We’re coming up on Post #900 in a few days, and that, coupled with the lagniappe/serendipity of having found some relatives I’ve never met, and having such a nice time swapping stories and connections with those lovely people, I’ve been thinking lots about long-ago times and family and all the chance and circumstance that make us the WE that we are.
In the one picture I have of Mammaw’s side of the family, my Great-Grandmother Roma is a solemn-faced woman, wrinkle-browed and worn by work and sorrow and the total responsibility of ten children born and a husband buried by the time she was thirty-five.
She's scarcely forty in the picture, I'd think, for the little girl down by her knees was six months old when GG was widowed. She probably smelled of rub-board lye clothes and honest field sweat and a chicken-pot boiling, because you had to make one feed eleven by then.
She and Great-Grandpa (who did not live long enough to be a Grandfather) had had the felicity of having a full chicken-house as inheritance when they married, from a great wagon-full of chicks donated by family and community.
It was the one and only Chicken-Shower I’ve ever heard of in the history of matrimony, but it really makes a frugal kind of sense.
Everybody had a flock of some kind---Reds and Domineckers and other barnyard breeds, and any chicken that hatched was a bonus one way or the other. So when GG Roma and GG Earnest married, they were showered with a pot or pan or two, maybe a pair of homemade pillowslips from one of the older sisters, and a nice flock of chickens.
In the first couple of years, GG Roma would fry TWO on Sundays, for there was the go-home-with-you-from-church crowd of family, and even on their Sundays to themselves, they killed and cooked two, for Mammaw said, ”They had a-plenty then, and my Mama always said ONE chicken is just not enough for two people and some leftover for dinner next week while we’re in the field.” Mammaw’s philosophy echoed that: Why fry twice, when you can do a lot at one time.
That idea had its influence over our own family as I grew up, for though Mother might gingerly fry a chicken once in a blue moon, having to start off Sunday for so many years in such a gruesome manner as killing and cleaning those chickens put her off eating it for life. Oddly, the liver and gizzard were sacrosanct, reserved just for her (far removed from all the pluck and singe, I suppose), and she readily bought and cooked whole packages of those.
Mammaw always had a chickenhouse right there in their backyard, along with a fruit-house, an immense rose garden, a twice-as-big vegetable garden, and that little moon-doored necessary, and for many years they had a cow which I “walked” to and from the town pasture, from when I was about four. Boss would see her friends already out there in the grass, grazing and gossiping, and she'd take off by herself while my little Buster Browns would pelt along in the dust alongside, trying to beat her to the gate.
Years later, when in Mammaw's own words, she was "gettin' on up there," the flock were layers only, but by then, I’d named them, and so rendered amnesty to the whole stupid, cackly, feckless bunch. Had it not been for those immense, richly brown “yeller yawked” eggs which were the linchpin of those legendary Pineapple Cakes, she’d probably have swapped the lot for a card of buttons.
Good Luck in a skillet
And not until Daddy built Mammaw and Grandpa a new house in 1958, did they get rid of the few remaining stragglers descended from that one original wedding-flock. She’d carried a few of the old bunch with her from her Mama’s yard to their own little house when she and Grandpa married, and could always point out which two or three were great-great-grand-chickens from the droves ranging round the Old Home-Place.
We never did have the Family Manor or the Family Silver, but how many people can say they grew up eating chickens and eggs from the Family Flock established way yonder back in the 1850s.