That pile of rubble up there was once a granary that, by the time I was old enough to run around unsupervised at my grandparents' old farm, was no longer in use. I remember it being filled with large, sharp tools, some car batteries, and other dark, dusty, mysterious things. Long before I was born, though, that granary and the chicken coop that sat below it played a role in one of my grandmother's most memorable stories. She passed away when I was very young, so I never had a chance to hear her tell it. Thankfully, Grandma was a writer and a few times in her life took to the typewriter to record her observations and memories. Many pages of these stories and poems are now in my possession, a priceless gift from my aunts and uncles. After seeing that the old granary had come down—at the hands of my mighty brother it should be noted—I decided to transcribe this one. It's one of my favorites. Enjoy.
By Margaret Baumgarten
It all started out quite normally, except that this particular morning I was going to be extra good to the chickens in another feeble effort to get them to cooperate with me and give out with a few more eggs.
So, armed with warm water for drinking, and to add to the dry mash to make a tempting breakfast, I set out for the grainery eyeing each patch of ice with two suspicious eyes. Daddy long legs himself must have engineered the steps to that grainery. I stretched myself up into it and stirred up a luscious warm breakfast for my feathered friends. Gathering up three pails of water, mash, and grain, I again set foot for the home of the hens, picking each icy step warily.
With pails set down outside I had full use of both hands to unplug the lock to the door—in this case a unique iron bar anchored to a hole in the frozen ground, but able to sway back and forth with hand manipulation. I did not remove the neat contrivance, but just allowed it to remain upright while I went inside. I hooked the door inside so no feathered friend could venture out.
The poultry registered pleasure upon my entry and set about partaking in this feast. Over in the corner sat a sad little injured chick unable to join the rest. Noble soul, I picked it up and deposited it in the region of the food. She peeped her thanks to me and immediately partook of the delicious meal.
Having seen my duty and done it, I proceeded to return to the house, but Oh, Oh what was this—the door would not open for me. The wind had played havoc with me, for it had blown the neat bar against the door, and would not give in spite of my kicks, pushes, and threats. The holes and spaces in the door were all in the wrong places to reach my hand out to remove the bar.
Frantically I yelled “Bert, Bert—Bert, Bert, and yes, Rusty, Rusty—Rusty” wishfully, hopefully thinking our bright canine might prove himself another Lassie. No response. Ah, the tractor was starting. Now was my chance to yell and make it worthwhile. All I did was stir up grave consternation and aggravation among my friends of the flock, resulting in wild clamor and din, crowing and cackling such as you never heard the likes of before.
In what seemed like a day or so the tractor got near enough so that I knew it was going by. My yells were feeble compared to the tractor’s roar, so I figured I might as well not ruin my voice. On and on the tractor went, no gates to open, so no chance for me to get in a heard yell. Around the turn and up the hill it went until no sound could be heard.
“You stinky Rusty—you could have stayed down here by me at least and we could have visited through the crack in the door.” If only I had a watch, at least I could have watched the time go by behind those stone walls and iced up windows. I discovered the window frame had rotted away from the stone wall, so at least I could get a breath of purified air if I leaned over the fertilized window sill a ways.
Starting to get ornery, I thought, Margaret think of some good thing to do. Sure, the little broken winged chick might like a drink. So holding her I forced her to intake about three teaspoons of water. Then banked up straw around her and put a little more mash close to her beak. A peeped thank you was my reward.
Another lull, no traffic on Valley Drive. Then a car goes by on the upper road. Then I believe I hear the tractor up on the hill still a long ways from home. Well, if worse came to worse, I could have eated the four eggs I gathered, nice brown eggs raw, but so what. I need not thurst either. Ice in profusion too, several old kettles full in fact. I wonder what does one do in solitary confinement? Guess just wait, and wait some more.
Finally, I again heard the Farmall, sure enough it was coming closer. Around the bend and homeward, the not so trusty Rusty leading the way. I picked up a corn cob to wave through a crack in the wall to arouse his curiosity, if nothing else, as yelling seemed to be of no avail. I had to be patient until the spreader was unhitched and then give my voice box a work out again. “Bert, Bert—Bert, Bert, Rusty, Rusty, Rusty—Rusty.” And on and on. The wind again was my enemy as I could not be heard.
Finally, weary and ill at ease, I stopped a moment and a voice called, “Where are you?” I mustered up enough bravery to holler, “I’m locked in the chicken coop!” Believe me it took courage for me to give this choice bit of information to this chicken enemy. After a few moments the voice was quite near and demanded, “What in the dickens did you do?”
All I could say was, “Nothing, ‘twas the windy enemy who did this to me.”
Chagrined, I listened to the words, “That’ll learn ya to keep chickens.”
“Those four brown eggs will taste good, though.”