As I Was Saying
By Opal Toney
Hard Boiled ...
I like hard boiled eggs, and I ate a lot of 'em as I was growing up. We always had a small flock of hens, and a few ol' roosters. They kept us well supplied with eggs and baby chickens, especially in the spring time.
It was my daily job to gather the eggs in the late afternoon. In the morning, my older sister, Frankie, had the task of making our school lunches, and eggs were often included in them.
When the noon bell rang, my friends and I would make a beeline for the lockers in the hall of our four room schoolhouse. We would grab our lunches, and run out back where our winter supply of firewood was stacked. We would climb to the top of the pile and eat, with the branches of the trees spread above us.
One day, I reached into my paper sack, and sure enough, there was an egg. I cracked the shell and almost fainted! A hard boiled baby chicken was inside! I was a shy and bashful child-believe it or not-and I guess it was the shock of the discovery I had just made that caused me to do what I did next.
I jumped off my sky-high perch, picked myself up and ran as fast as I could to Frankie's high school room, two steps up from the other rooms.
I jerked the door open, ran in and held the egg up in front of her and all her classmates and said, "Look what's in my egg you put in my lunch."
I adored my big sister, and I still do, and one look at her face told me I had messed up bad. I turned and ran out faster than I came in. I can still hear the roar of laughter that followed me.
Sometime during that awful day a horrible thought came to me. I was the Mama-appointed egg gatherer, so it must had been me who took that egg into the kitchen. And, oh me! I had taken so much pride in doing the task just like Mama had showed me. The whole thing was a big worrisome puzzle that occupied my every thought.
When I got home from school, I chose not to go straight into the house as I usually did, and neither did I have any desire to go egg gathering.
I heard voices inside and was pretty sure what all the talking was about. Then I heard Mama laughing and I felt better. She seemed blessed with a weird gift that enabled her to find humor in most any situation.
I was sure she felt bad about Frankie's embarrassment, and I hoped she felt bad for me too, for I'm telling you, I was a very shy and bashful little kid.
Have no doubt about it, "the egg" was the main topic of discussion the rest of the day, and into the night, as I remember.
The question was, "How did it happen?" I kept asking myself that over and over.
I always made sure I didn't make the mistake of gathering the "nest eggs." And it was never a problem, for Mama always marked them around the middle several times with a lead pencil. She always used the same marking on her "settin-hen" eggs.
I sure knew better than to touch them! I was scared to death of the cross old biddies. They would peck the heck out of you if you dared get close to their nest.
I had also learned my lesson well on how to be careful picking up the fresh eggs, and what basket to put them in the kitchen. So, what did I do wrong?
Later we were sitting around pondering. Mama went to the kitchen for some reason, to get a drink of water, I think. She was back almost before she left-and she had a strange look on her face. She wasn't laughing and she had the egg basket in her hand.
It was about half full of slick, dull looking eggs. They had a kind of used look about 'em. Then I noticed faint signs of those telltale markings I knew so well. Somebody had done the unthinkable, and I knew it wasn't me.
In a voice not like her own, Mama asked, "Where did these eggs come from?" But I think she already knew.
Now, I have a sister, Louise, younger than me by a few months, who was always getting in my way. When I would tell Mama she would always say, "She just wants to help, honey, be sweet, remember, she's your little sister."
Well, when Mama asked her question, my "helper" piped up and said, "I found 'em in a hen nest and I brought 'em in for you."
Nobody said a word, but all eyes were on you know who, 'specially mine. There she sat, "no bigger than a minute" Mama always said, looking proud! Without knowing it, she had just told on herself and solved the egg mystery at the same time!
Poor Mama! She seemed to be in a daze, or something. No doubt, she was thinking, "She was only trying to help," but she went into a monologue, talking to herself about settin-hens; baby chicks who were about ready to come out of their shells who could have grown up to become egg layers themselves.
'Reckon there wasn't any point of putting the sad looking eggs back in the nest. She seemed to realize as she spoke it was a lost cause, and became aware of us staring at her.
It wasn't long 'til we were all laughing again, including me this time-and all was forgiven.
As I was saying, I like boiled eggs, and you know, come to think of it, that's something of a wonder.