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James R. Stout

Barbara, Dr. Jekyll, and Mr. Hyde

            Barbara, my oldest sister, was born on December 8, 1949. She was not only my parent’s first child; she was my grandparent’s first grandchild. So, she got quite a bit of attention in her first couple of years. Then starting in 1952, my parent’s and my aunt and uncle got busy giving my grandparents 4 additional grandchildren. Back to Barbara. It was in the spring of 1952 a few months before she became the older sister of my sister, Debbie. Easter came and a very popular thing to do at the time was to give children little chicks. Oh, they were cute, soft, and downy, and seemingly sweet as can be. Well, Barbara was given a chick. She was enthralled with the little critter. She fell in love immediately. However, it wasn’t long before the little chick began to grow bigger. It was then decided that Barbara’s chick should go live on my grandparent’s farm where the little critter could be amongst his own kind. I do not know the name that had been given to this little fellow. I’m telling this story as it was told to me by my mother. She never mentioned if the chick was given a name.

            One weekend in early May, Barbara, Dad, and 7 months pregnant Mom went to the farm for the weekend and took Dr. Jekyll to his new home. I have so named him for what will be soon understood. On that Sunday afternoon Barbara tearfully said goodbye to Dr. Jekyll but was assured that she would see him again soon. From what my mother told me, Barbara asked about Dr. Jekyll every day over the next few months. They were not able to go visit due to my mother being so pregnant. Sister Debbie arrived on July 19, 1952. Finally, in late September the family of four (I wouldn’t come along until 1955) went to spend a weekend with Grandma and Grandpa. It would be a chance for my grandparents to meet Debbie and perhaps more importantly, for Barbara at least, was the fact that she would finally get to see her dear little chick, Dr. Jekyll.

            As soon as they got out of the car, Barbara gave a quick hug to my grandparents and then asked to see Dr. Jekyll. Grandpa took her into the back yard where the chickens all roamed and pointed at a rather large rooster and said, “There he is!” Barbara looked at the big rooster and then at Grandpa as if he had gone mad. He assured her that the big strapping rooster was indeed Dr. Jekyll. So, Barbara ran over to give her old friend a hug. Bad move. Dr. Jekyll wasn’t having any of it. He began pecking at Barbara and when she screamed and ran back to Grandpa, Dr. Jekyll, now known as Mr. Hyde, gave chase and attempted to hitch a ride on poor Barbara’s back, pecking all the way. From what I was told it was a squally scene. Barbara was quite traumatized by the event and it took quite a while to console her. She spent the afternoon occasionally breaking into tears and crying. The memory of the sordid affair was hard for her to get out of her head.

            Finally, she did calm down and by about 6 p.m. it was time for supper. As they all sat at the table with Debbie in a small cradle, Barbara on a booster seat, and my parents and grandparents, my father said the prayer asking for the food be blessed to the nourishment of their bodies. After the prayer, Barbara meekly said, “I don’t ever want to see that chicken again.”

            To which my grandfather replied, “You don’t have to worry about that mean old rooster, sweetheart. That’s him on the table and we’ll all do some pecking on him now!”  Well, Mom, Dad, and Grandma all laughed loudly and when Barbara ate that drumstick, she was all smiles because Mr. Hyde had been fried.

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