The barnyard turned out to be just a bedraggled fence enclosing a chicken house with a row of nesting boxes. The chicken house had seen better days and leaned crazily to the left. Someone had thoughtfully propped it up enough so the eggs didn’t roll out of the boxes. Jamey picked up a pencil-marked egg and slung it against the barn. It exploded with a nauseating sulfurous smell and resounding pop, whereupon Jamey explained it had been left for the hen to “set on” and had rotted. I was familiar with the concept of “setting hens” and knew not to touch precious eggs. Mother had made it clear eggs were precious, not playthings. Nonetheless, Jamey took an egg from another nest and hurled it. It also exploded and turned the air to sulphur to the delight of the party-goers. Kids started flinging eggs madly. Knowing they were older and wiser, I joined in. Before long we’d exhausted the supply and moved across the road to the pig pen.
My parents had frequently complained about the malodorous pig pen, but in a rural community, only consideration governs location of noxious livestock. Conveniently for the Awfuls, a vacant house with an enclosed back lot stood between our place and theirs. They had wisely appropriated the back lot for their pig pen. It was much closer to our house than theirs, a wise decision on their part. The small pen was home to a couple of sows, their extended families, and millions of flies. Due to their wise location of the pig lot, we undoubtedly got a lot more effect than they did. My mother, in particular, was offended. Jamey, our fearless leader climbed on the rails. The smaller of the sows and her babies fled, squealing. The larger sow the size of a sofa, didn’t seem too disturbed from where she lounged in a muddy wallow across the pen. The baby pigs were so appealing, we decided to catch one and pet it. Jamey was a wonderful host. He dropped into the pen in pursuit of a little pig, followed by me and a couple more kids. My immediate attention was captured by the ripping of my dress where it caught on a fencepost, hanging me up from the top rail. Sofa-pig didn’t take all this well. She lunged at the kids with a guttural growl, running them back over the fence. Fortunately, I was suspended above the action and climbed to safety, though my fancy dress was done for. I wasn’t the only one who suffered damage to my wardrobe. As Jamey sailed over the fence, the mama pig got one of his new birthday tennis shoes. Mrs. Awful was not happy about that.
When we got back to the house and Mrs. Awful finished cursing about the lost birthday shoe, it was time to open the presents. As I said, this was my first birthday party. I was proud of the flashlight Mother had wrapped for me to bring to the party and couldn’t wait to get it back. Mother showed up for coffee just as I learned I was expected to leave it for Jamey. I wasn’t falling for that one. I was wrestling with Jamey for possession of the flashlight just as she walked in the gate. My behavior, coupled with the destroyed dress, put an end to the coffee-klatch. Mother dragged me home bawling without the flashlight, my tattered dress tail dragging in the dirt, my first big social fail.