Every spring we drove the twelve miles to the Post Office in Lewis, Kansas to pick up a new batch of Spring baby chickens. They were delivered in a brown shallow cardboard box. My sister and I excitedly peeked through the holes covering the box at what appeared to be hundreds of baby chicks. We liked to go to the brooder house and visit the chicks every day. The minute we opened the door, they panicked, and dust, feathers and chicks cheeped and flew in all directions. As soon as we closed the door and stood quietly, the chicks settled down and cuddled under a metal tent where they enjoyed the warmth from the bulbs that were shining in the center of the tent.
Those chicks grew fast, and all farm kids have chores. Around 1953, I was age six, and my chore was to gather eggs. I used a cream colored, dented tin bucket with BB Gun holes scattered through it, thanks to my brother and his Daisy BB Gun.
I had to crawl over a board, that was waist high that Dad nailed boards across the door to the chicken coop. The purpose was to keep the sheep from stealing the chicken feed. The chicken house had a distinct musty smell. Our chickens nested in a row of wooden boxes, covered with gunny sack curtains.
I didn’t like to gather eggs, and I hated the setting hens. They were so stubborn, I would just skip over their nest for several days in a row and let them keep their eggs. Dad always knew what was going on. He would walk into the chicken house and kindly say, “This is how you do it, Dandy.” I stared in disbelief, as I watched his large, tanned and scarred hand fearlessly reach under the hen as it pecked away. He could pick up three eggs, without flinching, and gently place them in my bucket. He didn’t seem to mind that eggs were dirty with chicken poop, and straw stuck to the them.
The next day, I devised a new plan to deal with the setting hens. I grabbed the longest stick I could find. I started yelling and banging the stick around as I entered the chicken coop, hoping the noise would disturb then and they would hop out of their nest. When they didn’t, I proceeded to poke at the stubborn hen, called her names, scolded it and tried to pry her off the nest with my stick. Dad would hear all the commotion and walk into the chicken coop and patiently demonstrate again, “This is how you do it, Dandy.”
One day after gathering half my eggs, I was reaching into a dark nest and a big grey rat jumped out, startling me as it quickly zig-zagged across the chicken coop floor. I ran screaming out of the chicken house, tripping over the board Dad nailed across the door. I dropped my bucket, breaking the eggs, skinned my knee, and there I sat in a pile on the gravel crying.
Next thing I knew, Daddy was lifting me in his arms, listening to me patiently between sobs, telling him my story of the rat, my broken eggs, and showed him my skinned knee. He helped me clean up my mess, and together we finished my chores. That night, I prayed to God that I would never have to gather eggs again.
I think about my daddy, and realize he was an example of how our Heavenly Father is today. He always knows what is going on. He is patient in teaching us, listening to our fears and pain, and always ready to embrace us and give us a second chance. Then he plans our future and walks hand in hand with us helping us along the way. And he always answers our prayers when the timing is right.
Ten years later, when I graduated from High School and left for college, my childhood prayer was answered. I never had to gather eggs again.