The Perfect Day

Reader Contribution by Robert Pekel
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My lovely wife and I kicked off the day at the 4-H chicken auction held at the Benton County fairgrounds. This is an annual event and a fun time we look forward to each year. The 4-H youngsters start with 50 chicks that are a day old in April. When the auction is held in August, the pullets are just beginning to lay eggs. Each youngster brings in his or her three best chickens to be judged by a volunteer from the University of Arkansas Poultry Science Department. This year, the judge was Dr. Susan Watkins. First-, second- and third-place winners are selected, and every child is awarded a ribbon: blue, red or white. KURM, the local radio station, broadcasts this casual event.

 The premium bidders go first. Premium bidders represent local business that offer hundreds of dollars for a chicken that they don’t take home. These good people’s interest is supporting and encouraging the young upcoming farmers.

It’s cute to see each child cling expertly to their chicken as they show them off to the crowd while auctioneer “Jimmy” invites bidders with his “bid calling” chant. The youngsters are not only cute, they are all very polite and healthy from farm life. Premium bidding started between $80 and $100. One chicken brought in $320.

Once the premium bidding is over, the chickens are auctioned off to the buyers who want to take them home. The bid price is for one chicken that represents the three the youngsters entered into the contest, so it is good to remember whatever the bid it will be triple. In the past, I have averaged paying $10 a chicken, not so this year. Chickens were bringing over $20. These are great layers with at least two years of solid laying ahead of them. At today’s egg prices they would pay for themselves in two months, but it was still a little rich for my blood.

Fortunately, some of the youngsters had 47 other chickens they wanted to sell, so I ended up going home with six chickens at $10 apiece.

I set the birds up in the meat chicken pen away from my other laying hens. It was recommended to keep them apart for a few weeks so they don’t get the “sniffles.” That was the first auction I ever heard that recommended, and I had never done it before, but decided to take their advice. Soon the new layers settled in, started scratching, and eating anything green that had grown up in the coop over the summer. I was rewarded with four eggs the first day.

We capped off the day splitting and stacking firewood with the help of my son, daughter, son-in-law and nephew. We had a lot of fun working together to complete the task. It takes a village. After a few cold beers, we dined on ribs that had been smoking all afternoon and baked beans made with my Aunt Margi’s famous homemade recipe. The perfect day.

Try this recipe. You won’t regret it.

Aunt Margi’s Baked Beans

  • 2 cups beans, navy, lima or northern
  • 1 onion
  • Six slices of bacon
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Soak beans overnight in water. Add onion and bacon. Simmer until beans are soft. Add soup and brown sugar. Move to casserole dish and bake in oven for 1 hour at 350 F. I’ve also used a slow cooker instead of oven with delicious results.