The bad duck.

Until I read the obits/appreciations yesterday, I had forgotten about David Mills’ Misidentified Black Person series. In a 2007 letter to Romenesko, the bible of media news, Mills pointed out the problem:

In the late 1980s, as a feature writer for the Washington Times, I wrote a piece about a cable-TV movie, and I’d interviewed its star, Avery Brooks. Insight magazine reprinted the story, and ran a photo of co-star Samuel L. Jackson over the caption “Avery Brooks.” Imagine my embarrassment.

I confronted an editor about this, and she kind of laughed it off. I don’t think Insight even bothered to run a correction. At that point, Sam Jackson wasn’t the movie star he is today. But black folks in D.C. were seriously digging Avery Brooks as Hawk on “Spenser: For Hire.” So any black person who picked up that magazine and saw that error probably felt a little pinprick of insult. “Guess they think we all look alike.”

He further announced he’d be tracking the problem. Three months later, he had enough, just in the athletes category, to fill another column.

Some were funny, and some were pathetic. In 2005, he pointed out, the Washington Times confused Robert Bobb, then a Washington D.C. city official, now financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, with Marvin Gaye. Here’s Marvin Gaye. Here’s Robert Bobb. You tell me. Leontyne Price is an operatic soprano fond of turbans. Lena Horne is a cabaret singer. Price is darker-skinned, with a broad nose and full lips. Horne has a narrow nose and thinner lips — in fact, Horne was sometimes advised to “pass” as white to increase her earning power. The AP confused them in a photo caption. Well, they are both singers whose names begin with L.

You can see all of Mills’ blog posts on MBPs, as he called them, here. Hat tip to TV writer Alan Sepinwall for remembering how they were tagged; further hat tips for naming his blog What’s Alan Watching?, an acknowledgment of a brilliant one-off by Eddie Murphy that sank under the waves so fast I thought I had hallucinated it. Sepinwall explains here; it was a pilot that never got picked up, but aired in 1989. Once.

One more great Mills post: Attack of the Giant Negroes.

Too soon.

Well, it’s spring fer shure here in Michigan; by the forecast, it’s nearly summer — 70s today, nudging 80 tomorrow. And I have found an outdoor exercise pen for Ruby Rabbit in the classifieds, so I must away to pick it up soon. But before I go, a short story my brother-in-law Bill told a few years ago (which my search engine says I haven’t told before, and I hope it’s telling me the truth), which relates to the warning we always hear at this time of year: Please, don’t buy your children chicks, ducks or rabbits as Easter pets.

Years ago, it was commonplace for children to receive poultry or lagomorphs for Easter presents, sometimes dyed Easter colors. I never got one, but I knew many kids who did, and the story was always the same — the chicks were either stressed or squeezed to death, and the bunny ditto, if it wasn’t “released into the wild” by Dad within three days.

Anyway, one year Bill’s younger brother, Dickie, got a duckling. And the duckling did not die. Despite being played with by several children, the duck not only survived Easter, it grew to maturity, shedding its pastel-dyed feathers for adult plumage and becoming a literal pain in the ass in the bargain. It lived outside and, perhaps brain-damaged by life away from its flock and lots of hand-feeding, became a butt-nipper, chasing the kids around the yard to pinch with its powerful beak. It finally became intolerable, and the duck was taken to grandma and grandpa’s farm for a more natural life. Grandma and grandpa lived in the country near Circleville, Ohio, and the duck was released into their flock with the usual fanfare.

On subsequent trips to visit the grandparents, Dickie would sometimes ask where the duck was. It was “down by the pond,” or “roosting under the porch,” but never where he could see it, and in time, he stopped asking. Of course, you all know what happened to the duck: It nipped grandma’s butt not long after arrival, and she, a country woman who did not tolerate insolent waterfowl , snatched it up, swiftly dispatched it and served it for dinner. Everyone but Dickie seemed to realize this.

Flash forward many, many years later — like, five years ago. Bill and Dickie are now about to collect Social Security. One day they’re sitting around talking, and Dickie wonders aloud, “I wonder whatever happened to that duck.” Bill said, “Grandma killed it. She was always a mean woman.” And Dickie was astounded. This had never occurred to him in the half-century or so since that long-ago spring, and for a moment he was eight years old again: Grandma…ate my duck? Sometimes our childhood illusions should be left intact.

So don’t buy your kid a live chick, duck or bunny for Easter. Although, if you do, it’s always possible you’ll get a good family story out of it.

Posted at 9:28 am in Same ol' same ol', Television |

41 responses to “The bad duck.”

  1. moe99 said on April 1, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I remember as kids getting baby chicks for Easter. I think they were dyed. My mother says that she thinks she took them out to some farm. But she also once told me when our pet turtle went missing, that it had crawled into a wall outlet and electrocuted itself. But, of course, she can’t remember that now.

    OT: Just caught this nugget about she who….

    Fox News’ Sarah Palin interview show features Palin interviewing celebrities using interviews of the celebrities that were made years ago. Nice work for the half term guv.

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  2. crinoidgirl said on April 1, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Jeff (tmmo) – not sure if you caught my late post to the previous thread.

    You linked to a pretty old USMC reading list. Here is the latest version:


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  3. derwood said on April 1, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I always tell people to never buy a rabbit for their kids at Easter and seriously consider the option any other time of year. Rabbits are more work than people think. Ours belonged to the chinese family down the street who bought it for their daughter at Easter. By Fall the bunny was hopping around the hood when the family got tired of taking care of it. We found him in our yard in Feb. of 2005 and has been ours since. Last year the neighbor kids brought Ashley over to see “Snowball”. We had named him Killer…she was happy he had found a good home.


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  4. Julie Robinson said on April 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

    The Easter Bunny always brought socks along with candy in our house.

    Butt-nipper is an apt description for the chickens on my grandparents farm, especially the roosters. Also, every-other-body-part-nipper. Any wonder I was terrified as a child? I think of this every time our daughter enthuses about friends who are raising chickens in Chicago*, and fear she will take it up when she gets a place of her own. It would be embarrassing to not visit your daughter because you’re afraid of her poultry.

    *What do you suppose their neighbors think? What about the stink? This is a densely populated area of the city.

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  5. Deborah said on April 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

    So sad to read such great storytelling and know that the guy was struck down at such an early age. He really researched the story about “Giant Negroes” and then reported in such a captivating way. I will have to read more of the stuff he wrote. I love that kind of thing.

    Still haven’t gotten around to creating a gravatar. Maybe this weekend I’ll get to it.

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  6. coozledad said on April 1, 2010 at 10:49 am

    If you raise ducks and chickens, be sure not to let a hen brood the ducklings. The ducks will think they’re chickens, and drakes are savage rapists, who unlike roosters, are equipped with evil looking corkscrew cocks straight out of a Manga novel. Apres sex they drag their cocks along the ground shrieking a kind of victory song. You will have miserable (Or dead) hens. The male ducks will jump the roosters and fuck them, too. The roosters and hens (and geese and ganders) will both be off their feed looking for a dark, sheltered corner to escape the prodigious sexual appetites of the drakes.
    We had two runner ducks, Akbar and Jeff, we acquired because their behavior ran counter to the tender sensibilities of their newbie poultry owners. Akbar is still with us, paired off with a female duck, Tabitha. In he and his brothers’ chicken fucking days, they never kept it in their pants.

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  7. Dorothy said on April 1, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Okay is this our April Fools day trick from Nancy? Everyone has an Avatar Gravatar. Funny!!

    We never got live pets as Easter gifts but I did have a turtle once, who did not live very long. After we buried him in the back yard, an older sister and older brother dug him up and made Charlie do “tricks” – flipping him in the air, sliding him down the slide etc. These same siblings are the ones who made the Ouija board say I would never get better the Christmas I had the mumps. It’s a wonder I still talk to them.

    Cooze your stories are pretty interesting most of the time, but that one is one I wished I hadn’t read. Seriously.

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  8. Jeff Borden said on April 1, 2010 at 10:57 am

    I’m beginning to wonder if She Who can do anything other than milk the rubes for every last cent, which is a not inconsiderable talent, by the way.

    A story broke yesterday that Alaska has the highest debt to revenue ratio of the 50 states, despite its tiny population and rich streams of income from oil companies, following She Who’s half-term as governor. Wasilla had a $1 million surplus when She Who became mayor and a $22 million deficit when she left, largely due to her overspending on an athletic facility. She cannot write her own speeches. She did not write her own book. And now, it appears, she cannot even be bothered with fluff interviews.

    It sounds very much like Faux News was trying an old radio gambit, where recording studios would send out pre-scripted interviews with their stars to stations around the country. Then, Wild Bill and Booger on the Morning Zoo show would simply read the questions, then play the response supplied by the record company. Wow! Wild Bill and Booger are interviewing Axl Rose!!!!

    When Toby Keith of all people calls bullshit on a conservative darling like She Who, you know things are bad.

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  9. judybusy said on April 1, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Julie, city chickens are getting more popular, and if taken care of properly, don’t stink! Also, if you just have hens, there are no issues with noisy roosters. A blog I follow, digthischick, has lots of chicken stories and how the author’s daughter loves the ckickens. She a great photographer, too, and the blog is a wonderful balm for a world gone mad. Today’s post is all about crafty stuff she did for Easter.

    Uh, thanks Cooze, for that enlightening story.

    Ditto on Deborah’s thoughts on David Miller.

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  10. Bob (not Greene) said on April 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Damn, cooze, those henhouses sound like Cook County Jail. Actually, the first thing that came to mind was Daffy Duck having his way with Foghorn Leghorn.

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  11. Jeff Borden said on April 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Actually, after reading Cooze’s entry, I half expected to see those ducks were members of the Republican National Committee visiting some barnyard version of Voyeur.

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  12. LAMary said on April 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Off topic, but funny in a depressing sort of way:

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  13. John said on April 1, 2010 at 11:25 am

    More New England flooding news:
    Demetri Skalkos, co-owner of McNamara’s liquor store, said about 3 feet of water stood in the basement. He said he was worried about losing business over the traditionally busy Easter period.
    “This is the Holy Week,” he said. “If we don’t do business now, when are we going to do business?”

    Ain’t no baby chicks sold here!

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  14. Jeff Borden said on April 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I’m glad you posted that link, LAMary. In addition to showcasing the levels of intelligence exhibited by the teabaggers, it must be infuriating for these angry white folks to see their words mocked as “teabonics,” given their general lack of sympathy for the non-Caucasian.

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  15. moe99 said on April 1, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Improve Everywhere improves on the “man goes into a bar” joke.

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  16. nancy said on April 1, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Perhaps getting squeezed to death by a child isn’t such a bad fate for a duckling. Consider the alternative.

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  17. Dorothy said on April 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

    moe I think that’s “Improv Everywhere”

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  18. Jim said on April 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Just in the interest of jointness, here is the Army’s recommended reading list:

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  19. beb said on April 1, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I have a tale similair to your brother-in-laws. My Dad aslways did a little farming on the side, including raising chickens, ducks and rabbit for meat. When I was very young they had a very aggressive Bantam rooster. It terrorised me many times when i was outdoors. On day we wre having chicken for supper, nothing unusual about that but someone, I suspect my older brother since we never did get along, mentioned that the chicken we were eating was that rooster. I was close to hurling.

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  20. moe99 said on April 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Dorothy, yeah you’re right. Need to edit better.

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  21. LAMary said on April 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    There was a pond near the house where I grew up and there were always lots of mallards there. They would nest in neighboring backyards in the spring and we always had little ducklings in our garden. Over the years the pond was taken over by big mean white domesticated ducks. Grown up Easter cast off ducks. The poor little sweet mallards got run out of the area.

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  22. kayak woman said on April 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Ann Arbor now allows backyard chickens, hens only. I don’t know anyone who has them. I don’t have time (or enough interest, I guess).

    My daughter’s girl scout troop leader once arranged a loverly little project for each girl to keep two chicks for a couple weeks. Troop leader’s husband was so horrified that he called up the city and asked if they could stop her somehow, since it wasn’t legal then. They laughed and told him that keeping chicks for two weeks would not be a problem. We ended up with four after another girl’s parents bailed out. They were definitely stinky. I would be standing in line at the grocery store wondering if *I* smelled like chicken or if the smell was somehow stuck in my nose. Not sure if I want to know the answer to that.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever told your duck story before but, if so, it’s worth repeating every now and then.

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  23. Scout said on April 1, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    A co-worker of mine keeps four chickens in her Phoenix backyard. Thanks to her, I eat the freshest, most delicious, organically fed, free range chicken eggs in town.

    Cooz, you are a national treasure.

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  24. Bob said on April 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    A neighbor has one of those big, white domestic ducks as a pet, and Petrie is pretty much adored by all the kids. Duck never nips or harasses people, but it chases the family’s Rottweiler all over the place. Guess the Rottweiler got the memo from Cooze and took heed.

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  25. ROgirl said on April 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    There’s been a supposed sighting of a coyote in the park behind my house. I wonder if it’s the same one that was seen in Detroit.

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  26. Sue said on April 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    We’re number one! Wisconsin that is, along with South Dakota, anyway – #1 in returning our census forms. Pity the poor states that will lose bucks and representation by their own choice.
    According to TPM:

    “Most rightwing bamboozlement is a no consequences affair for the bamboozlers. Death panels, Manchurian candidate presidents, ‘armed IRS’ agents busting down your door to ram low deductible health care coverage down your throat. It goes on and on. But it seems one old yarn from the fever swamp may have some very pernicious consequences for the folks who make their living making up stories to keep the wingnut masses in a state of chronic agitation and moral panic.

    “Rightwing hullabaloo over the federal Census, particularly the improbable claim that the Census is unconstitutional, is reportedly leading a lot of the most conservative Republicans to refuse to fill out their Census forms, which in theory at least could lead to substantial underrepresentation for these folks in Congress over the next decade — not to mention a lower cut of services from the federal government.

    “That at least is what Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the ranking Republican on the committee that oversees the Census, thinks is happening. And he’s now taken to itself, Fever Swamp Central, to tell fellow conservatives to do the right thing and fill out their Census forms. As McHenry notes, it’s very hard to reason that the Census can be unconstitutional since it’s one of the only things the constitution not only provides broad powers to do but actually expressly enjoins the federal government to do every decade.”

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  27. Deborah said on April 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I need to edit better too, that’s Negroes not Negoes. Pointed out by my sassy daughter who reads NNC regularly and comments sometimes. [fixed.]

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  28. Sycamorebaby said on April 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    So in Sycamore, Ohio (pop. 900) we enjoyed the Annual Easter Egg Hunt on the field at the south end of town (ok, fields begin there and extend for miles).

    Children were organized by age and sent in small groups to run around and collect their eggs. If you were lucky, you would find a speckled egg. If you found two, your mom made you give your extra one to that crybaby who hadn’t found any.

    You turned your egg in at Bare’s Hatchery and received a fluffy pastel-dyed chick…which I hand-fed each year in the basement until it was big enough to stay in a small coop in the field behind the house. Never did I have one die.

    However, being farmer types, when that chick grew into a hen, we took it over to the Kuhn’s family egg farm and included it in the weekly head-cutting-off slaughter that occurred in a wire cage. Certainly it made real the reference to “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”.

    There was not much that I did as a farm kid that was more disgusting than plucking chickens. It was an especially gruesome task when you needed to do 30 or so to make sloppy chicken sandwiches for the Congregational Church Social.

    Yep, like Grandma, we were pretty practical.

    Happy Easter.

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  29. Jeff Borden said on April 1, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I have hestitated to announce this, but the paper work has gone through and I can now tell you all that I have been hired by Fox News Channel.

    “Real Murrican Stories” with Jeff Borden seeks to highlight the stories of interesting citizens who have had a great impact on our Judeo-Christian Murrican way of life. Each week I’ll sit down with the movers and shakers who have changed our great nation for the better.

    My first guests tonight –and these are all exclusive interviews– include:

    Ronald Wilson Reagan
    Sen. Joseph McCarthy
    J. Edgar Hoover

    with musical guests Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Big Bopper, Selena and Jim Morrison.

    Hope you all can tune in.

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  30. James said on April 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm


    I would tune in, but I’m just dead.

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  31. moe99 said on April 1, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Jeff B. When your show features the issue of pornography, will you be playing it on your pornograph?

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  32. paddyo' said on April 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Who’s your “hi-yohhhh!” sidekick, Jeff B.? Hold out for Ed McMahon . . .

    And hey, National Treasure @ #6:
    Corkscrew Cocks? Isn’t that another late, lamented rock band?

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  33. crinoidgirl said on April 1, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Jeff B., why weren’t you able to book Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix? Until then, I’m definitely not watching your show.

    And the Avatar gravatar (or the other way around) really sucks.

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  34. Sue said on April 1, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Coming in Future Episodes:
    Charlton Heston on just how much ammo the average Christian Militia home should stockpile
    Father Coughlin gives his views on the current unpleasantness in the Catholic Church

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  35. MichaelG said on April 1, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Wow! Poultry and rabbit stories. We had rabbits once when we lived in Marin County. Two became 24. Believe it or not they crapped in a box with newspaper in it. We posted a sign on the wall down low next to the box that said “No Cats Allowed”. It seemed to work. I trotted momma down to the San Francisco animal shelter (at the time they didn’t kill animals) just a day or two before she was scheduled to drop another litter. I gave them a phony name and phone number so they wouldn’t call and bitch at me. Then we somehow ended up with a little golden lop that was gay. He tried once too often to rape the A rabbit, a medium sized Dutch who was named Rafael. Rafael tore the little lop up so badly that we had to get $500 worth of work done at the vet before we could give him away. We were able to lay most of the rabbits off on pet stores and gave the rest away except for Rafael. He lived to be almost 10.

    When we (I – my ex is still there) lived in Auburn we had lots of chickens. The girls were always an amiable bunch, smarter and with more personality than you would expect. To this day I miss those wonderful fresh eggs. One day we acquired a giant rooster. A Speckled Hampshire or a Spotted Whatevershire or something like that. He was young and just beginning to grow his spurs, thank God. Sucker stood higher than my knee. He terrorized the girls and me equally. I had a length of 2 x 2 that I carried with me. I was only able to clobber him the first couple of times before he got wise and started in with his rooster fu. He was very quick and evasive and I couldn’t hit him. He would stalk me from behind trees and bushes and stuff and jump out at me. Then he’d stand there, bobbing and weaving and looking at me as if saying “Come and get it, Motherfucker”. Gahd, what a beast. We snatched him when he was sleeping and put him in a box. I took him down to the feed store and gave him to a chicken feed salesman from Oregon.

    We ended up with a chocolate runner duck. Seems like we were always acquiring odd animals. She was a nice girl but messy as hell. She would shit copiously everywhere all the time. I think ducks and geese have some kind of internal multiplier so that they shit three or four times the volume of what they eat. We kept a kid’s wading pool for her and every week or so tossed a dozen goldfish in for her dining pleasure. She’d snaffle them up in no time. She had a habit of carrying dirt to put in the pool when we changed the water. Lord, she was filthy. One night she got out of the shed and a fox ate her. Most of her, anyway. I tried her eggs, but never really liked them. They have a taste very different from chicken eggs.

    One of my ex’s goaties died a few weeks ago and T got a replacement. Of course the new goat turned out to be preggers. Fortunately the baby was a girl. Cute as can be. Male goats are as filthy, smelly and nasty as ducks and geese.

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  36. brian stouder said on April 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    I got the Avatar Gravatars, but I did not understand the, until I Googled “Topeka” and found that was today, which was sort of like hall-of-mirrors time…

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  37. Denice B said on April 1, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    I happened to be at the Michigan Humane Society a few weeks ago for my sick kitten, when the Animal Cops brought in a strange pair rescued from a gas station somewhere in Detroit. An adult ewe and her very young lamb. After Easter, the shelter gets overrun with regretful chick owners. And people get tired of bunnies very quickly. Thank goodness for the Humane Society. They are great at bunny adoptions.

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  38. Holly said on April 2, 2010 at 12:28 am

    I am not looking forward to going to work at the Old Folks Home tomorrow. I have to color 12 dozen eggs for the residents. Good thing they don’t make me hide them.

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  39. Rana said on April 2, 2010 at 2:16 am

    There was not much that I did as a farm kid that was more dis­gust­ing than pluck­ing chick­ens.

    Oh, heavens yes, plucking dead birds is quite disgusting. I did it once when my dad brought home some ducks he had shot, and once when I was in Panama with a friend doing Peace Corps. Nasty, smelly work, that. Skinning the legs and feet was pleasant by comparison. (I was also revolted by the way the other chickens rushed underfoot to eat the bits that fell. Disturbing. But it did make for a tasty chicken.)

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  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 2, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Crinoidgirl, thanks for the link; I’m behind the times in so many ways, but I like catching up from time to time. And my son and I found some of your namesakes in the creekbed the other day this fine, warm spring break.

    Went to a nursing home before Maundy Thursday services yesterday (I got to play Judas!), and they all are just beating to death the joke about how they have this one advantage — they can hide their own Easter eggs.

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  41. Pam said on April 2, 2010 at 9:13 am

    It wasn’t brother Dick, it was brother Dale. Only Dale would be so gullible.

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