Selling Bunny Rabbits, ducklings and colored baby chickens was a staple to our Easter Holiday Inventory. It was fun and the colored chickens were very pretty in their spring pastels.
The Principal of our Grade School was very active in the SPCA though. Every year she targeted my sister and I with several diatribes against selling the colored chickens. Her ‘facts’ were the chickens didn’t live very long and were usually killed within a few weeks by the dye used to color them or manhandled to death by children who didn’t understand how to hold and pet a little chicken.
She didn’t much care about the ducklings and rabbit sales either but the little chickens upset her the most. She must have thought we would listen to her since she was a school administrator and an authority figure and then we’d go home and our parents would then be convinced. Yeah, that was really gonna work.
One year she launched into me with her speech and I listened politely even though I disagreed and I knew the sales were important to my family. When she finished berating me, I told her we didn’t manage to sell all the chickens last Easter.
She seemed a little please and figured we’d lost money on them after they had all died (she was convinced they’d die from mishandling or else the dye used to color their feathers would kill them). I told her I had scrambled eggs for breakfast. They were fresh eggs. They were very fresh as my leftover Easter chickens were laying and the eggs I had for breakfast were gathered just the day before.
(Note: This story isn’t about the shop but it does sort of relate since Mom ran the shop while Dad worked another job and we did sell ducklings at the shop every Easter. I think you’ll enjoy this one.)
When my kids were still little Mom and Dad retired to a cabin up in the mountains in West Virginia. Dad had a pond there. One weekend Mom said something teasing me and I told her she’d better watch as Easter was coming and I was going to buy her some ducklings if she didn’t quit the teasing right then.
My sister loved the idea. On Maundy Tuesday she showed up at the house with 5 little ducklings for us to keep until Sunday when we all went to the cabin for Easter dinner. We have video of the kids playing with the ducklings while they (the ducks) jumped in and out of a box and a large pan of water in our kitchen. Watching the kids with the ducks reminded me of those times I spent chasing ducklings around the shop. We used up a lot of paper towels and tissues that week.
Easter morning we gave Mom the ducks and she loved them instantly. As they grew up, they’d follow her around in the evenings from the pond to the pen where she locked them up every night. The next morning she’d let them out to play at the pond. And they’d often follow her around whenever she went outside until twilight when it was time to pen them up again for the night.
She finally decided after a couple years that it was too much to keep up with them anymore. A petting zoo back in Winchester accepted the ducks and they became a part of their family. My kids had loved them. Mom loved them enough to give them to a better home where hundreds of people could enjoy them.
And I can still imagine little kids chasing the ducks and then their progeny around the petting zoo. Just as a little boy and his sister chased them around a pet shop on Sunday mornings (see: The Ducklings Get Loose). And then the little boy grew up. And his children chased the ducks around a kitchen floor years later. Maybe those children and adults will read this someday. Just maybe they’ll realize how much the ducks, spending time with Dad and my sister, then my own children, my Mom, and those wonderful memories meant to me.
Related Article – The Ducklings Get Loose
What? My Family? You want to hear more? Here’s an article I wrote for another site about my Granddaddy Snyder you might really like. GrandDaddy Go “Boom”
The shop on Main Street (Loudon Street) in Winchester, Va. had two big display windows fronting onto Main. We rotated various pets and supplies through those windows during the year. Easter was a big time for pets. We carried bunnies, colored chickens, and ducklings during that time.
My uncle Denny and my Dad built two special cages to fit those windows during the Easter Season. We put the ducklings in one and the beautifully pastel colored chickens in the other. There was large bulk feeders and automatic water dispensers in each and some light bulbs to provide warmth.
Back then Virgina was under the Blue Laws which pretty much forbade any commerce on Sundays so on Saturday evening we’d close shop. Check all the animals, feed everything that needed feed through Sunday, give them extra water and make sure everything was locked up. Especially the cages!
At least twice every year, sometime in the early morning on Sunday, we’d get a call that the ducks were out and running around the shop. Mom usually couldn’t go since my two brothers were too little to take out on those chilly mornings for no good reason. Dad, my sister and I would hop in the car and run down to the shop. Gather up all the loose ducklings and put them back in their display cage.
Ducklings are cute. They also like to follow their mother or other ducks. If a duck ran from you several more would follow. When you caught one several others would follow you back to the cage then run when you tried to grab them. And the others would follow the running duck.
It took a while to catch them all. And then there was the mess. Ducklings eat a lot. And then they “deposit” droppings where ever they roam. The whole process took over an hour each time. Catching. Penning. And cleaning up. Not pleasant but I still smile when I think of it.
Related Article – Mom’s Ducklings
The popular breakfast cereal, Fruit Loops, came out years ago when I was a kid. Fruit Loops featured a cartoon Toucan on the box with that distinctive, rainbowed long beak. About that same time Mom and Dad made a trip to a large pet shop in Washington, D.C. to grab some new stock and supplies.
When they returned home, Dad carried in a card board box with holes in it. I knew it had to be a new animal. “What’s in the box, Dad?”. Dad just grinned. I tried to look in the air holes from a distance (you don’t just put your eye to a box not knowing what’s in it) but I couldn’t tell what was in there. Dad went out to get a large cage and I figured it was a big bird then.
As Dad put the cage and stand together the bird started exploring the box and next thing I know that big bill punched out of one of the air holes. I hollered, “Look it’s a Fruit Loops bird.”. “A Toucan”, Dad corrected with a big grin.
This Toucan was a nice bird and I liked feeding him. Pretty soon someone came in and bought him though. We said good bye as he was kind of popular for a while and had became a “pet” but we knew he was too expensive to keep and saying good bye was part of life for us as various animals moved on to newer, better homes.
About once a month Mom and Dad liked to go out on the town. Nights out were usually spent at a Dance with some country music and a ample amount of liquor. Dad was a happy drinker. He was never a heavy drinker but they would come home laughing and joking.
But this story is about the Babysitter and the alligator. We had several teenage girls stay with us from time to time as babysitters. One in particular liked to know what animals we had on the front porch as that was where we kept the stranger, more menacing animals. The minute Mom and Dad left she would ask me what’s on the front porch this time. I’d list the weird stuff.
And this time there was a Alligator. If the animal sounded dangerous she’d need to see it. She wanted to know it was safe. Not the animal especially – She wanted to know she was safe. So we go out to the porch in our stocking feet to check the gator’s cage. And when we get out there the wire mesh lid of the cage was pushed up on one side and he was gone.
I said, “Oh Oh, better watch your feet. He’s gone.” Dad had told me to watch putting my fingers in his cage. I figured toes were vulnerable also. We quickly donned some shoes and went looking for the little guy. Found him standing in the middle of the bathroom floor. Yikes!
Called my uncle Sonny to come get him. The babysitter liked Sonny anyway. He played football at the county high school. Uncle Sonny showed up and caught the little fellow in a clothes basket and put him back.
Dad had no idea how that could have happened and why on that night of all nights. Only thing I know is that I checked that cage pretty often from then on. I still have all my toes!