The Egg Lady

June 12th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
“There it is”. I’ll point it out each time on our way to our country place. Sometimes I just say it to myself. Other times we drive by so fast I won’t see it coming. But always, I look for it. The ramshackle old farmstead with its cluster of outbuildings left abandoned now. It didn’t look much different back then, back in the 1970’s when my family and I first made our jaunts to the mountains that are so familiar to me now. We can find our way in the dark, and oftentimes do. I remember we always stopped at The Egg Lady’s. I know there used to be a sign for it somewhere – “Eggs”. A more prominent one announced – “Worms”. Guess fishing was in its hey day then. Anyway, we’d always stop for a couple of dozen eggs before continuing on our way.
The Egg Lady (or so she was known to us) lived all alone and ran a sort of gentleman’s farm, minus the gentleman and without the gentle manor lifestyle. In addition to eggs, she sold chickens, rabbits, worms, and even dirt. (If you can’t find dirt here, you won’t find it anywhere). Eggs were cheaper in the country – a dollar a dozen, and fresher too. Big, hearty, orange yolks swimming in their puddles of goo. Not like the puny yellow ones you get in the city. What would be the difference – they both come from chickens, right? Ah, but the country hen has free range (all the rage now) and is fed as a chicken should be fed, with scraps of leftovers in addition to its ration of mash, pellets, and cracked corn. The other guys (or gals, to be politically and biologically correct), the ones with the puny yellow yolks, are assembly line chickens, trapped within the confines of their clinical cages, and no table scraps for them. So why would they be expected to produce a better egg? It was well worth stopping at The Egg Lady’s.
She was attired as a farmer’s wife might be expected, going about her daily chores, but in stark contrast to her Beauty Parlor Blue hair she always wore stylishly arranged. She’d emerge from her weather beaten farmhouse that was worn down to its gray siding, stripped of its paint long ago. She hastily gathered enough eggs to make up the two dozen asked for, and placed them in recycled cartons she kept readily on hand. The chicken coops were intermingled with an assortment of rabbit hutches scattered haphazardly across the ground, and although an enormous barn stood alongside, it was never utilized for their benefit. When winter came, she simply covered them up with tarps of plastic. One day, there weren’t enough eggs outside so she had us come into the farmhouse for more. Standing in what should have been a functioning kitchen, were precariously piled newspapers, towering stacks of dishes, and all manner of odds and ends covering every available surface, so that it was virtually impossible to actually sit and eat a meal if one were so inclined. The sink was full of dishes that looked as though they had been there for an indeterminate length of time. It was even rumored that she had animals in the house. (What in heaven’s name was in that barn?) The truth dawned. The Egg Lady was a packrat, a hoarder, not the tidiest of housekeepers, and worse – we were eating her eggs….. But, I reasoned, the inside was pure and untouched. It was deemed safe enough. And besides, they tasted great.
Our relationship with The Egg Lady continued for some time but came to an abrupt halt when she raised the price of a dozen eggs from a dollar to a dollar fifty. (What! Highway robbery). They were suddenly the same price as those we could buy in the city. Still, they were way better. However, this is what hatched the plan, so to speak. It was decided that we would keep chickens of our own. House them in a proper coop (as opposed to housing them in a house), and give them enough food and water to last the week until we could arrive for the weekend and replenish their supply. Our first tenants came in the form of 6 baby chicks I was given as a surprise. But in a matter of weeks, they developed into 6 fine roosters (even more of a surprise). No eggs there (and no surprise there). Then one day, a baby chick stumbled into our driveway in the city. From whence he came, no one knew, but he picked the right house (someone must have told him) and we promptly scooped him up and drove him the 200 miles to chicken heaven where, in a matter of weeks, he too turned into a handsome rooster.¬† It wasn’t until we finally purchased 6 fully grown hens (we weren’t taking any more chances) from a nearby farmer, that we finally had a full fledged country breakfast and have continued the tradition ever since. This is the first year a brood of five chicks were hatched. It’s only a matter of time before we know…..
As for The Egg Lady, the farmstead has stood abandoned for several years now, she having passed on to perhaps a true gentleman’s farm where it’s hoped she doesn’t have to work so hard. Everything looks as it always did. I can finally see the sign I couldn’t seem to see before, in large hand blocked letters – EGGS. But no one ever stops anymore. I can’t help looking, though. As if I can glimpse her trailing through the barnyard in a sort of time warp, coiffed in blue elegance. But the meadowgrass is all that breathes, in a gentle whispering wind.
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