When I was five years old, my grandmother got me a Saturday job with her neighbor, Mrs. Madison. My job was to help collect eggs and feed the chickens. I scattered grain and filled the water cans. I didn’t collect eggs from any hens that pecked at my hands. I did carry the basket, but only until it became too heavy with eggs. When we finished collecting, we ‘candled’ the eggs for signs of embryos and sorted them for size. I was pretty good at sorting for size.
As a young girl, Mrs. Madison had polio and her left hand was drawn into a tight curl. But her arm was strong–she could carry a basketful of eggs over her wrist and she seemed capable of anything. She liked me.
When the Helms Bakery van came by, the driver blew his whistle and slowed enough for people to get their nickels and come out. The back of the van had long drawers that pulled out, revealing donuts, bread, pies and cakes. I liked the jelly-filled and Mrs. Madison would squeeze her little red plastic clamshell, offering it to me to remove two nickels. I got to pay the driver. Donuts were a luxury at my parent’s house.
I had a cold glass of milk and Mrs. Madison had coffee. About that time in the morning, people in the neighborhood came by to pick up eggs. Everyone joined Mrs. Madison in praising my work ethic. She paid me a quarter.