Poultry Barn, Indiana State Fair, 2010
We raised chickens for a few years, but I don't remember much about them, other than they were no fun to feed and the memories of butchering them. The idiom, "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off," has real-life meaning for me.
I do remember my duck. Around Easter each year the Danner's Store in Lebanon would sell baby chicks and ducks that had been dyed pastel colors. They were housed in the back of the store next to the shelf full of Little House on the Prairie and Nancy Drew books. I have a memory that the chicks were in a playpen and made quite a racket.
Miraculously, one year Mom said yes, when we did our annual begging for one of the little fluff balls of poultry. My siblings chose chicks and I picked a duck.
We took them home and started comparing our purchases - the chicks were cute as can be and were amenable to being held. My duck was a little more obstinate, but I defended it staunchly.
Weeks passed and the astonishingly, the pets thrived and fit right into the world of the chickens we already had. My duck was pretty independent and looked awkward as his new feathers grew in around the dyed ones. He could have been a poster duck in the ugly duckling category.
Adding fresh water to the container for the chickens to drink was part of the nightly chore of feeding them. One evening I got the bright idea to 'teach' the duck to swim in the water pan. He took to it, well, like a duck to water. Imagine my shock when I went to care for the chickens in the morning and found the baby chicks had followed the duck into the container and drowned. It was a sad sight, their little pastel bodies floating in the water.
I'll admit that I felt a little superior to my siblings in the fact that my duck was smart enough to survive. Of course, it never occurred to me how the story would end. Let's just say that the duck left home one evening with a bottle of Dad's homemade wine in the car of one of Dad's friends.
As kids we loved to visit the Poultry Barn at the State Fair. I'm not sure if I'm remembering the details correctly, but there was a little conveyor belt that the baby ducks rode on to land in a trough of water - I loved it!
Somehow on our annual visits to the State Fair my parents managed to keep us from the Midway, but on the way out of the Fairgrounds we were allowed to dart in to the games area and pick a plastic duck floating in a plastic pond. The duck had a number on the bottom that corresponded to a prize. I remember always being disappointed in the prize, wishing I could keep the plastic duck instead. I still head to the duck pond booth each year, hoping for the big prize.