Some stories get tucked away in our memories or in boxes, and it takes something or someone to help us remember them. Such is true of this story of the chickens. We were visiting one afternoon with Billie Walker and got to sharing stories, as we always do, and he started to tell us about stealing chickens, which seems to be something he was involved with as a youngster. This brought back to my memory a story that Bette Grace Cole wrote up for me a number of years ago called “The Luncheon,” which involved Billy’s family and chickens. I dug through one of my boxes and was lucky enough to find it. Now I share it with you:
“LaCour and McCannon streets sported several fine chicken coops during the 1930s and the Mesdames who lived in the fine houses next to the fine chicken coops were proud of their fine chickens and also very dependent on their egg production for food and to exchange at the market for other items. It was the custom of these ladies to let their chickens out for several hours each day to rustle their own food. Once in a while the chickens would visit each other and even roost in the wrong chicken coop for the night. The ladies involved in this tale were Adleen Walker, Hattie Walker, Minnie Cole, Delora Hulse and Zelpha Kranovich.
Delora Hulse, who lived a little distance from the other four ladies, was the oldest of the group and also lame, walking with a crutch and thus able to herd her chickens home if need be, became determined that one of her favorite hens had decided to stay at Hattie Walker’s fine coop. She asked Hattie about this but Hattie said “No Doad, I’m sure I haven’t got an extra chicken in my chicken coop” (Doad was Delora’s nickname).
Doad was still determined that Hattie had one of her chickens but she didn’t want to make a fuss about it so she solicited the help of Adleen, Minnie (who was her daughter), and Zelpha to get the score settled in another manner. Minnie lived right next door to Hattie and knew whenever she left the house. The plan was for Minnie to watch for Hattie to be gone and then she and Adleen, who lived just above them, would sneak down and steal a chicken from Hattie and then they would ask Hattie to lunch the next day, having chicken and dumplings of course.
The plan went off without a hitch and the luncheon was held in fine style with good food and conversation, (no gossip of course). All at once Hattie realized she may be eating one of her own chickens and said, “I’ve been wondering what the occasion for this luncheon was and I think I know. I’ll bet that I’m eating one of my own chickens. The others did not admit it but for many years they enjoyed telling of the joke they played on Hattie and her suspicions.
(Adleen Walker was Hattie’s daughter-in-law and they were Billie Walker’s mother and grandmother. At this time Billie’s grandfather, Frank Walker, was deputy Sheriff).”
Yes, this story may be very familiar to many of you. We did it as one of the Heritage Days plays and yes, we built real chick coops and yes, we had real live chickens. What a noisy mess they were but they brought great laughs from the audience and great dismay to the stage crew.
Now I would like to return to my visit with Billy. It seems that around this same time there seemed to be an epidemic of invasions on the local chicken coops. Billy confessed, yes confessed, that he and Wayne Cole were partners in crime and pilfered his Grandmother Walker’s chicken coop along with the fine coop of Mrs. Middleton. They swiped eggs and two chickens and with great determination did everything they could to get the chickens to set on the eggs. However, he does believe one of them was a rooster. They built themselves a coop up above the railroad tracks in order to accomplish their task but those chickens would not cooperate.
Well, thus began another chicken frenzy in town and this one was between Grandmother Walker and Mrs. Middleton. They both thought the other one had helped themselves to the other’s coop.
It wasn’t long, though, before Billy’s sister Wanda managed to find out what Billy and Wayne had done and the gig was up! I asked Billy if he and Wayne got into a heap of trouble and he said, “Not so much.” We could probably call this the era of the chicken coops.
Billy, it is always such a joy to visit with you and we love to have you share these wonderful bits of history with us. I don’t think there will ever be an end to the wonderful and fun stories that come from the days that are gone by. Once again Pioche presents its colorful history to me and gives me the opportunity to pass it on to my faithful and wonderful readers.