THE LONG AGO GOOD FRIDAY
Good Friday fell on April 19th in the year 1957. It was the Good Friday I will never forget. i was ten years old. My dad arrived home late that night and walked in the front door with a box in his hands. He said something like "Son come here." He called me "son" a lot. I wonder if other guys who grew up in the 1950s got called "son" as well.
I approached him and looked inside the box not having any suspicion of what might be in there. Four years earlier he pulled a similar maneuver on New Year's Eve. On that date he was wearing his grey overcoat. He called me to come toward him when he pulled a tiny black cocker spaniel out from the right front pocket of his overcoat. You see New Year's Day was my birthday and the puppy was my birthday gift. I remember squealing with delight.
So four years and four months later what could this man have in the box? It wasn't a dog, of that I was pretty sure. I listened for noise and heard nothing. I walked forward and looked down inside. It was a tiny yellow baby duck and a tiny white bunny rabbit, that's what it was. My mother looked as well. I am sure she had no idea what my dad was doing.
My dad asked me to give them names. That was easy. Back in the 1950s I watched reruns of old movie cartoons. One of my favorites was Popeye. So I naturally called the duck Sweet Pea after the orphan Popeye and Olive Oyl took care of. And naturally the bunny had to be called Bugs. I never knew the sex of either animal but always assumed that Bugs was a boy and that Sweet Pea was a girl.
The following day my dad and I created a little home for Bugs and Sweet Pea in our garage. As I write this I recalled that it snowed that weekend. We couldn't put these tiny little creatures out in the snow.
It was probably the next weekend when I helped my dad construct a coop at the far end of the backyard. We built an enclosure that was maybe four by four by three feet tall - just u a bit under the height of our white picket fence. We used galvanized mesh hexagonal poultry netting (Google found this for me). My dad made a little door so that I could let Bugs and Sweet Pea out for a walk around the yard.
I always found some way to make money. I wrote a blog retelling about my sales skills as a little kid. I also shoveled snow in the winter and did work around old ladies houses in the summer. Old ladies liked me. They still do. Anyway, I got my finances together and walked to the lumberyard that was located near 38th and Sheridan. I bought a big bag of cement. I put it in my wagon and returned to the backyard where I had previously dug a hole. I mixed the cement and patted it to the form of the hole hoping to create a swimming pond for Sweet Pea. NEWS FLASH! It did not work. It did not hold water. But I tried.
I had to help Sweet Pea be a duck out of water. I regularly gave her a shower with the garden hose. She would flap her wings and sing QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! She loved the garden hose.
In addition to the covered patio we had a rock garden, a vegetable garden, three gooseberry bushes, a cherry tree, an apple tree, and a lot of grass all of which were contained inside our backyard bounded by the house on one side, a neighboring galvanized fence to the north, and our white picket fence on the east and south sides. Sweet Pea was as happy as any orphaned duck could be inside that yard or even in her coop. Bugs was a rascal, however. He escaped through the picket fence one too many times and I never saw him again.
If there was ever any doubt about what I would be when I grew up, any reasonable adult would have figured it out when they would see me and Sweet Pea go for a walk. I wrapped Sweet Pea's body with a remnant of my mother's red apron. I loosely put a piece of string around her neck which became a sort of leash. We would walk around the block. She loved it! She was like a dog looking out the window of a moving car. Taking it all in.
When fall came I realized that really cold weather and snow would soon follow. I knew that my best friend's grandparents owned a farm. I asked him if they would like to take Sweet Pea to live on their farm. They agreed and stopped by my house to pick up my pet duck. I gave them Sweet Pea. I don't recall crying or anything like that. It was best that she go live on a farm with the other farm animals. It was her time, long ago.