or The Sad Tale of Eggbert
Is it just me, or do marshmallow peeps taste different these days?
Back in the ’60s I went to a classmate’s Easter party and came home with some live peeps as fun favors. Yep, at the end of the festivities each child was given a little bag with two baby chicks inside, fuzzy and yellow as tennis balls.
I lived on a farm, so it wasn’t terribly inconvenient to bring home real poultry, but I often wonder what the suburban kids did when they showed up at their ranch houses with cheeping party prizes.
Anyway, there appeared to be a male and female, so we named them Eggbert and Henrietta, and kept them warm inside a cardboard box in the kitchen with a window screen on top to keep them safe.
One day we came in the kitchen to check on the chicks and found the screen pushed aside. Henrietta was missing.
I swear, our dog, who had been hanging around the kitchen quite a bit, had a smile on his face.
That left Eggbert, who grew into an increasingly leggy and awkward youth. He was obviously a rooster, and spent a good deal of adolescence practicing his frustrated mating call in our barn. All for naught, as we had no hen house, and (with the loss of Henrietta) no flock.
He was also terrorized by my brother and me into being our bird pet. We dressed him up, built elaborate homes (cages) for him, and wandered around the farm with the unfortunate fowl tucked under our arms.
Contrary to my mother’s dire predictions, he never pecked our eyes out (although we deserved it).
He hated my mother with such passion that he often chased her across the barnyard, and hopped on the car where she had taken refuge, pecking viciously at the windshield while she drove off, wipers flapping in defense.
Taking his cock of the walk status seriously, he used the bank barn’s entrance ramp like a runway, silently stampeding down from the gaping barn doorway like some feathered superhero, wings held out, twitching and stomping in an elaborate dance meant to scare his nemesis witless before launching himself onto the leg of an adversary.
His victims were many, including relatives, long-lost friends, handymen and the president of the bank where my parents were applying for a business loan.
Eggbert didn’t like surprise visitors.
This went on for months, until one day my brother and I couldn’t find Eggbert anywhere. The barn loft was silent, the doorway empty, and my mother no longer had to run for her car, after checking to see if the coast was clear.
My parents finally gently suggested that ol’ Eggbert wasn’t coming back. Probably caught by a fox.
Sadly we put away the adornments (rags) we had made for Eggbert, and took apart the homes we designed for his unwilling occupancy.
Years later, my folks admitted that after multiple attacks on friend and foe alike, not to mention the ungodly racket of his crowing attempts, they gave Eggbert to the neighbor for his stew pot.
The old farmer reported it was the toughest bird he’d ever eaten.
Kinda like peeps.