Kansas Collection books

The China Egg


      I was never particularly fond of snakes.  I learned early on how to tell the poisonous ones from the nonpoisonous.   Grandpa said, "There are good snakes and there are badsnakes.  But don't trust any of them."  However, around the farm, we didn't have very many poisonous snakes and Grandpa said we should learn to tolerate the nonpoisonous ones, as long as they stayed where they belonged.

      Where they belonged meant the barn, the granary orthe chicken house.  In those places the snakes would control the rats, mice, and pigeons; they did a pretty good job of doing just that.  Whenever we could see the snakes, we didn't see many rodents.  Trouble was, when cold weather came the snakes went into hibernation, but the rats and mice continued to multiply.

      The pigeons were always a nuisance around the farm.They roosted and built nests everywhere and generally fouledthe hay and grain around their nests.  We had a pair of blacksnakes in the barn for several years.  Come spring, they thinned out the pigeons pretty fast.  They loved the pigeon eggs and young squabs.  So Grandpa tolerated them.

      Now Grandma had a much different idea about snakes.  She just plain didn't like them.  All snakes were bad news to Grandma.  Especially when they ate her hens' eggs.

      One of my chores was to gather the eggs each evening,just before I brought in some kindling wood, some firewoodand some fresh water from the well.  Grandma knew abouthow many eggs she could expect from her hens.  When Icame up short about 8 or 10 eggs one evening she questionedme about it.  I explained that one particular nest was emptythat evening.  A few evenings later it happened again.  Thistime, she grumbled, "I'll bet those old blacksnakes are outagain."  It was the right time of year, all right.  Grandpaseemed unconcerned, so Grandma devised her own battlestrategy.

      In her sewing basket were two china eggs.  She usedthem when darning socks or sweaters.  They were hard and shiny, just like china eggs were supposed to be.  Grandma took the largest of the china eggs down to the chicken house and put it in the nest that was being robbed.

      Sure enough, next evening the nest was empty, theeggs all gone -- including the china egg.  Grandma said,"Now keep your eyes open for that big old blacksnake."  Well, a couple days later, I found him.  He'd tried to crawl throughsome round mesh chicken wire and couldn't make it.  Thatchina egg was intact and he couldn't get it through thechicken wire.  Grandpa retrieved the china egg, and Grandma washed it up real good and put it back in her sewing basket.

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