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Ode to Olivia: My beloved chick

Back before viruses and allergies invaded the land, pinworms and tapeworms were all that laid in wait of young’uns when spring came around. But our mamas took care of the worms with a good spring purging.

Now, the purging was bad but not so bad as the thought of worms crawling around our insides so we opened wide, held our noses and rid our little bodies of anything that had tried to overtake us.

So, with that done, there was nothing to keep us from taking home a tiny turtle from the dime store or a baby Easter chick that was to be given away at the drive-in picture show.

Getting to go to the drive-in was reason enough for unbridled excitement but the possibility of taking home a baby Easter chick was almost more than I could stand.

Our whole school was bustling with excitement. On two nights, and two nights only, every little young’un that went to the drive-in picture show could pick out a baby chick to take home.

Now, these weren’t the ordinary baby chicks that hens hatched out of eggs. No. These were baby chicks that the Easter Bunny brought. And, they weren’t little yellow chicks.

Why, the Easter Bunny had colored them pink, green and blue. Just like Easter Eggs.

I had to have one. I begged and begged. “Please! Please! Can I have an Easter chick? Please! Bubba wants one, too.”

Actually, Bubba was only 3 years old and had no such desire but Mama and Daddy liked him better, so I threw that in.

Mama said we didn’t need any baby chicks, but Daddy acted like he didn’t hear her. So on Friday night before Easter, we loaded up in our big, green Hudson automobile that looked like a bloated frog and off we went to the drive-in.

At intermission, we went down to the snack bar and got in line with a 1,000 other young’uns and their mamas. All the daddies stayed in their cars.

It was an amazing sight — all those little peeping, colored biddies in boxes. I kind of got knots in my stomach. I was so afraid that all the little chicks would be gone before it was my turn.

I wanted a blue chick. They were the prettiest color but Mama said little boys got blue. Little girls got pink or green. I didn’t want a green chick that would get lost in the weeds. So I picked out the pinkest chick I could find and Bubba got a blue one.

They put our chicks in a little box. On the way home, I took mine out and held it up close to my face. It was so warm and soft and fuzzy. I loved it already.

Daddy said if you handled baby chicks a lot they would die. So not to play around with it.

Mama thought Pinkie and Blue Boy would be good names for our chicks.

That was an OK name for Bubba’s chick but I wanted to name mine Calamity Jane.

I’d seen her at the picture show and she was rowdy. But my pink chick wasn’t very rowdy.

She was soft and cuddly. I named her Olivia.

We kept our chicks in a box with a light bulb on them so they would think it was their mama and newspapers in the bottom for their biddy business.

But Olivia and Blue Boy didn’t stay soft and fuzzy long. They grew big, stiff, dingy white feathers.

We kept them in a pen at night but in the daytime they scratched and pecked around in the yard. Sometimes Olivia would let me hold her but then she would peck me to let her go.

I still loved her though.

In the summer, we went to Eufaula to visit Aunt Eleanor for a week.

When we got home, Blue Boy and Olivia weren’t pecking around the yard.

“Here, chick, chick! Here, chick.”

But they didn’t come. I looked everywhere but all I ever found was a few white feathers with blue and pink tips.

That was all that was left of my beloved Olivia.

The thought of dogs tearing our chicks apart sent me into squalling fits every time I thought about it.

Mama gave me a kitchen matchbox and I put the feathers in it and we had a grand funeral for Olivia and Blue Boy.

All the neighborhood young’uns turned out for the funeral.

It was a sad thing.

Soon, I got over the loss of Olivia but it wasn’t until many years later that I learned what really happened.

The Grim Reaper had come for the Easter chicks and it was Olivia that we ate at Sunday dinner.

Even as a girl grown, I couldn’t bear to think that I ate the pulley bone of Olivia, my beloved Easter chick. And that my own sweet daddy was the Grim Reaper.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor at The Messenger. She can be reached at jaine.treadwell@troymessenger.com.