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Friday, April 29, 2011

On the road again...part 3...the chicken or the egg...

Not long after the incident at Mama Hickey's house with the broken picture window in the middle of the night, Mama Hickey decided it was time to get out of Dodge.  Her family owned a small mountain up in Turtletown, Tn. and she decided that she wanted to retire up there and build a house on the mountain.

After Mama Hickey left, Anna and I lived full-time with Bunnie.  We lived at a duplex in Miami.  I remember this little place because there was a small wall surrounding the parking area.  The wall was under a Banyan tree and there would always be lots of little bird poop nuggets on the wall.  Anna and I would get such a kick out of flicking the little blobs and pellets off the wall with our fingers...I know, but hey, we were just little kids!  One day my mom brought home a German shepherd that she had gotten from the dog pound.  Her name was Shadow and she was awesome!  She was very gentle with us and our cat whose name was Snoopy, but was fiercely protective.  I don't remember where we got Snoopy, but over the years, we had many cats and we always managed to find them when they showed up at our house.  They just showed up as if they knew they could stay.  I guess Bunnie had a soft spot for cats...go figure...she didn't have a soft spot for kids, that's for sure.

Bunnie found a little old Spanish lady to take care of us during the day.  The only thing I really remember about the Spanish lady is that when she gave me a bath, she would tell me to be sure to clean my "bubalina" (that was her Spanish name for my lady-parts :)

I don't remember why we left the duplex, but the next thing I do recall is living on my grandfather's farm in Live Oak, FL.  I can't recall the drive up there specifically.  I just remember living in my grandfather's trailer with his wife (he was on his second marriage) Ruth.  I believe I was about 6 years old and Anna was 4.  Anna and I had a ball living on the farm.  I have really good memories of searching for eggs in the barn every day (an Easter egg hunt every day!) and picking up walnuts and pecans off the ground and using a vice in the barn to crack them open and eat them.  I remember the barn had a smell like engines and animals...kind of a dark and earthy odor that I can still smell in my memory.  There was a Brahma bull that was old and crotchety.  He would not let anyone come near him (maybe because at some point someone had cut off part of one of his ears?) but he would let Anna and I ride him!  There were baby calfs that would suck our entire forearms into their mouths trying to nurse!  There were ducks and pigs and it was so much fun for us to live there.

The notable person there at my grandfather's farm was Ruth.  She was the one in charge and there was a lot of tension between her and Bunnie.  My mom was not used to living in a house with another woman and didn't like having to try to get along with Ruth.  She made it clear that she didn't like her at all.  Ruth was not a very friendly person either.  She was rather abrasive and had a hard side.  I remember her telling me that we were going to have fried chicken for dinner one night and then she told me to follow her outside.  She asked me to catch one of the hens (my sister and I would often catch the chickens and would hold them by their feet and spin them thus making them tuck their heads under their wings and go to sleep...I don't know why we did this nor why they reacted the way they did but they never seemed any worse for the wear afterwards!) so I caught one.  She took the hen from me and quickly twisted its neck and killed it.  She then made me take a hatchet she had on a tree stump and cut the chicken's head off.  I did not want to do it...I was so upset that she had killed one of our "pets" but she insisted.  She proceeded to pluck out the feathers and made me help and then she cut up the chicken and fried it.  I did not eat that chicken.  I was too upset.

My grandfather had given us some special chickens that laid colored eggs.  They were called Araucanas and they laid "Easter eggs!"  We got them when they were little...not chicks, more like little teenagers...and we spent a lot of time handling them.  They were very tame and we could hold them like pets.  The did indeed lay colored eggs...light green and light blue little eggs.  Here is a picture of one that looks just like the chickens my grandfather gave us...

I know it's kind of ugly, but it is going through puberty!  They are much better looking when they are full grown!
One day, Anna and I found an abandoned nest of eggs in the barn.  The eggs did not look fresh and had clearly been sat upon by a chicken.  I don't remember what happened to the chicken, but the nest was abandoned.  Granddaddy told us we could try hatching the eggs by incubating them in a bucket with a light bulb to provide warmth.  We were so excited at the thought of hatching our very own baby chicks so of course we took on the challenge!  We had to turn the eggs several times a day and we diligently took care of them until it was obvious that at least some of them were beginning to hatch.

Ruth and my mother had been arguing for a couple of days right around the time the little chicks started to hatch.  Ruth had told my sister and I that she was going to take us away from our mom.  She had said she was going to call "the authorities" and have someone adopt us into another family.  Naturally, Anna and I were upset.  Now remember, Bunnie had already had three other children taken from her years before.  In that regard, she was very protective of us.  We told my mom what Ruth had said and the problems escalated to a shouting match and threats back and forth.  Anna and I were trying to stay out of the way because we knew from past experience that Bunnie had a penchant for picking up and launching any item that was within her reach.  My mother told us to go in the trailer and get our things, that we were leaving.

Anna and I ran into the trailer and told Granddaddy what was happening and he went outside.  We got our clothes together and went back outside just in time to see Ruth lining some eggs up along the fence posts.  It didn't register with us at first that the eggs were from the bucket we had been incubating.  Once the eggs were on the post, she picked up a long gun (I don't know what kind it was) and proceeded to shoot the eggs off the posts while my mother screamed at her and my grandfather pleaded with her to stop.  At some point, I realized what she was shooting and ran over to the eggs which were now on the ground.  Some of the eggs were broken apart in pieces, but others had been hit in such a way that the baby chicks were still there.  They had been killed, but were still partially inside their shells and were clearly the little chicks that had been in the process of hatching.  Anna and I were devastated.  How could someone be so mean?

I don't know the mechanics of how it happened from there, but the next thing I remember is driving away from the farm.  I was looking back and saw my grandfather standing in front of his trailer watching us go.  In the car (a red Pontiac two door with a white interior) was a cage that held our chickens (the Araucanas), our dog Shadow, our cat Snoopy, my sister and I and our mother.  Thus starts our first road trip...leaving a place we loved after things got ugly.

7 comments:

red (like a good book) said...

Ok this brought tears to my eyes remembering all that had happened back then. I know Ruth was extremely disturbed to have done that in front of us. I do love the fact that before that night it was soooo much fun to have full run of granddaddys farm and the only care taker was shadow (the dog) she was an excellent nanny :) Chin up and keep going your doing fabulous !!! Love you sis .

Dwija {House Unseen} said...

Oh my goodness, this did make me cry Diana. With children of my own and even chickens of my own, I can't imagine the heartbreak of watching that happen... :'(

Full Spectrum Mom said...

I want to bring you and Anna to my house right this very minute and feed and love you up and buy you Mrs. Beasley dolls and bikes! I know, I know, you are healthy adults now (in fact, age wise, I am right in between you and Anna). I just want to do something other than weep.

You have my attention.

Diana Burfield (BettyShmetty) said...

I know it's sad...it made me cry too and I wasn't trying to do that, but I just couldn't make it anything other than what it was.

Thanks for the encouragement and for taking the time to read this story that I didn't even know I needed to tell.

Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy said...

How sad! I was on the edge of my seat as I read about the colored eggs and you and your sister incubating them. I just had a terrible feeling that something awful like that would happen. :( So sorry you had to go through that as a child...how devastating.

No. 7 said...

Man...that's rough. Sometimes when you're writing your memory just takes to you a dark place. Trust me, I've revisited a few over the past year while writing. The thing is, all of that emotion pours onto the page and it becomes kind of cathartic when you give in.
I still stand by my earlier comment. Your story would be fantastic in memoir form.

Amy said...

I'm so sad for you, thinking about seeing those poor little dead chicks. Makes me sick that people would be so demented.

(Dweej sent me and I'm glad she did. I'm finding this story fascinating.)

Amy @ A Little Nosh