Chef’s Surprise

Casper made a circular motion with one hand as he reported with a laugh, “One of the chickens did a summersault and then ran into the coop.”

My sister Agnes and I were visiting our bachelor brothers, Billy and Casper. The four of us sat around a table in the patio room at the farmhouse. My siblings were all ten to fifteen years older than me, so I knew little about their childhoods. To my delight they were in the mood to reminisce about funny things they did as children that afternoon.

The patio room had large windows on three sides, showcasing the surrounding snowy yard. Heated floor tiles under our sock-clad feet radiated a sense of comfort and relaxation.

As usual, Casper offered us a glass of his homemade wine shortly after our arrival. His vintner skills had been honed to a high degree with more than 30 years of practice. We happily anticipated his hospitality.

Casper held up two bottles and asked, “Which do you want? I have cherry and strawberry wine from last year.” I eagerly requested the cherry. As a frequent visitor to the farm, I’d sampled it before and knew how exceptionally good it was.

Billy got out the popcorn tin and filled a bowl on the table for us. Popcorn was a favorite snack of theirs, so the tin was frequently refilled with popped corn that had been grown in their own garden.

The story Casper was telling took place when he and Agnes were about ten and eleven years old. He explained, “Sparrows liked to roost on the rafters above the tractor. When Daddy went to use it, the seat was covered with fresh droppings. They liked to roost in the haymow, too, fouling the hay below. So, one day Agnes and I took our B-B guns and started to shoot sparrows.”

Agnes interjected, “I must have been a better shot back then. The other day I tried to shoot a chipmunk at the bird feeder and kept missing.”

“We were next to the chicken coop.” Casper explained, “When that chicken did a summersault in the dust, squawked and ran into the building. I didn’t think anything of it. The chickens were always squawking at each other and flapping their wings.”

My sister admitted, “I must have overshot the sparrow. It was hopping around on the ground in front of the chicken run.”

Casper said, “Daddy butchered chickens that fall. When Mom made one for supper that winter, she bit into a B-B pellet!”

Agnes added, “She wanted to know how a B-B happened to get into a chicken leg!”

Grinning, Casper admitted, “That’s when I remembered what a fuss one of the chickens had made the day we were shooting sparrows.”

“Poor chicken!” I commented, “Was Mom angry?”

“No, not really,” Agnes said thoughtfully. “She was more surprised than anything.”

“That wasn’t the first time Mom was surprised while cooking.” Casper said with a chuckle. “I ruined a cake one night when I was several years younger.”

“How did you do that?” I questioned.

“I was standing at the living room doorway playing with a rubber band and a purple crayon, watching Mom in the kitchen. She opened the oven door to check a cake. When she turned to put down her potholder, the rubber band and crayon snapped out of my hands. I found the rubber band, but couldn’t figure out where the crayon had gone.”

I frowned and guessed, “Don’t tell me it landed in the oven!”

“Yup!” Casper answered. “Better than that. The crayon landed in a corner of the cake pan and melted.”

I wondered, “What are the odds of that happening?”

Lifting up my stemmed glass, I examined the clear red wine. Before taking another sip, I sniffed its bouquet. The smell of the fruit came through beautifully. I sighed with satisfaction.

Being the youngest child in the family, I’ve only known Billy, Casper and Agnes as adults. It was a rare treat, as fine as the wine, to hear them reminisce.






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