GIMPY S SECRET. Chapter 1

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1 Chapter 1 It was springtime. It was that wonderful time of year when the baby animals arrive, when the apple trees blossom and the buttercups bloom. Every spring is special, but this spring was going to be really special. This is exactly what happened as best I remember it. Things were not going well for Ellen s parents. Her father had lost his job, and he had not been able to find another. Her mother and older brothers and sisters had all taken part-time jobs in order to help. Finally, it was decided that the family would move to the grandparents farm in Rudderville. On weekends they would begin to restore the old homestead house that had been built by Grandpa s grandfather. When completed, and the city house sold, this would be their new home. It was also decided that Ellen, being the youngest, would go right away. She thought this was a grand idea, and looked forward to having her grandparents all to herself. And so, Ellen arrived at Grandma and Grandpa Cook s not having any idea what life on the farm was going to be like. 1

2 She discovered right away that there were way too many things to be taken care of; so many animals to be fed and watered every day; eggs to be gathered every day; a garden that needed planting and weeds that needed pulling. There seemed to be no end to all the work. Ellen did not like working on the farm. She didn t like getting up early to feed all the critters that could not feed themselves. She wanted to be with her friends, and go to the Mall, and look at all the cool stuff, and go to parties and movies and sleepovers, and do just whatever she felt like. Being stuck on a farm in the middle of nowhere (actually it was just a few miles outside of town) was not Ellen s idea of a good time, at all. Ellen did not like the farm, but she did love her grandparents. In the evenings after all the work had been done, they sat down together to eat a delicious home cooked meal. They talked about the day, about the newest arrival (today a handsome brown and white calf), about the work to be done this summer and this fall and next winter. Work! Work! Work! Ellen thought. Is that all there is? And this sitting together at the table 2

3 business, this was all new to Ellen. She had been used to sitting in front of the television, watching, heaven-knows-what, and eating, whatever-it-was, off of a TV tray... And this talking about the day, together; this, too, was all new. She thought she liked it that somebody actually cared to hear what she had to say. Tonight Grandpa Bud asked this question: Ellen, did you learn anything today, or did you do anything that made you feel especially good or proud or happy? Ellen smiled and said, Why, yes, there is something that makes me feel good and that makes me proud indeed! Grandma and Grandpa leaned forward in their chairs to hear what she would say. Tell us what it is, they both said at the same time. Well, Ellen began, I was looking in the mirror today and I truly am becoming quite beautiful. This makes me very happy... and I learned something today too. She went on without taking a breath, I learned that working in the garden ruins my nail polish, so I don t think I should have to do that anymore. 3

4 There was a long pause, until finally her grandfather spoke, Is that it? I mean, is that really it? I can t think of anything else, so yes, I guess that s it, she said as she twirled a strand of hair between her fingers. Grandpa turned to Grandma and smiled. And you, my love, how about you? What did you do today that made you feel good? My goodness, let me think. There were so many things, but I think I felt best when I took dinner over to the O Connell place. You know Mr. O Connell hasn t been feeling well, so I went over to tidy things up a bit and give him a good hot meal. Grandma and Grandpa smiled at one another and Ellen rolled her eyes. What a strange way to get happy, she thought. After dinner Ellen looked in the mirror, fiddled with her hair, and complained about the clothes in her closet. She was always upset about something. What to wear, what not to wear, what looked cool, what didn t look cool, what was the latest style, what was just not in style at all. She seldom seemed really happy 4

5 unless she was going to the Mall where all those wonderful things were. As the days went by, Ellen seemed to become more and more unhappy. Grandpa Bud and Grandma Mable finally decided that something had to be done. Tonight at dinner they would set their plan into motion. Ellen, Grandpa said, I want you to go into the barnyard every day to see the new arrivals. One day soon all the babies for this year will be born. Whichever one is the last to be born, that is the one you will name and take care of, all by yourself. You will care for it; you will learn about it, and you will be responsible for it. If you do not take care of it it will die. Do you understand? Yes, sir. Ellen knew it was useless to argue with Grandpa, so she didn t even try. That was how it was going to be like it or not. Finally, all the new animals had been born or hatched except for two. Annie, the mare, had not had her baby, and there was one egg, unhatched, in the henhouse. Ellen had been watching Annie and had begun to get sort of excited about having a pony all her own. She 5

6 started thinking about how her friends would want to come out to the farm to pet her pony and ride it. Ellen knew they would wish they had a horse of their own too. Most of all, she hoped they would think she was so lucky and so cool. At night, Ellen even dreamed about her new baby pony. She checked on Annie every morning. Finally, this morning, to her utter delight, there was the most darling, cutest, baby horse she had ever seen, and it was going to be all hers! She ran to tell Grandpa and Grandma. Breathlessly she exclaimed, Annie s baby is here! He is absolutely beautiful and I even have a name for him and I have a bridle and a blanket picked out in the catalog and I... Whoa, wait a minute, Ellen! Don t you remember that yours is the last baby born this spring? Grandpa reminded her. Yes, I remember, and this is the last; this is the last of the babies for this year. Come with me, Ellen. Ellen and Grandpa walked into the henhouse. He pointed to a nest. Look, Ellen, this is the last one. There was one egg sitting there being kept warm by a heating 6

7 lamp. It had been left all alone. Ellen stared at her grandfather and back at the egg in disbelief. A chicken egg????? she gasped. What good is a chicken egg? All this can turn out to be is a chicken! My friends won t think this is cool at all. Please let me have the pony, she pleaded. No, Ellen, this egg and whatever is inside is yours, and you will take care of it. Ellen hung her head. Okay, she said, but I m not going to like it. Grandpa left the henhouse, and Ellen just stood there dumbfounded. As she looked at the egg, she noticed a small hole on one side; something was moving. It s that chicken, she thought. That disgusting little chicken is actually trying to get out of there. She watched the egg for a very long time. Peck, peck, peck. Then a rest, and then, peck, peck, peck, again. This went on for most of the day until... at last, there it was -- a tired, wet, not beautiful, tiny chicken. Ugh! thought Ellen. She couldn t stand to look at the little creature, so she went back to the house to have dinner. 7

8 GIMPY S SECRET How s Grandma. the egg coming 8 along? asked

9 It hatched, and it is a fright! It doesn t even look like a chicken, said Ellen. I think if you go out after dinner you will be surprised, Grandma said knowingly. Is it going to turn into a pony? That would surprise me, she said, in a not very nice voice. Grandma shook her head. You have a lot to learn, Ellen. Ellen finished eating and thought she would go upstairs to call one of her friends in the city, but she kept thinking about the newly hatched chick out in the henhouse. So instead of making the phone call she went out to check on the little beast. Wow! To her amazement, he had fluffed up very nicely and actually resembled a sort of cute baby chick. But wait, he was having trouble getting up onto both legs. Oh, my, she said. Look at his little leg and his foot, his poor little foot. His leg wasn't quite right. It was his left leg. It must have suffered an injury during the hatching process. It was crooked and much smaller than the other, and its toes curled a bit. 9

10 As if having to take care of a chicken isn t bad enough, this isn t even a chicken with two good legs! This is going to be a gimpy chicken, Ellen thought. He won t be able to walk or run like other chickens. My, oh my. Of course Ellen had no idea that this chicken was going to change her life. No idea at all!! She named him Gimpy, and that is how he became known as The Gimpy Chicken. 10

11 GIMPY S SECRET 11

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