ruby Leppke: Kansas Farm Girl

Ruby Leppke: Kansas Farm Girl, holding lamb, with Naomi standing behind

My earliest memories are of baby chicks, barn cats under my grandparents’ porch, dogs named “Shep,” sweet-eyed calves, and wooly lambs. Then our family moved to Alaska. Alaska was not like Central Kansas. My new memories were of moose, bears, salmon, and “camp robbers” (Canadian Jays). I missed the farm immensely.

Our first Christmas in Alaska, a large box of gifts arrived. After it had been emptied, I crawled inside, pulled down the top flags, and called out, “Mommy, sent me to Grandma’s house!” She didn’t. Although with the bickering I did with my sister, chances are she would have liked to.

My father transferred with Public Health Services to Browning, MT. That Easter, my mother brought home four pastel-dyed fuzzy chicks. Their box sat on the black-and-white linoleum tiled kitchen floor.  We four children, ages 18-months to nine-years, loved the chicks. They felt so soft against our cheeks.

Then the cute chicks turned into teenagers and developed prickly pin feathers. Their pretty colors faded. We lost our enthusiasm for holding them. One Sunday, Mom gathered up the teenagers, and on the way to Star Baptist Church in the country, we stopped at a Blackfeet Indian home and gifted them the pets, which probably turned into produce —- either egg-layers or supper.

Later, when my parents returned to Alaska and homesteaded, Mom bought chicks for the summer time. They lived in the chicken coop along the driveway – until the weather turned cold. Then she gifted them to Betty, our homestead neighbor from Nebraska, who kept her farm going year-around.

Every Easter, I think of the chicks. Sometimes I stop by a feed store just to look at chicks.  A week or two ago, I drove past the Feed Store in town and the sign read “Order your Chicks Now.” I actually considered it — for a second.

A few days ago, I picked up the local paper and read “Baby Chicks a Popular Easter Gift for Kids.” A reporter, who I email occasionally with article ideas, had followed-up on my suggestion that he write about Parker Feed, one of the remaining landmarks of what this town used to be – a ranching town. I smiled. I emailed him. He thanked me for the idea.

Some year I’ll have to buy myself some Easter chicks, even if they aren’t dyed anymore. I’ll hold them against my check — and reminisce about the joys of having a farm-girl mama.

Know of anyone who’d like an after-Easter gift?