This is Michelle75’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:
I grew up in a residential area named Port Vue, a blue-collar bedroom community in the hills just above McKeesport, Pennsylvania. I had six brothers and three sisters. Obviously, we were a nice Catholic family. My dad had a side of him, I think, that would have loved to live on a farm and simply live off the land. There were many community regulations in Port Vue, one of which prohibited the raising of farm animals in one’s yard. These silly regulations never stropped my father. When he had a chance to get us a new animal, he would. At different times in my life, we had ducks, chickens, geese, a pig, a groundhog, a nanny goat, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, birds and always lots of cats and dogs. This may sound to be on the borderline of the ridiculous, but having all these different animals were truly a grand learning experience for us kids. There are so many fond, funny and some times sad memories that are associated with our animals. In the big picture though, the fond and fabulous memories far outweigh any sadness that came our way via the animals. Not many fathers allow such a variety of animals. I believe that only a wonderful father would. My dad not only allowed it, he encouraged it and was most often the culprit that brought the new little creature into our home.
The year was 1972, and I was nine years old. My father rounded up all of us kids. Somehow, he managed to squeeze us into the old Station Wagon. Lord knows this car was held together strictly by bubble gum and duct tape, but it ran well enough to make a trip to the then bustling Downtown City of McKeesport. Daddy had kept it a secret about where we were going. We were all so excited. We were bursting at the seams with smiles, laughter and excitement. Daddy parked the car and he asked us to follow along closely. On the rare occasions that we did venture out as a family, it was the responsibility of the older children to keep the younger ones close and within sight. The streets of the city were absolutely beaming and bustling. In these days, McKeesport was a thriving city that was a major shopping thoroughfare for the steel mill workers. This was a time when jobs were still plentiful and the steel industry was the major lifeline for cities like McKeesport and Pittsburgh.
Dad stopped at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Locust Street. We were outside Balsamo’s, a flourishing produce market in town. There was a fenced-in area right on the corner and inside the little fence was a sight to behold. They were Easter Peeps! There were hundreds of little baby peeps that were every color of the rainbow. Back then, the Easter Peeps were dipped in food coloring and dyed beautiful colors. The peeps were given as gifts to the children. The cost was just ten cents for a gorgeous peep. My dad let each of us kids pick out our own colored peep. This was the best Easter that I can ever remember. Dad even let us hold our peeps in the car on the way home.
Getting the Easter Peep became a lovely Easter tradition until the Environmentalists decided that dyeing baby chicks was cruel. Yep, even then the Environmentalists were stealing the joy away from the human race! Our peeps always lived and they did not seem to mind being fine-looking colors. Dad would let us keep the baby chicks in the house for a few days and then it was out to the chicken coop for them. My father had a chicken coop in the back yard! He kept lights in there so that the peeps would stay warm. When the peeps grew into big fat chickens, well, it was into the cooking pot for the then grown birds. Nothing went to waste in our house.
There is an old saying that a person can run like a chicken with its head cut off. Well, I can tell you first-hand that chickens can run with their heads cut off. I can still hear my dad saying, “Hurry up Dave. Catch that chicken!” On a time or two my dad would cut off the chicken’s head and the headless bird would get away from him. It was a hilarious sight to watch my brothers chase this chicken without a head down the wooded hill. The chicken could really run fast without a head, believe or not. In all, the chickens were such a great experience. We learned to raise, slaughter, pluck and cook them. This is an experience that not many children in the bedroom communities ever knew. And most of all we learned first hand that a “Chicken can indeed run with its head cut off!”