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Ducks amongst other poultry

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Dorothy had a real love of animals and the ducks added to her collection of screwballs…

“My nephews, Poncho and John, went to the Fresno District Fair, and much to my sister Jackie’s consternation, won two baby ducks.  They had no room or facilities for them so the most obvious solution would be to make a gift of them to Aunt Dorothy.  Well, being me, I took one look at the little darlings and received them with open arms.  These animals also weren’t quite normal, in the usual sense, but, by now, I more or less accepted this with my animals.  The ducks loved to go into the kitchen, stand by the refrigerator and wait for Stella to give them some milk.  They didn’t know that ducks do not drink milk.  They also did not know that ducks did not sleep with seven year-old girls (under covers yet) until I caught them one night and made them sleep outside.

The very worst problem that I had to face with those screwball ducks was their absolute hatred of water.  They were supposed to be white ducks, but were seldom clean enough to deserve that title.  The only way I could force them into the water was to toss frozen peas, which they loved, into their pond.  They would go into the water after the peas with the same type of attitude you might expect from a cat.  If I threw in enough peas, they would be fairly clean for a little while.  Then the pea episode would have to be repeated.  Anyone watching this process would probably shake his head in disbelief.”


Dorothy feels awful that she stepped on one of the baby chicks.  Half Chick becomes a beloved pet…

“Half Chick became housebroke at an early age, loved to watch TV with us, and his favorite pastime of all to ride in the car with me, perched on my shoulder.  He, in time, became a huge and beautiful White Leghorn.  His head healed nicely, although only half of it was there.  The skin grew around the crushed side of his head, although he never grew feathers there.  Incidentally, we named him Half-Chick upon his ability to outlive that terrible accident.  He had the choicest of food and received the best of care.

One day I was driving down the freeway with the half-chick perched in his usual position on my shoulder.  A telltale red light came on in back of me.  My first question was the usual as I pulled over and stopped for the highway patrolman.  “What did I do wrong, officer?” was my unoriginal question.  “Nothing”, was his response, “I just wanted to find out what kind of creature you had perched on your shoulder.”  And looking, I could see that he still wasn’t sure.  “It’s a White Leghorn,” I stated proudly.  He shook his head slowly as he went back to his vehicle.  I drove on.”

A day-old chick

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Dorothy has a soft spot for animals and now she has 5 acres…

One beautiful early spring day our first year on the ranch I made a fatal decision.  It all started guilelessly enough with an innocent walk through a shopping center, while spring fever surged through my veins.  One display window in a feed store featured the sweetest, most precious looking day-old baby chicks imaginable.  I thought to myself,  “We have five acres of ground.  If the chicks aren’t too expensive, I can buy several and we can have eggs of our own.”  This sounded plausible to me as I went in to inquire the cost of the precious little darlings.  I was so amazed to learn that the chicks only cost a few cents each, so I wound up with one hundred and fifty chicks. I bought the suggested feed, several books on raising chickens, and made my way home.  Upon arriving home, I found cardboard boxes, lined them with flannel, put in feed and water, and rigged up electric lights to keep them warm and installed my chicks in their new home.  This happened to be in the confines of the pantry, as we had no other place for them.  They were so small that they took up so little space.

The following morning my sister Betty dropped over for a visit and I went into the pantry to get something, and emerged white-faced.  Betty asked, What’s the matter?  What happened?  You look awful.”  “I feel awful, Betty.  I just stepped on the head of one of the baby chicks.  Do me a favor and pick it up and put it in a little box, set it up on a shelf and Ted can bury it when he gets home.”  I couldn’t even look at it I felt so terrible.  I could feel its bones crunch as I walked on it bare foot.  Being the person Betty was, she complied.

The following morning, Ted came into the kitchen and asked me why I had isolated one little chick without food or water.  “Oh, I forgot to tell you last night, but I stepped on the poor thing’s head and saw going to ask you to bury it for me.” was my reply.  “It’s not dead.  Come see for yourself,” he answered.  “Don’t tease me about a thing like that, I feel bad enough about it.”

“Really, Dorothy, it is alive and it looks good and strong to me, except for his poor little head,” Ted told me.  “Come and have a look.”  Against my better judgement, I looked and to my amazement, the chick was hopping around and looked great, except for his head.

Half of his head was crushed in and from then on, nothing was too good for that little chick.  I had read that, incase of injury, the natural instinct of the other chicks would be to peck at the unfortunate peer, so he was kept isolated for the rest of his life.  I don’t know how much of his apparent intelligence was the result of living in the house away from the other chickens, how much was due to a natural unusually high intelligence, and how much was due to the right scrambling of his brains when I stepped on him.

Dorothy and Ted and dinner guests laughed off the dripping rain on the inside of the ranch, but the leaks caused more problems…

“One interesting facet of our rain problems, discounting the leaky roof, was our lack of electricity in the living room and bedroom during and for several days following each rainstorm. Since we had no money for an electrician, let alone a roofer, we managed with kerosene lamps whenever this phenomenon occurred.  After all, it rained infrequently in Central California.  No great problem.  Several months later when we decided to do minor remodeling in the living room, Ted tore off several sections of knotty pine paneling and we about died.  Somehow in the wiring of the house, someone had used a piece of extension cord instead of regular household wiring.  This carried a heavy load of electricity for part of the living room and it was a miracle there were no dangerous repercussions from it.  Another place in the wall had two bare wires hooked nonchalantly together.  This “hook-up” would pull apart as the wood in the wall swelled during a rainstorm and not only would leave us without electricity until the wood dried, but also played a little game of “how much wood can we char while we are sparking and pulling apart”.   Needless to say, we didn’t sleep well until the whole house was rewired.”

Cousins Poncho, Stella, Mike, John, Patty, Frank, Ronnie 1953

"Life on Maple Avenue"

Dorothy and Ted Pierini

Ted and Dorothy have finally found their ranch and purchased it.  Now to deal with bits of reality…

“Central California is basically a desert land that is brought into life with irrigation.  The roof of our dream house did not receive any consideration from us, until the first rain hit us the following winter.  A “sieve” would have been a more appropriate word to use rather than “roof”.  Anyway, we had no funds to patch, mend, or fix it.  Instead we had to put all of our pots, pans, bowls, etc., on the floor in strategic locations to catch the most rain possible.  How often our pots were changed depended on the amount of rainfall out side.  We, of course were still using the old mahogany furniture and we had placed it around the small house at various locations to keep from bumping into it.  The rainy season changed even those plans.  We found ourselves putting furniture on top of furniture, with the most needed pieces on the bottom, it turns out.  Our bedroom was a total disaster area.  There would not have been any way of catching all, or nearly all of the rainwater, even with wall-to-wall pots.  The best I could do was to open the outside door from the bedroom and sweep the water out of the door with my broom, prior to using a mop.

Under these circumstances, we went late one afternoon to visit our new friends, the Sniders, who were real farm people.  They were great neighbors and we enjoyed their homespun hospitality.  While we were there, two other farm couples arrived to visit and we were introduced to them.  We enjoyed the visit very much and somehow the party ended up at our house where we all ate take-out Chinese food for dinner.

Let’s see if I can conjure up the picture.  Thirteen people sitting around a dripping living room with furniture stacked up high all around them and strategically placed pots to catch the rainfall.  The biggest problem at hand was to place our large table for everyone to sit and eat without anyone getting rain soaked. Remember I said these were great people?  We made quite a joke out of this process.  Someone cracked up the whole group by sitting at the table with marked concentration and holding an umbrella in one hand and eating with the other in an extremely debonair attitude.  After dinner we all sat around in cozy conversation.  Someone would ask, in normal conversation lag, “Do you think it is still raining?  The usual response to this would be a deadpan-look into the nearest pot to check on the latest weather conditions.  This would always bring on an attack of hysteria.”

The ranch August 8, 1953

Dorothy has already seen the small house for sale.  She loves it and hopes Ted will too…

Anyone who ever buys property knows that one doesn’t show interest but acts indifferent and vague.  Then, when one makes an offer, then it is much lower than either the buyer or seller thinks would be a fair price.  At this point the dickering starts.  But, we were new to the game, and when told the price, we thought of nothing but getting the property.

When Ted drove into the yard that evening, I was waiting for him.  He could sense my excitement and asked quite suspiciously what I was so excited about.  I told him to syay in the car, that I had something to show him as I hopped into the car beside him.  He asked, “I thought that we agreed last night to give up looking for a farm.”  My answer was, “Withhold your verdict until you see it”.

I jabbered all the way out to the ranch about the potential, the livability, the low cost, the coziness, the privacy, the clean air and so on.  I think that he was beginning to catch on to the fact that I had fallen in love with the farm…soon to be called “the ranch”.

When we arrived and looked it all over, Ted ws as enthusiastic as I was about the place.  We hurriedly borrowed “earnest money” from Ted’s grandfather, who always carried large sums of money with him.  We negotiated a loan from the neighborhood bank and bought our “ranch”.  Oh boy, did we buy the ranch!

We rented out our home in town and proceeded to move furniture from three bedrooms, two baths, dining room, and living room into one bedroom, one bath and living room.  Our furniture was Duncan Phyfe mahogany and we were moving it into a rustic ranch house.  As I gazed at the massive formal furniture, I gave a forlorn sigh.  Ted answered my thoughts by saying, “Well, the mahogany matches the knotholes in the knotty pine walls”.  At this, I groaned.

An old classmate, Lou, and her husband are the current owners of the home for sale.  Lou is going to show the place to Dorothy…

“Lou greeted us warmly and the first thing that she informed me was that there was a sizable hole in the flooring of the living room immediately in front of the door.  This should of warned me of things to come, but I could only gaze at the cozy living room.  One side was covered with bookcases and there were further shelves surrounding a doorway going into a huge bedroom.  The whole house consisted of the before mentioned living room, bedroom, kitchen, pantry, bathroom and service porch.  All of the rooms were spacious, cozy, clean, and decorated with great taste.  Huge beamed ceilings were in the kitchen and living room.  It was so much more than I had dreamed or hoped for.  The future addition to the house could be so simply taken care of, with the existing building plan.  Lou took me over the land, showing me each of the wells, pump house, etc.  I could not help but realize that she took great pride in ownership of the “potential” that she was having to give up.  Later I found out that her husband had incurred some large debts, forcing them into a quick sale.  I mentioned that if my husband Ted wanted the place half as much as I wanted it, we would buy it.”