When I was growing up, my grandparents lived on one side of us, and my uncle’s parents lived on the other side. One house over from them lived a woman by the name of Sadie Bliss. She and her husband had lived in that house for probably 40 years, but by the time I was aware of Sadie, she was an elderly widow (though in reality she probably wasn’t old at all), who worked in a real estate office and drove a two-tone yellow and white classic 1950’s-era car. Every day, at precisely 3:30 PM, Sadie’s thinning silver hair and shiny glasses brimmed over the arc of that big white steering wheel as her car made its customary return up our street. Following without fail, was the patient line of traffic that stretched far behind her 20 MPH pace, until she finally ended the ordeal with a left hand turn into her driveway. It was the late sixties, and I was a nine-year old who was curious enough about this woman to want to know more details, but too scared of her serious regard, to ever ask. What I gathered from overheard conversations is that the land our houses sat on was once part of a large chicken farm. The remaining proof was the two dilapidated red barns that sat precariously behind Sadie’s house. I know now, that Sadie and her husband were poultry and game breeders – at least that’s how they were described in the town directory of 1940.
If you ask my mother, I was the type of kid that rarely got into trouble. I was – and suppose to some extent still am, a rule follower. Yet, there was an allure to the barns next door that could not be denied. Thankfully for us, Mrs. Bliss had the barn that was in the worst condition torn down. I’m sure she, like my parents, feared it would collapse onto curious children and so barn number #1 was leveled. In my mind, that meant barn #2 was safe to explore. On more than one occasion, my siblings and I, along with some of our neighborhood friends, stepped into the space created between the back wall and it’s once connected floor and crossed the threshold into a world of intrigue. At first blush, what stood around us were simply the dusty remains of a once thriving chicken coop. But while some in our group considered the building candidate for an outlawed clubhouse, I walked its uneven floors holding long abandoned metal feeders, envisioning just what the landscape must have looked like when chickens ruled the proverbial roost.
Years later, when the kindergarten class I worked in took on a chick hatching project, I became an instant bona fide backyard chicken keeper. I didn’t have a clue where this seemingly new interest in poultry came from, until one day – when I was reminiscing with my mother and sisters I remembered Sadie Bliss and her slow-moving yellow and white car, and the old barn whose settled frame silently echoed the cackles and squawks of a bygone time. Some days, when I hear the happy sounds of my own flock, I wonder what that old chicken farm must have sounded like. Then, I count my blessings that 1) Mrs. Bliss never caught us, and 2) the old barn stayed standing long enough for us to explore and live to tell about it. It’s been a happy chicken journey ever since.
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Cluck, Cluck, Doo! is published from a beautiful town in southern New Hampshire.
Happy chicken keeping,
On a personal note: This blog would not be possible without the unwavering support of my better half, Terri. Thank you for indulging me in my lifelong desire to be a backyard farmer. You know… it could have been worse. The family tree is filled with seafaring characters. We could be living on a lobster boat fishing every morning at the crack of dawn. Then again… I do love lobstah!! xoxo