It is hot and humid here today, which always reminds me of my childhood trips to the Lake of the Ozarks. Every year my Aunt Kathleen, Aunt Betty Lou and Uncle Harold took all of us kids for a week to the lake. None of these relatives had children of their own and God only knows what possessed them to take a bunch of wild ragamuffins with them on their only vacation of the year. I always suspected it was to save us from certain death. As the heat and humidity rose – so did my mother’s level of crankiness.
We stayed at an ancient resort filled with other childless couples. At least I don’t remember any other kids being there, but we tended to scare most people away, so I could be wrong about this. Our only assignment each day was to leave the cabin after breakfast and not return until we were called.
On the last day of the trip Uncle Harold gave us $1 apiece and dropped us off in the old tourist part of town called Dogpatch. I loved it. The shelves of the little store were filled with shiny containers of old-fashioned candy. Row upon row of salt and pepper shakers shaped like outhouses tempted me but were out of my price range.
In front of the store was a huge statue of Lil’ Abner. He stood near a pool of water that was refilled by a giant water faucet floating in mid air. Behind the store was a graveyard called Boot Hill. An old cowboy boot stuck out of one of the graves. As I hurried by, the boot moved back and forth. But where I spent my time and money was on – – The Amazing Dancing Chicken! I shoved nickel after nickel into the slot to watch the happy little chicken do her dance. Oh yes, it was a magical place.
One year, as I stood next to the miraculous faucet pouring water from thin air, I was able to see the clear tube that held it aloft. When I walked by the scary graveyard I noticed a rip in the boot, which exposed the mechanics making it move. I was crushed…until I saw the sign “See the Dancing Chicken!”
I ran over to her box and slid my nickel in. It dropped out to the change slot where a sign read .25 cents. I begged a quarter from my older brother and pushed it through the slit. My chicken started her dance about the same time that I noticed a hole in the bottom of her cage. To my horror, I discovered that what made my happy little chicken dance was the fact that the floor heated up and she was jumping around trying not to burn her feet.
“Oh, no!” you say. “How horrible!”
You’re right, it was. So why am I sharing this story? Because it’s hot and humid today and I’m cranky.