to Linden in the forties. Those were some mean birds as I recollect when I went with Ma to visit Miss Minnie. Anyhow, be danged if those wild birds didn’t just stand right there while I shooed their babies, and then they ambled on off without even a howdy do or a thank you, Sir.

Angela finished her letter by remembering changing water, feeding and doing stuff for her grandma around the farm, and she quoted Miss Lillie as saying “If you take care of creatures, they will take care of you. Same goes for people.”

Miss Lillie was right on the mark … about critters and folks alike.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, July 11 issue of the Demopolis Times.)