The early morning routine varied little from day to day. Dad or Mom called up the stairs to wake us, we put on our farm clothes, and did our chores. Chores took about an hour, which included milking four cows by hand as I got a little older. Then the whole family ate breakfast together. We usually had oatmeal, bread, and sometimes bacon or sausage. We discussed the weather, what was going on in school, and any special chores that had to be done after school. Then we washed up a bit, changed into school clothes, and walked to Oak Grove country school.
For as long as I can remember, my job was to water and feed the chickens. They needed tending in the early morning, some at noon, and always again in the late afternoon. I hauled the feed from the granary, got water from the cow tank, and gathered the eggs.
Oh, did we raise chickens! It was a major source of income for the Scheckel family. Mom and Dad bought baby chicks wherever the price was right, which meant the lowest price. Sometimes they would drive to Oelwein or Cedar Rapids in Iowa and bring them back by car.
They bought the female laying White Leghorn chicks in April and the Cornish Rock roosters in May. The roosters were for slaughter and sold to stores in Prairie du Chien and Viroqua. The baby chicks that came by mail were delivered by the rural mailman from Lynxville. Dad and Mom would receive a postcard a few days before the baby chicks were due to arrive. Delivery during cold weather was a worry, as baby chickens needed to be kept warm.
The big day arrived in late spring. The mailman pulled his Chevy Coupe into the driveway instead of by the mailbox. A rope from the trunk latch hung over the four or five boxes of baby chicks and was tied to the bumper. We gathered around, getting as close as we dared. We giggled at the incessant chirping. We stuck our fingers in the air holes of the boxes.
Mom always scolded, “Back away, kids.” She was in charge of the chickens and didn’t like us hovering.
The boxes were lifted carefully out of the trunk and stacked on our toy wagon. Phillip, Bob, and I argued over who would pull the wagon. Phillip usually won because he was bigger, older, and insisted on first dibs. To be continued…..