My Pet Chicken. . .
Easter of 1962 I was 5 years old. At that time Wichita had a wonderful amusement park called Joyland. It had been here since 1949 and was certainly Wichita children’s favorite destination.
Along with a magnificent wooden roller coaster, there were lots of attractions for kids of all ages. School kids got to go there for play nights and at the end of every school year Joyland threw a scholarship party. You got so many tickets for A’s, B’s, and C’s and it was true incentive to get good grades.
One of the favorite things for the community was the Easter party each year. They had egg hunts and the year I was 5 the prize for taking part in the hunt and finding 5 or more eggs was a live baby chick.
I was thrilled – and let’s clarify that my parents weren’t. But I hunted those eggs and found my 5 and turned them in proudly for that chick. I was ecstatic about it, my very own chick, which I named Chickee. I was going to love it and take care of it and everything I promised.
And I did and that chick grew into a lovely chicken. It would follow me around the yard and run at us kids and we’d yell and scream in excitement. I thought that chick was the best pet any kid could ever have.
I didn’t understand why I couldn’t take it to bed with me at night – after all, my dog Pepper could sleep on my bed, why couldn’t Chickee? My mom patiently (and I’m sure more than once) explained that Chickee needed to stay outside, that she wouldn’t be happy in the house, but when you’re 5 you don’t really understand that. I did try to sneak Chickee in, more than once but I could never convince her to keep quiet and my mom and dad always found her and took her outside.
Of course, as she got older she was more prone to wandering the neighborhood. My grandpa C was designated chief chicken wrangler and there were times he had to look high and low for that chicken.
He had always lived with us, at least as long as I could remember and he was the neighborhood ‘Pop’ to everyone. He had lots of Native American blood and just had a different way of looking at things, especially nature. He taught me about rocks and trees and flowers, about the stars in the night sky, so it seemed perfectly expected that he be Chickee’s keeper.
One day, towards the end of the school year, Chickee was a few months old. I went off to kindergarten and when I came home Chickee was gone. They told me that she had wandered off again and that grandpa couldn’t find her.
I felt so sad and I remember crying so hard because I loved her so much. She had been my friend, companion and I was the envy of the neighborhood kids because I had my own chicken. I felt inconsolable.
Mom cheered me up though. She made my favorite dinner that night – fried chicken!