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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Chickens – Farming”

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Aragon Hotel

Jacksonville, Florida

Sep 20-1926

Dear Leonard:

Your good letter received Saturday glad to hear from one of my Pardners I am wondering if you work for Uncles Grover & Glenn after school.

I suppose that you are a little man looking after Marie when she is away from Mamma.

I suppose that you have all plans made for you and I to go into the chicken buisness.  You wanto figer what kind of chickens we want.  also about how many we should buy to start with.  also what we should feed them in order to get the most eggs.

How are the two little boys getting along?  Mamma says that all of her Pardners are good to her.  

The Elders taken my picture yesterday and I may send home next week.  Love Daddy    

[LJAD, handwritten letter to Leonard from his father, who was serving a full-time mission in the Southern States Mission]

When daddy was on his mission we would write back and forth about chickens we were going to get.  When he came back he bought some Leghorns.  So when we came out here we had a lot more chickens. . . .

In 1927 I started reading the Book of Mormon through.  I don’t know how long it took me to read it through but I received a general idea of what it was about and so forth.  During this summer Woodrow my cousin from Montpelier came down.  We worked all summer with him.  I raised chickens during the spring. . . .

Sept. 9 [1930] we started to school.  In the 8-B grade I had 7 teachers.  The first period I missed the honor roll with Nature Study.

During all of this time I was still tending to chickens and banties.  Sept. 11 daddy gave me all the banties.  I sure was glad.

[LJAD, Copied Verbatim from a Diary and History Started by Leonard Arrington in 1927 when he was ten years old.  The following was handwritten:  “Covered the years 1927-1931.”  Includes additions in brackets and corrections as were handwritten.]



One day when I didn’t have anything to do, a chicken seller came to our place.  He said he had some prize winning Wyandotte hens that laid three hundred eggs in three hundred and sixty five days, and also some prize winning roosters, so I took one dozen hens and a rooster.

The next thing to do was to build a chicken coop.  First I made four post holes about a foot and a half in the ground allowing three feet for each chicken.  Then I put some posts in them, two about six and a half ft. long, and two about eight and a half ft. long, put the two posts which are six and a half ft. long on one side and the other two on the other side.  Then I built each side up with one-by-twelves except the side six and a half ft. tall.  Then to build up the side that I didn’t build I built it up leaving two and a half ft. for a door.  Then to make the roof you build it across with shiplap.  Then you will notice that some on the side isn’t filled up.  Then you saw the one by twelves just to fit it all except the place for the door.  Then to make the door you saw one-one-by twelve into –the long way.  Then nail two one-by twelve’s and a half of the piece you sawed into by taking some one-by fours as long as these are when put together and nail on it.  Put one near the top one in the middle and one near the bottom.  Then put two hinges one near the top and one near the bottom and nail it on then to keep it shut you can nail a latch on and to keep it open you could nail a wire on the side and have a loop in the end and have a nail bent upwards on the door hook the wire on the nail and it will keep it open.  Then to make a roost you put about three one-by twelves across one end of it and have some little hooks to keep two by fours in place about six inches above the one-by twelves.  Next, to make the nests you take some apple boxes and put a partition board in the middle and nail it up.  Then your coop is finished.  

[LJAD, Paper by LJA for 6th grade “Language” class, Oct. 10, 1928]

Dear Unknown Friend,

I wish that I didn’t have to call you an unknown friend, and that my letter will reach you safely, and you will answer my letter.

We have many cows and horses, which eats lots of hay.  I own 120 chickens from which I get between 50 & 70 eggs a day—pretty good isn’t it.  I have Rhode Island Red Chickens.  My father and I are ordering 1500 baby chix to raise.  It’s a hard job, but I think we can do it.  

[LJAD, Written by LJA about 1933]

Description of a Friend

Leonard Arrington

There is one person, to my eye, who is both temporally and morally as nearly perfect as any person expects to be.  

In the future I had hoped that he would study law, to reorganize politics and do away with graft and dishonorable doings, but he merely wants to be a law-abiding farmer- a tiller of the soil as hundreds of his ancestors have done before.  A farmer- a father of American industry, living in the peace and quietude of a model American farm.  Howard Annis

[LJAD, handwritten, ca. 1933]


**—– Albert W. Richardson

“Let the rich and the great

Ride in splendor and state, 

I envy him not—I declare it.

I eat my own ham,

My own chicken, and lamb,

I shear my own fleece and I wear it.

I have lawns, I have bowers,

I have fruit, I have flowers,

The lark is my morning alarmer.

So, my jolly boys, now

Here’s God speed the plow,

And long life and success to the farmer.”

To discuss farm life is to discuss an occupation as old as civilization itself.  Before man tilled the soil he lived by hunting and fishing.  With the advent of agriculture his lot in life changed for the better and side by side with its development there arose the opportunity for some people to turn their attention to other fields.  By the time we reach the Pyramids of Egypt, the point, which marks according to most historians, the change from barbarism to civilization, the necessity for each individual to provide his daily food has ceased, thereby making possible the construction of those enormous piles of stone, still one of the wonders of the world.  Later came the arts and sciences developed by men who could give time and thought and investigation while others provided them with food.  In those early days, however, farm labors was largely a slave labor and hence was looked down upon as an occupation beneath the notice of a freeman.  Many centuries elapsed before agriculture came into its own, but today no one disputes the right of the farmer to take his place among the world’s most important workers, and no plans for the betterment of society, which ignore his welfare, can be successfully carried out.  Because the work of the farmer has made possible the growth of so many other occupations, the future of a young man is no longer fixed or predetermined.  Once, not so long ago in this country, and even today in many countries, especially India, a boy becomes a rug maker because his father before him was a rug maker.  But now an American father believes that his son should choose that vocation for which he seems best fitted.  The question, therefore, “Why Be A Farmer?” becomes a pertinent one, and in order to reach a conclusion based upon sound judgment, a survey of the advantages to be had in this pursuit is necessary.  In other words, what inducements can farm life offer, strong enough to impel one to chose it as a life work?

In times of prosperity admittedly the farm in net cash profit does not equal the income from a number of other lines of work, but in times of depression the results are by no means so disastrous to the individual as in most branches of business.  It is this latter condition, which confronts us today.  Thousands—yes, even millions— of men in the various trades are out of employment altogether, cannot provide for themselves and for their families sufficient food clothing and in many instances even shelter.  From a physical standpoint these men are in a most serious position, yet how much greater is their mental torture in being unable to provide properly for those whose welfare is their responsibility.  Not so the man who owns his farm.  True, the amount of ready money he can command is limited.  The cash returns he can secure in exchange for his products are pitifully small, but he and his family need neither starve nor freeze.  Compared with his unfortunate brotherman his lot is one to be envied.  His brother of the trades returns, after a day spent in vainly seeking any work whatever, to a saddened home and often hungry children.  The farmer returns, after a day spent in productive toil, to a home of at least comfortable circumstances.  

The depression, however will not last.  Our recoveries from disasters of a similar nature in the past teach us this.  Already work is becoming more plentiful.  Men are returning to their trades.  With the recovery of industry it may well be that those engaged in some lines of business will outstrip the farmer in the accumulation of wealth that can be measured in dollars and cents.  But the man of money is not the really wealthy man.  A successful life is not a mere matter of dollars and cents.

Consider these ideals for a successful life: first, that we become of value to our community and through it to our state and nation: second, that we secure for ourselves the satisfaction of accomplishment: third, that we acquire the blessing of contentment.  

In no walk of life is it possible to reach these aims more successfully than upon the farm.  The very land itself is an integral part of the town in which it is situated, and as the owner of such an integral part the farmer is vitally interested in whatever makes for the welfare of the community.  He has not only the general interest in town affairs, which any good citizen should feel, but he has a personal interest, a partnership interest, if you please, in the deals into which his company as it were enters.  The opportunity for church life, good roads, and good schools, which an able management of town affairs should provide, he endeavors to secure by taking the time to accept public office.  His hours of work are long, to be sure, but he has complete control of the division of his time.  In answer to the question, “What would be your advice to the youth of today who wish to succeed?,”  Calvin Coolidge once said, “Behave yourself and work hard.”  The farmer’s manner of living well fits him for the social contacts he makes and enables him to be of real service to his fellow-townsmen.  Ordinary service, you say, nothing spectacular nor remarkable about it.  Granted, so far as the spectacular side is concerned, but the real business of living is not a circus.  As for remarkable, one need only to point to one or two examples to show the equality of the farmer with the man engaged in any other pursuit.  Luther Burbank did more in furthering the welfare of his country than thousands of men whose names have formed the headlines of newspapers.  “Yes, I know,” says the graduate about to select his life work, “but I want to enter a field where there is opportunity to do something unique, something I may be remembered for.”  Good!  Why not?  Does he hesitate to choose the life of a farmer because he fears he cannot realize his ambition there?  Let him take note of Ernest Wilson, “Chinese” Wilson, of the Arnold Arboretum, one of the show gardens of America.  Mr. Wilson introduced and successfully grew in this country more foreign plants than any other man.  

Secondly, the satisfaction of accomplishment afforded the farmer is unlimited.  Such satisfaction may be secured in some degree by any one who faithfully performs the duties set before hm.  We have been wont to look upon law, medicine, finance, and like branches of the arts and professions as offering the best chance for securing the satisfaction of accomplishment.  But let it be distinctly understood today that agriculture is both an art and a profession.  It requires a more diversified knowledge than almost any other line of work.  It is claimed that, to be successful in law or medicine, ten years is not too long a time one must expect to give to preparation, but it is equally true in the case of the farmer.  He must expect to devote years to study and experiment in his chosen field before he can become master of his craft.  And, as in the professions, there lies before him an ever-widening horizon beyond whose limits no one has yet gone.  If the word specialist carries with it any particular credit, the farmer may secure that too, for livestock, poultry, fruit, and the market-garden offer the same opportunity to the farmer as corporation or criminal law to the lawyer, or surgery or diseases of the eye to the doctor.  Again, the opportunity to serve mankind becomes a point of discussion, and in this respect agriculture may be likened to the keystone of an arch, the other stones of which are the multitude of occupations in which men are engaged.  It is a wonderful piece of masonry.  It typifies the strength, the beauty, and the lasting qualities of our civilization.  But let us never lose sight of the fact that the removal of that keystone will bring about the collapse of the whole structure.  Without the farmer to feed him the lawyer would have no time for the preparation of his brief nor the surgeon for the development of skill to perform his delicate operations.  In a word, farm life is the backbone of all life.

Finally, what of contentment?  It is the end towards which all effort is directed, and herein lies one of the best arguments in favor of farming.  Underneath the myriad purposes which form the motive power of men’s activities, buried more or less deeply by the necessity of providing for everyday existence, lies the hope of accumulating at some time sufficient surplus to indulge the desire of almost every man’s heart to own a piece of land upon which to plant what he may choose, to watch the growth under his constant- care, and to gather whatever harvest may be produced.  There he is “lord of all he surveys,” and his success depends directly upon the degree of intelligence and industry he brings to his work.  All his labor has a direct bearing upon the comfort and contentment of him and his family.  He is, in effect, the guiding influence of a little kingdom, a kingdom, as Longfellow, in his “Evangeline,” said, “…Darkened by shadows of earth, But reflecting the Image of Heaven,” where everyone is bent on contributing his or her share toward the welfare of all.  If farm life can rightly be made the goal of man’s later years, how far greater will be the blessing of contentment that will come to him who chooses this work at the outset of his career.           

[LJAD, F.F.A. 1933, some corrections added]


Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth.  The first is by war, as the Romans did, by plundering their conquered neighbors- this is robbery.  The second is by Commerce, which is generally cheating; the third by Agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed sown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and virtuous industry.”

Our farm production in the past has been America’s greatest blessing.  It has helped feed the world; it has contributed more than any one thing to our total wealth.  But today, in our highly scientific age, where one man can produce hundreds of times as much as his forefathers, an overproduction by a few has proved a great national curse.

Two years ago, agriculture was in its most critical condition since its beginning.  In exchange for their sun-to-sun toil, farmers were receiving only half the value of industrial goods that they had received before the World War had altered tides of production and consumption.  Farmers, who constitute 25% of the national population, received but  ___ of the national income.  At the same time taxes and labor were proportionately high, making it impossible for may farmers to carry on.  Paradoxically, there was “want in the midst of plenty,” for during this time when millions were starving, there was an immense overproduction of farm products.  Surpluses alone of wheat grew to 400,000,000 bushels- cotton surpluses accumulated to 13,000,000 bales!  As a large supply economically caused a lower price, farmers were actually going into debt producing more than was being consumed.   A drastic emergency existed- some remedy had to be adopted and adopted immediately.  

Many proposals were hopefully submitted.  Among them was the proposal for Production Cost guarantee.  Such a program might be beneficial if it were feasible.  The impossibility of asserting a fair and equitable basis for the determination of farm production costs along with the accompanying control of marketing and handling that must result, made it impractical as a fair remedy.  The enormous burden necessary to administer this proposal would become top heavy with Federal control.  

Another group, who would plunge us back into the jungle of “laissez faire”, insist that similar depressions have occurred before in history, and were eventually cured; and so our policy should be to balance the budget, and let things drift and work out for themselves.  But they utterly disregarded the fact that we have no more new frontiers to open up, no more West to settle and give welcome to unemployed Eastern workers, as we always have in the past.

But above all these and other proposals, there appeared one, which sounded the keynote for a new and more lasting prosperity, the program for a planned production.

The solution of the agricultural problem has been inculcated in President Roosevelt’s New Deal as the Agricultural Adjustment Act.  Fundamentally this act recognizes the need for a decrease in the enormous surplus of farm products piled up since the war, and attempts courageously to cope with the emergency.  The best remedy for the oversupply was to reduce production.  Accordingly, 43,000,000 acres of wheat, cotton, tobacco, and corn were taken out of production.  6,000,000 pigs were slaughtered resulting in the highest prices for hogs in years.  Cooperating farmers were paid enough per bushel, or head, as the case may be, to bring the price received for products even with the index of articles bought- the parity based on the pre-war years 1909-1914.  This program is financed from processing taxes on the commodity.  This tax, of course, is ultimately passed on to the consumer, who thus pays the farmer to cut down his production so that both may benefit.

What has been the effect of this program?  Has it fulfilled its objective of raising farm purchasing power?  Let us see.  

According to statistics, the farmers during 1934 were paid nearly $422,000,000, and yet we find that farm income by the end of that year was raised approximately $1,000,000,000 from that of the previous year.  Total estimated payments are to be $840,000,000.  Thus, by the billion-dollar income-increase last year, the Act has actually already been paid for, not considering what the rise in farm income may be for this year.  

Due to the adjustment plan of the government and nature’s own crop-reduction program, prices on principal crops rose 42% from those of a year ago.  As a whole, the farm index has been raised from 52 to 86, farm purchasing power raised tremendously, and hope and confidence restored.

Opponents of the administration’s policy contend that because we have had the worst weather for crops in forty years, the drouth is a judgment from heaven upon us, and that the progress of two years should be abandoned.  They are advocates of chaos, and fail to consider that in spite of the drouth and crop-reduction program, American farmers still produced enough to feed our country all they will eat and also safeguard against famine.  And that if it had not been for the crop-insurance features of the Adjustment Act, many farmers in the Middle west, on account of the drouth would have received no other income, and many would have starved or have been driven from their homes.

Other critics feel that the Act gives President Roosevelt and Secretary Wallace too much power.  It is true that they do have a good deal of power, but it was demanded by the circumstances.  Someone who was inspired to accomplish this task had to take charge.  They could not wait for Congress to quibble and argue for a year or two; it was no time for extended debate and deliberation; a drastic emergency existed.  The farmer was losing his profits, power and prestige, and even losing his home!  He was rapidly becoming a serf of the money interests in Wall Street.  He was actually starving!  Someone had to accept the responsibility and come to his rescue!  President Roosevelt and Secretary Wallace, recognizing these needs, assumed the power and rescued our people from despair and inevitable destruction.

They are not dictators in any sense of the word.  They have little to do with the workings of the Act.  Direct administration is given over to the farmers- your neighbors and mine.  This is accomplished by the local Production Control Associations and Allotment Committees elected by the farmers.  The Act is taken care of locally and because everybody knows the other fellow, there is no politics, no graft, nor waste of funds.  It can thus be called a program “of the farmers, and by the farmers,” for the benefit of American Agriculture.  

The moral law of the universe is progress.  Every generation is duty-bound to give its last full measure of contributions to raise human standards and promote national prosperity.  Our forefathers progressed tremendously, but their progress lay largely in their triumph over the hazards of nature.  They cleared the forests, tilled the soil, opened up new frontiers, and made the desert to “blossom as the rose.”

The time for agricultural progress has come again.  We also have new frontiers to open up.  Our problems lie not in overcoming physical barriers, but in raising the social and economical standards of our people.  Our leaders have charted a course for the agricultural ship to follow, a course known as the present Agricultural Adjustment Act.  This course has already wiped out most farm disparities that resulted from uncontrolled production, and we as farmers cannot refuse to cooperate to the fullest extent in this determined drive for farm equality, justice and progress.  By taking our stand at the helm, with intelligent cooperation, we may expect to bring about a flexible and permanent, long-time agricultural program, adjusting the production of each major product to the current ability of consumers both here and abroad to buy that production at a reasonable price to the farmer.  This is the destiny of agriculture and this is the destiny of America: paraphrasing those beautiful words of Bishop Oldham:

“Not in splendid isolation, but in courageous cooperation.

“Not in treading again the old, worn, unplanned, pathway which ends inevitably in chaos and disaster, but in blazing a new trail, along which, please God, other nations will follow into the New Civilization where depressions shall be no more.

“Some day some nation must take that path- unless we are to lapse once again into utter darkness- and that honor I covet for my beloved America.  

“I saw with all my heart and soul, ‘forward America’.”        

[LJAD, 24 April 1933, some corrections added]

My project this last year consisted of 170 R.I. Red Laying Hens and 1541 baby chix–and it not only sounds good but is good for out of the 1541 chix I now have about 550 left today for me this winter in the new house I am going to build next week.  I sold 330 frys at 33¢ apiece which netted me $100–after carefully considering my records.  I resulted with a net profit of $235 and a labor income of more than $310–more than 66¢ for each hour I spent working with my project.     

Above all I have learned one thing.  Start out with good stock–care for them as you would care for money that is make it a hobby–have a good time doing it and you will be doubly rewarded in money & pleasure.  

[LJAD, WHY I TAKE AGRICULTURE, talk by LJA ca Spring 1933]


By Leonard Arrington

Years ago, when our forefathers said “go West young man,” the farm situation was far different from that which exists today.  It is interesting to review the history of our early American farmer as he advanced through the stages of the frontiersman, the home-steader, the stockman, and the farmer, to the present scientific and economic business of agriculture.  

At first his wants were few, but what he did want was supplied by himself.  He was dependent upon nothing but his own resources.  He made his own clothing, shoes, and tools.  He was slow but sure in the cultivation of his land, and his pioneer efforts were always based upon an increasing demand for farm products, and an advancing price in farm lands.

Today, the farmer has a new problem.  He is no longer the famed “Jack of all Trades.”  He cannot hope to compete, as of old, with the expert workman of today.  He can no longer use the slip-shod methods of his ancestors.  He is now a specialist in a specific enterprise of farming.  His methods are mechanical; his occupation limited, with the products of his toil ever curbed by the law of supply and demand, and his success hampered by diminishing values in farmlands.  

During the rapidly advancing machine age, which was followed by the inflated economic condition brought on by the World War, the farmer was urged to produce more food, and he responded patriotically.  Farm prices advanced.  Demand increased and credit expanded until it seemed that the only problem, which faced the farmer, was his ability to increase his yields and expand his farm program.

During this period new farmlands were developed.  Dry wastelands turned into cultivated fields, and the production of wheat spread to an enormous acreage to the North and West.  Attainment of the ability to produce high yields, was a great achievement but uncontrolled production swept away most of the reward.  The farmer’s production grew, but his income dwindled.  In 1919 agriculture’s share of the national income was 18%, and in 1932 only 7%.  This inflated productivity, followed by the signing of the Armistice in 1918, and coupled with the diminishing foreign markets was the primary cause of the farm depression.  Farm production blindly increased; unemployed laborers, seeking to feed their families opened up suburban lands, and the marginal lands of the western plains were cultivated to the highest degree in an effort to make an honest living and to meet heavily increasing debts.  Farmers kept on producing until the greatest surplus in American agriculture came about–a carry over 360 million bushels of wheat alone!  This was entirely without precedent and brought about the gravest crisis in the history of American Agriculture.  

What could the farmer do about it?  I’ll tell you what he could not do.  He as an individual could not reduce production to meet his market.  He could only produce more in an attempt to reduce his unit cost.  Still the surplus piled up.  By the spring of 1933 there was reported an accumulated carry-over of American cotton, totaling 13,000,000 bales.  The number of hogs on farms was nearly as great as in the peak of production in the year of 1919.  Dairy production was rising, and with huge storage on hand, farm conditions were indeed critical.  In March, 1935, farm prices sank to only half their pre-war level in relationship with commodity prices.

Then it was that Congress, under the guidance of a President, courageous enough to face facts and bold enough to assert his leadership, started on its way the Agricultural Adjustment Act with methods of meeting the problems of the surplus.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act is built upon the principle of price parity for farmers.  Fair exchange value for farm products as measured by their buying power in the pre-war period is now acknowledged as one of the rights of agriculture.  It seeks for agriculture a normal income and places this income beyond mere fluctuation in the money market.  Because it has recognized this principle, the act may be justly termed a Magna Charta for the American Farmer.  Farming now, like other industries, is under a controlling regulation, which prevents the destruction of markets by over-loading them with more goods than can be sold at a fair price.  How does it do this?  By removing from competition and production thirty three million acres of farmland, and by adjusting the production of surplus crops to meet the demand for those crops.

The setup of the Adjustment Act includes the payment of $150,000,000 to the cotton grower this year for an acreage reduction of 30% as well as $102,000,000 to the wheat grower for reducing his acreage 15% to 20% below the acreage for the basic years of 1929-1932.  The administration is at present launching its combined corn-hog campaign, a $350,000,000 enterprise, the largest yet undertaken, in their far-reaching farm relief program.  This calls for a reduction of 25% below the average production of hogs during 1931 and 1932, for which the farmer receives $5.00 per head on 75% of his hog crop during these basic years.

Thus the Agricultural Adjustment Administration has forged ahead, helping the consumer on one hand by aiding the farmer on the other; assisted by the united effort of our great economists and statesmen, and supported by over 80% of our farmers.  It has helped, and will continue to help, millions out of debt.  It will improve the value of thousands of acres of farmlands under contract; it has renewed confidence.  It brings us a New Deal.

Some business interests considering themselves to have a vested right in uncontrolled volume production in agricultural products have been critical of this program.  Reactionary newspaper writers have emphasized farm strikes as proof that nothing whatever can or should be done to help the farmer.  Individuals interested in maintaining their own profits, and in retaining their right to handle farm products as they please without regard to the welfare of society have advised farmers to junk the Agricultural Adjustment Act.  Many have predicted a famine.  Others have insisted a complete failure will result through lack of farm cooperation.

Why should little groups of handlers, charging the farmer more heavily than they did 20 years ago, be allowed to influence the welfare of 30,000,000 farm people?  I doubt if the selfish interests, which are opposing the Adjustment Program, realize the terrible consequences for everyone if the Nation should return to the shortsighted policy of laissez faire.  Rugged individualism is in the discard and a more scientific system of farming based on facts is replacing it.  A planned production to meet demands of consumption will thereby assure the farmer a fair return. 

The farmer knows that wasted harvests benefit neither him nor the consumer; that sluggish markets do not aid business in general; that empty pockets, or good intentions, do not pay honest debts; and that a continued lack of purchasing power will not increase the consumption of products from any source.  

He also knows that the accomplishments of the Agricultural Adjustment Program during the few months of its existence show that its aim is to help the farmer; that continued cooperation through this significant period in our history is imperative; that the results obtained will depend upon the attitude of our people; and that the future of our existence as a republic depends in a large measure upon our continued confidence in our Government.  

We have a President who has the interests of the people at heart, who shoulders responsibility instead of dodging it, and who does not tolerate inaction; we have a law which recognizes the rights of agriculture and whose administrators are resolved to break that vicious cycle which has afflicted agriculture and industry.  We have a willingness to face the facts and to shape our course in accordance with the facts.  All are resolved that American agriculture shall emerge victorious from the most critical phase in its history.

My friends, let us be patient a little longer, for we know that we have an administration willing to use the great powers of the Federal Government to bring us economic justice.  Let us all cooperate with President Roosevelt and help him put across the most advantageous, far-reaching, and significant program ever instituted since the days of Lincoln and the Civil War, and stabilize the nation on a sound economical basis with a New Deal–The Farmer’s Magna Charta.   

[LJAD, submitted by LJA for the National F.F.A. Public Speaking Contest February 26, 1934]

A Future Farmer de Luxe

Another of Idaho’s farm boys was mustered into the ranks of Future Farmers de luxe when Leonard Arrington of Twin Falls received the top degree of the organization, American Farmer, at the annual convention of the Future Farmers of America at Kansas City the latter part of October.  One of 58 selected from a list of 74 candidates and one of 3000 delegates to the all-boy convention, he brought additional honor to himself and his home state when he was elected vice president of the national Future Farmer group numbering some 82,000 farm boys studying vocational agriculture in the high schools of the nation.

Vice President Arrington—pardon, let us make it merely Leonard—has been in the business of studying and practicing agriculture under Smith-Hughes guidance for three years.  Next June he will graduate from Twin Falls high school and expects to go to the University of Idaho and take higher degrees in practical and scientific agriculture, paying his expenses from the proceeds of his school farm project, which will be continued during his four-year college course.

To be an American Farmer in the Future Farmer organization, a boy must be a bringer-home-of-the-bacon, a deliverer – of – the – goods as it were.  Not only must he be a good classroom student and a workable fellow among those with whom he associates, but he must have carried on successfully a practical farm project.  Leonard seems to have qualified along all those lines.

With a scholarship grade of 96 he has ranked third in a class of 200 during three years in Twin Falls high school, according to C. L. mink, his agricultural instructor.  He has served in official capacities, managed fairs, exhibited his products, served on judging teams, been active in his local Grange and, again quoting Mink, “has helped his father by doing nearly all the team work on a 100-acre farm and helping with the milking and other chores.”

Leonard’s specialty is poultry, purebred Rhode Island Reds, and his aspiration is to “become a successful poultry and dairy farmer.”

As a result of his project work, his inventory shows present property valuation of $1006.50.  Prominent in it is a flock of about 280 Rhode Island Reds, including “Arrington strain” breeding pullets and cockerels and commercial laying hens.  Listed also are a purebred Jersey cow and calf; a laying house, a brooder house and brooder stoves valued at over $500; “corn on the cob,” 144 bushels, and five bushels of Yellow Bantam seed corn.

In a letter to The Idaho Farmer regarding actual income from his project during the last season, Leonard writes in part:

“I sold 735 dozen eggs commercially for $127.50; about 825 dozen graded eggs to the hatchery for $214.50.  I sold 314 Rhode Island Red hens at $188.40.  I also sold many miscellaneous items, such as 65 Rhode Island Red cocks, and also 250 fried for $85.  All my sales of products this year amount to about $1000 from both laying hen and baby chick projects.  I also sold $185 worth of corn from my corn project.”

As vice president of the Future Farmers of America, Idaho’s newest American Farmer will have charge of the western region, a duty, which he says, carries with it “much hard work as well as honor.”

Speaking for himself and his fellow Future Farmers in Idaho, Vice President Arrington says:  “We are proud to be farmers and farmers’ sons and proud of our state which excels in all forms of agriculture.”

Instructor Mink says: “Leonard has always been just a good, plain farm boy, highly respected by his classmates and well liked by all who have associates with him.”

Couple that with high scholastic standing and a well organized, efficiently conducted and profitable farm project and you have the makings of an American Farmer.

[LJAD, The Idaho Farmer, December 18 1934]

Total for 4-week trip  (Sugar City, Bozeman, Minn. And St. Paul, Chicago and World’s fair, Kansas City, Leavenworth, Lawton, Enid—travel through 12 states on the way to annual convention of Future Farmer’s of America in K. C.)

Brought home $67.95



[LJAD, October 1934]

Saturday, November 3

As I didn’t think I had money enough to get a hotel room, I walked the streets of Chicago from 12:15 A.M. until 8:00 A.M.  I tried to find a place to sleep, but was kicked out every place I went.  Went into the Y.M.C.A. lounge and asked if I might write a letter home.  They said ok., but in half an hour a man came around and told me I’d have to get out.  I next walked until I found the Stevens Hotel.  I was desperate, so I walked in just as nonchalantly as I could, sat down, and read my papers.  I stayed there until about 3:00 a great big burly fellow told me to go out.  Oh!  I was mad!  I was so mad!

I next found the Lorraine Hotel, but they also would have nothing to do with me.

I might say here that the reason I wanted to go into some hotel or something, was because it was so cold outdoors.  I didn’t have my overcoat, and the rain beat down unmercifully upon my cold body.

At 3:30 I decided to try another scheme.  I found a nice, warm restaurant, went in, and bought a piece of pie.  I took a long time eating it then asked the manager if I could stay in there and read until 4:30 A.M.—“Well,” says he, “I guess so.”

I stayed there until 4:30 then went to an old bus station where some passengers had just gotten in from the East.  I walked around for a few minutes and acted as one of the passengers, then I decided to try the fatal step.  I laid down on one of their couches and immediately fell asleep. 

By the time I woke up and walked around awhile, I could get a room for the next night in the Y.M.C.A.

I immediately registered, paid my 75¢ bill, went up to the hotel room, and slept till noon.  Upon waking, I cleaned up and went down to the cafeteria and had my first meal in 24 hrs.  I sure relished that little meal.

[LJAD, Saturday November 3, 1934 (While Leonard was on 4 week trip for the annual convention of Future Farmer’s of America in K. C.]

Tuesday, November 6

Arrived at Butte at 1:00 P.M. and bought ticket to Pocatello.  A ticket to Twin Falls is $7.64 instead of $5.64, so, after buying my ticket from Pocatello to Twin Falls, if I go by train, I will arrive home with exactly six cents!  I haven’t had a square meal in three days, so I’ll certainly be glad to get home.  I have only been able to get a sandwich, two candy bars, and some Lemon snaps to last me the last two days and 3 nights.  But I’m making it just fine.  It does a fellow good to starve once in a while—It not only gives his body a rest, but helps him to appreciate his meals, and what his father and mother have provided for him.

Leaving Butte at 6:30 P.M. for Pocatello.  Arrive in Twin Falls about 12:00 noon—I think—will have to wait over in Pocatello.

Wednesday, November 7

Arrived O.K. in Pocatello at 1:50 A.M.  Couldn’t sleep much either on train or on the hard benches in the depot.

Had 5¢ left after buying my ticket.  Was so hungry that I went into a restaurant and asked the waitress to give me all the bread and butter I could get for 5¢.

She could hardly give me a piece for that she said, but, says she, “You order anything you want and I’ll pay for it.”

I told her, “No, no, that wouldn’t be right.”

She made me, however, and soon she brought forth a great big bowl of oatmeal with cream and sugar.  Then, when I had gobbled that up, behold: here were three plate-size, juicy, brown hot cakes, and a large glass of rich, sweet milk.

I believe I relished that breakfast more than any I have ever eaten.  Certainly I needed it the most.

I was deeply grateful to my “good Samaritan.”  I am glad there are at least a few left in the world.


[LJAD, Tuesday, November 6 & Wednesday, November 7, 1934 (While Leonard was on 4 week trip for the annual convention of Future Farmer’s of America in K. C.]

March 6

I went to see the show “The Life of Louis Pasteur.”  I could not describe its effect upon me.  It made me think, as it must all conscientious young men, that I had a service to render to humanity.  Just what that service is, I cannot say.  I must develop my talents, sharpen my mind, increase my store of knowledge.  Only then will I know my duty.  I shall prepare.

March 12

I have been somewhat troubled of late about choosing a vocation.,  There seem to be four possibilities:  Maintain the same course, majoring in Ag Econ., change over to the Law school, major in Political Science, or major in education (either religious or civil).  I am going to get everybody’s idea on this problem.  The decision may make me or break me.  At any rate I hope to be of service to my fellow men..

March 13

Today, I have listed another prospective vocation with the one mentioned above:  Zoology.  I have been getting quite good grades in Zoology, and I am very much interested in it.  Life is so marvelous, so wonderful, so miraculous.  It overwhelms me.

[LJAD, March 6, 12, 13, 1936]

Our Christmas present in 1987 was a total surprise. Son Rick began hinting that he had the greatest present for Leonard–that it surpassed anything he had ever been given or was ever likely to be given in the future. Perplexing, but thought-provoking.

Christmas Eve came. Rick was in Panama flying military duty over the Canal Zone. He began calling long distance, “have ‘they’ delivered the railroad ties?” ‘No, haven’t seen any railroad ties–do you think our house looks like railroad ties, Rick?” “I’ll call them again.” The railroad ties were delivered when Leonard was home alone, and he couldn’t convince the driver that he had not ordered them and this was not the right house. When I returned home, he was frantic, “I can’t even pick one up to move it!” Baffling. Neither one of us had an answer. Rick called back, and I confirmed the railroad ties were here. In a short time, up drove two husky young men in a truck who came in, checked they were in the right place, “Is this the Arringtons?” and then went to work as all good elves do, measured with explicit care so many inches from the lamp and placed the railroad ties in a bundle about three feet high and wired them together. They came in the house, said they had finished their part of the assignment, cheered us with a “Merry Christmas”, and drove off in their sleigh, uh truck. Puzzling, so I named the heap of railroad ties “Rameumptom,” after the Nephite altar in the Book of Mormon. And why not? The rest of the family, who gathered for the traditional Christmas Eve party, all followed suit and called it Rameumptom. One clue–Bob, Annette’s husband, said, “Does your family always stay up all night on Christmas Eve?” I considered that statement past years and said it usually happened that way. He said, “I can see it’s going to be a long night.” The family opened presents, sang carols, especially the Twelve Days of Christmas with all the East High A’Capella hand motions the children are now learning from their parents, and everyone bustled off to trundle beds, last minute wrapping, etc. Leonard and I did the dishes, cleaned up the house, and checked Rameumptom from time to time. No change. About 12:30 am Christmas morning with nothing further to do, and a final peek out the front windows at the ‘site’, turned off the lights and trundled into bed. Leonard awoke about 3:00 to call Carl in London, after which he took a final peek to see if it were snowing and saw the final product mounted on Rameumptom. He laughed with delight, he had been a chicken specialist during his FFA days, and had managed the largest chicken spread in Twin Falls those years. He was called ‘Chicken Arrington’ by his compatriots at Twin Falls High–even wore a chicken ring. It has become a tradition ? chicken ? Leonard ? He had never ? his fetish for chickens. Now he had ? The Arrington house is heavily laden with or decorated with chicken pictures, figurines from the Meissen factory in East Germany, the Herend factory in Hungary, a seed chicken from Argentina, a picture of three sophisticated chickens from Palm Springs, a music box chicken…well, our house is rightly termed the ‘coop.’ It maintains its dignity and plenitude of variety, much to Leonard’s delight. The present of all presents was placed on the Rameumptom in our front yard, tree-lined, sophisticated Country-Club street, a seven-foot white fiber-glass chicken, complete with red comb, wattle, yellow feet, blue eyes, and ultimate esteem. We loved it and still do–we laughed the first couple of hours, challenged Channel Two TV to include it as the best present to anyone in SL Valley, and when they came out and filmed it, they ran it on the six o’clock news as Salt Lake’s famed historian, Leonard Arrington’s, fabulous Christmas gift. The surprise had been carried out with stealth and skill.

Family members had been called in as “elves,” at midnight, driving up our street without lights and calling back and forth from one car to the other, were three cars of eager family. Elfing was a delight, especially that night.

When fairly assured we had retired, they had peeped from behind trees, and quickly, with characteristic haste, trundled the heavy bird from Annette’s ‘van’ where it had been riding some hours packed around with groceries and presents, to its roost on the Rameumptom railroad ties, from which stood it higher than the eaves of the house. Dr. Jonathan Horne, orthopedic surgeon, bolted the chicken down (I later asked him had he used the surgeon’s standby-intertrochanteric pins?-he just laughed…and they stood back quickly to survey their coup de repos and scampered off to their homes, Heidi and Jeff, Jonathan, Annette, Bob and Matthew, leaving a little note in the mailbox with ‘Merry Christmas’ from Rick.

T.H.E. Chicken, as Leonard calls ‘him’ (everyone calls it a ‘him’. Leonard attempts to correct us that it is of course a ‘she’)…has been settled a little into a grouping of trees, shrubs, and landscaping to dignify his appearance. He has become the mascot of 22nd East, and when some pranksters stole him one football night last fall leaving him on the steps of Highland High School at 3 AM from which we retrieved him, he remained in the garage for a couple of weeks while Rick plotted and finally set him in cement one night. T.H.E. Chicken is now permanently laid. While we were all adjusting, neighbors and all, some wondered if it were chutzpah or elan. Friends and neighbors bring their visitors, little children hop out of cars, run over and touch him, guests and friends identify our house by the Chicken in front, and one family came for family home evening, telling their children they were going to have a ‘fowl evening’. The icon of the Arringtons on 22nd East has become a permanent image. It has extended from a perfect Christmas surprise to a year-long delight…thanks to Rick and his elves. 


[Harriet on the Christmas Chicken; LJA Diary, Dec., 1987]

Friday, Christmas morning, I got up at 3 am to telephone Carl & Chris. It was 10 am there in London. They had opened their presents and were getting ready for a pancake breakfast. They had received most of the things we sent them, and are doing fine. Carl had gotten back his suitcase, a month late, but everything in good shape.

After talking with them, I went to the front window to see if it was snowing, when I beheld a huge chicken in our front yard. Put up after we had gone to sleep, and put on a pedestal of railroad ties. About 7 feet tall. Fiberglass, lovely art work. Rick Sorensen arranged (and paid) for it. He’d seen it outside an antique shop in Tucson, Arizona, had it shipped by rail from there, picked up in SLC, and friends and relatives placed it in our front yard. An astounding thing that he could have orchestrated all this by telephone from Panama. In the afternoon a TV cameraman came out and took pictures of it, and it was shown on Channel 2 at 6:25 pm as the most unique present of the day.

[LJA to Children, 26 Dec., 1987]

Last Sunday we attended church–our last meeting of the year at 9:00 AM. We can go back to listening to the Tabernacle Choir broadcast and Meet the Press on Sunday mornings. In Church Leonard was invited by the Priesthood leader to stand and give an accounting of T.H.E. Chicken in our front yard. He gave a ten-minute talk on it and how it materialized in our yard. Then he had a ten-minute question and answer period, Arrington style. Skip Christensen, our former bishop, said he had looked up the City ordinance on chickens and found that one is entitled to have three on his property if they are owned by him, if they are for his use–so Leonard says we now have two to go. I think this seven foot replica should well stand for all three. One of the neighbors down the street asked me where we were going to store it…(she was young, of course) One of the families that we home teach advised us that it was certainly a ‘classy chicken’ and that she loved seeing it in the front yard. So it goes. We have had a lot of slow-moving cars slithering by and gazing thoughtfully. Considering that we now have two stop signs one at each end of our block, I think driving twelve miles an hour down 22nd East, one needs some scenic respite to delay the hostility of driving so slowly.

The neighbors across the street, who miss little that goes on at this house apparently, were up on Christmas Eve and saw all the cars driving up to and around our house without their lights on, and one van (Rogers) and people calling to each other and jumping out and hiding behind trees, etc. The wife was about to call the police thinking someone was about to rip us off in some illegal way, but her husband stayed her call and they watched attentively as the host of good-willers mounted, carried the chicken from the van, screwed his feet in place (I asked my orthopedic-surgeon brother if he used intertrochanteric pins such as he used to repair a broken bone) he had brought special instruments to fix the feet in place. It is still there. And Leonard loves it. He is a handsome chicken. (probably a she).

I am writing on the new stationary that I had made for Leonard’ Christmas present. He said he wanted a chicken on it. It is done! He felt that with his retirement from the BYU and Smith Institute that he should have a letterhead of his own. 

[LJA and Harriet to Children, 2 Jan., 1988]

In the spring of 1927, as I was approaching my tenth birthday, I reminded my father, who had returned the previous Christmas from his two-year LDS mission to North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, that he had promised in a letter to me from the mission field to make me his “pardner” in raising chickens. Wasn’t this an appropriate time to start? Not that we hadn’t kept chickens before he left on his mission. My Dad loved animals, and when I was a boy we had, from time to time, ducks, geese, pigeons, guineas, goats, sheep, and rabbits, as well as cows, horses, and pigs. Also hives of bees. Recognizing that I followed in his footsteps in my fascination for animals, Dad obtained some little “banties” (bantams) which he let me raise. I enjoyed watching them and caring for them.

Dad spoke to neighbors about our desire for a broody hen (always referred to as a “settin’ hen”), and presumably offered cash for the first one available. One evening, after dark, Dad and I walked up to Sallee’s, a residence about a quarter of a mile north of us, with a gunny sack under our arms. (Gunny sacks were made in India of jute and the name “goni” comes from Hindi.) Mr. Sallee removed the desired hen from the nest and placed it in our sack, all very quietly so as not to disturb her in her sleep, and we returned to our hen house, where we swirled her around a few times, head under wing, and placed her on a nest that I had prepared containing fifteen eggs. The hen hovered a moment and “took” to the nest and eggs. She sat vacant-eyed the required twenty-one days of incubation.

How to describe the days of eager watching and waiting! The hen left the nest each evening for about a half-hour while she exercised, voided her body wastes, drank water, and ate the grain I provided for her. Setting hens have a certain recognizable cluck, different from non-broody chickens, a kind of “cherr, cherr.” Broody hens are temperamental and will not brook interference from other chickens or unfriendly humans. Any approaching them are met with a hostile glare. She fluffs up her feathers and lashes out as if she would peck their eyes out. It was not an idle threat. I’ve seen it happen.

After three weeks, the chicks began to peck through the shell, and within a day all the eggs that will hatch have delivered their precious contents. Twelve of the fifteen eggs in that first batch hatched, and during the weeks that followed mother hen was chaperoning her little charges around the barnyard, a peck here, a scratch there. The chicks grew rapidly and we were soon ready for fryers.

One rooster is enough for ten to fifteen hens, and since there are roughly as many males as females hatched, one eats (or sells) the surplus cockerels.

With this nucleus, my Dad and I went on, in the years that followed, to develop a sizable poultry enterprise. Noah was truly interested in the undertaking, and encouraged me to get pedigreed stock to build a registered flock. We decided to concentrate on Rhode Island Reds. I had read enough poultry magazines and pamphlets to be impressed that this variety was ideal. They laid well, were good to eat, and were sleek and handsome. They also laid brown eggs, which I preferred. The more common Leghorns were good layers but didn’t carry much meat; Plymouth Rocks were hardy but not as showy. We made contact with a firm in Missouri named Mahood and bought a cock and two hens. One of the hens soon died, but the cock was a prizewinner. We bought eggs from Mahood and had them incubated by a person a mile or two away who had an incubator. By the time I was sixteen we had two thousand baby chicks, four hundred laying hens, the finest chicken house in Magic Valley, and consistently won prizes at county and state fairs.

Although I received full credit for the enterprise, because the chickens were my FFA project, my Dad was a full partner in the sense that he arranged for the construction of the henhouse, financed the purchase of eggs and chicks, feed, and other supplies, and kept up a lively interest in everything that was done. I did all the work and truly enjoyed it. I loved the chickens and never once had the feeling that I would be glad to get rid of the responsibility of looking after them. The chickens brought me recognition and attention in the community and state–there were lots of articles in the local newspaper and in the Idaho Farmer. But there was something beyond that; I was attached to chickens, fascinated by them, engrossed and enchanted. And there was a sense of fruition in living through each year’s cycle. Chickens require a lot of care, but I have no recollection of any regrets about the time I spent with them.

Yet I eagerly left to go to the University of Idaho when I was eighteen. I was eager to learn, to develop intellectually. And so I left it all behind–the henhouse, the chickens, the pedigreed cocks. None of my brothers, whom my father hoped would “take over,” had any interest, and within a year or two the entire enterprise folded. Preoccupied with “higher learning,” I felt no sense of regret or disappointment.

During the four years I attended the University of Idaho there was a tenuous connection with my parents and brothers and sisters and with the farm. I returned three of the four summers to work on the farm and was able to keep alive the satisfactions that I had felt as a boy and young man in working with animals and with growing crops. But my primary focus was now on economics, politics, literature, philosophy, religion, and current affairs.

When I went to the University of North Carolina in the fall of 1939, this periodic farm connection was severed. Moreover, I was in a different land, a different cultural region.

Inevitably I felt a certain nostalgia, a sentimentalized remembrance of my happy, if onerous, rural past. I recall the excitement with which I read W. W. Hudson’s The Purple Land and Green Mansions, Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, and other nature and soil novels. But the greatest excitement came from my discovery of the monthly articles by E. B. White in Harper’s under the title “One Man’s Meat.”

I do not recall exactly how I came across these engaging essays. My best recollection is that I decided, during the fall of 1939 when I began graduate work, to subscribe to a magazine of commentary, one that was well-written, and yet not as literary as the Atlantic Monthly — something more contemplative than Time, to which I had subscribed since I was a freshman at the U of I. So I subscribed to Harper’s and discovered these delightful compositions on rural life by one of America’s best stylists.

Many middle-aged people today were introduced as young people to Stuart

Little, the story of a mouse in a human family, and Charlotte’s Web, about a girl’s pets, a pig and a spider, both written by E. B. White. Thousands of high school and college students used The Elements of Style, a manual by White co-authored with William Strunk, Jr. White had been responsible for “The Talk of the Town” in The New Yorker for several years. In 1938, in an exercise of inward revival, White took his wife and small son to an old house on the Maine coast, where they remained five years. His primary product there were the few page of monthly commentary in Harper’s. I was so fascinated with them that I hunted for all the back copies until I had a complete collection. I eagerly awaited the coming of each new issue.

“One Man’s Meat” was an informal and casual record of the small events that constituted life on his small seaside farm. His essays were humorous, wise, and beautiful, something like the voices of Emerson and Thoreau. You will not be surprised to learn that he had chickens and reported his experiences with them, if not monthly, at least frequently, and with some detail. I was delighted, stirred, pleased. His essays were good for me emotionally because of their commentary on setting hens, lambing, taming heifers, town meetings, farm papers, manuring, strawberries, and curing coccidiosis. The articles were also good for my intellectual training. White was a model writer, with a style that was witty, polished, and thoughtful. He had a gift for simple, unadorned expression, with just the right words and phrases. No one would suppose that my writing adopts his style–I cannot come within a mile of it. But it is surely better than it would have been without the influence of these essays which I read religiously, clipped, underlined, re-read, and enjoyed.

Curiously, in 1943, the war had so impressed its demands upon White that he returned to New York, where he was soon on The New Yorker again and writing notes and comments on regional, national, and international affairs. This happened just as I joined the Army and went overseas; taking pains as you might imagine, to carry in my duffle bag the little packet of clippings from Harper’s that I treasured. Today, I have gone over again that collection that I have saved and savored for almost fifty years. I have xeroxed them for permanent preservation. Some time in the past I also purchased White’s published collection, One Man’s Meat, which I have now in front of me. It is a remarkable collection of Americana.

The chicken story does not end. I still have in my little box of precious things a spur from the first rooster I had, who I named “Father Abraham.” I have some of the blue ribbons, some FFA medals and certificates, and a lovely photo of ideal male and female Rhode Island Reds. In recent years, you, Harriet, and Harriet’s children and others have provided artifacts, sculptures, paintings, mosaics, and photographs of chickens, some male, some female, that are proudly displayed in our home. And now we have T.H.E. Chicken in our front yard that proudly proclaims our love for chickens to all that pass our way.

There is no longer an inner need for live chickens, no desire to return to farm life. I am quite satisfied with our home, small plot of ground, and my desk, files, and typewriter. There is no nostalgia–simply a feeling of contentment that I am able to have around me the reminders of a once-happy life on the farm. Be that as it may, Clarence Day was right on the mark when he wrote:

O who that ever lived and loved 

Can look upon an egg unmoved? 

[On Nostalgia for the Innocent Pleasures of Farm Life; LJA Diary, 31 Jul., 1988]

This morning about 1 am T.H.E. Chicken was stolen. Rick discovered it about 1:15 am. He telephoned the police; the girl who answered the phone was rude and uncooperative. Rick then telephoned the mayor, Palmer DePaulis, who was very friendly and helpful. About 15 minutes later Rick went driving around to see if he could see it. So did Harriet. I stayed here, and about 1:50 a policeman came by—G. Spargen. About 2:30 am Rick came back with the chicken. It was at the doorway of Highland High School. Harriet returned without it. Rick and I put the chicken back up at around 3:00 am.

[LJA Diary, 3 Sept., 1988]

Our chicken was stolen last night; or, rather, early this morning. Rick Sorenson happens to be here right now on a furlough and he drove around and located it on the front steps of Highland High School. He brought it back and reinstalled it in the honored place. Probably some high school kids’ prank. Hope it doesn’t happen too often. We telephoned the police and the dispatcher just laughed—“You’ve lost a chicken? Hah, hah, hah.” Very funny.

[LJA to Children, 3 Sept., 1988]

The Chicken is gone! The City Police telephoned about an hour ago saying that our neighbor, Bob Farley, had telephoned them to say that our chicken was stolen. They said they’d be right out. Within five minutes officer Lamar Baird drove up, got a description of The Chicken and so on, and said he’d be looking for it. Thought he’d go first to Highland Hi, then Skyline Hi, and then be on the lookout generally.

The Chicken, of course, was cemented in by Rick when it was stolen last fall, a year ago. They simply pulled it off the cemented-in legs. If we find it, there is a real question of whether it could be put back together. I don’t happen to know anything about fiberglass, so don’t know if it is technically possible to restore it if we find the main portion.

Having The Chicken has been a pleasant experience, if only for three years. It has given the neighborhood character; it has been enjoyed by countless children; hundreds of persons have driven by to see it; an article in the Deseret News last Christmas; a shot on TV the Christmas it was given; and lots of photographs. People will miss it; we will miss it.

There was the state championship football game last evening between Highland Hi and Skyline Hi in which Highland lost. Whether the disappearance of the Chicken had anything to do with that is ponderable.

[LJA to Children, 17 Nov., 1990]

Our Anniversary Day. And an exciting day it is proving to be. Our lost T.H.E. Chicken is getting more play in the local radio and television stations than Saddam Hussein. Last evening Channel Two had a nice item, showing where the chicken had been and with a six-year-old neighbor boy telling why the chicken meant so much to him and the neighborhood children. KSL Radio interviewed Harriet in some detail, but we didn’t hear their broadcast story. KALL Radio this morning had a big play on it and are due to call Harriet this morning at 8:30 for a long call on the Talk Show.

Of course the chicken is not back and we don’t expect it. Many persons have phoned to give their regret. One called Harriet. Said, “I am one of your neighbors. I want you to know that the chicken was offensive to me. I didn’t like it. Am glad it’s gone. I hope it stays gone. I don’t regard it as the neighborhood mascot. It was an unpleasant neighborhood sight.” 

[LJA to Children, 19 Nov., 1990]

Tuesday morning we got a call from the police that they had found the chicken–in bushels near Highland Hi School. We don’t assume Highland Hi students were involved. If they had been, they certainly wouldn’t have taken it back there. Perhaps Skyline Hi. The chicken was so damaged that I fear we can never restore it. It just sits in our garage now. Harriet telephoned Channel 2, who had run a story of the stealing on Monday, and they ran another story on the return. Again, we had many telephone calls, including one saying they hoped we wouldn’t put it back up, and all the rest hoping we would and offering advice on where to take it to get it fixed. 

[LJA to Children, 23 Nov., 1990]

About the time I got into the business—in the early 1930s—enterprisers had begun to develop mash for the chickens that would help them grow faster and lay more eggs. I came into the picture just at the same time. I was the only chicken farmer of any size in the region. I read bulletins of the Cornell University Experiment Station which was the first agency to do serious research on chickens. I gave the chickens calcium to make eggshells, bran, corn and wheat, grits to help them digest their food. Helped the hens fool nature by burning lights in late evening so they would lay more. I sold eggs through the one local hatchery. Made extra money by selling fryers at three for a dollar and plenty of people came by to buy them. I came into the picture just as the breeds were being standardized, and I picked Rhode Island Reds because they were a good bird for meat and also good for egg-laying. We had a separate little building for baby chicks—the old hen house that we abandoned when we built the new one. I left them in 1935, just when the business was really developing. After World War II chicken-raising became a real industry, and now there are firms with hundreds of thousands of chickens in huge houses as big as three football fields.

Once upon a time chickens were a luxury—chicken in the pot every Sunday was a sign of prosperity. Much more expensive than beef, pork, and lamb. Remember the Republican slogan in 1930 that it would work toward a chicken in every pot on Sunday. Unfortunately the Depression came along and made the slogan a hollow one. Of course, our family had a chicken every Sunday, Mom saw to that. I picked out a rooster, cut off his head, and either Marie or I or Mom picked the feathers. She baked, roasted, boiled, or fried. She made wonderful chicken dumplings and usually served them to threshers. They loved them, and were glad to come to our place to thresh.

[LJA to Children, 6 Aug., 1996]

You will think I am obsessed with nostalgia. Maybe so. Anyway, I thought I’d add further memories about chickens. Old Abraham was my first old cock. He was arrogant, cantankerous, and not a pure-bred Rhode Island Red. So when I was heading for a pure-bred flock he had to go. It was a soulful moment when I had to chop off his head. I kept the spur and it is still in my box of precious things. Mom knew his meat would be tough but she thought that if she cooked it long and carefully it would ooze good juices and provide a tasty Sunday dinner. No question but that it would have flavor! My recollection is that he was steamed, the meat picked off the bones, pepper and salt added, maybe some lemon juice, and it went into Mom’s dumplings.

Old Abraham’s place was taken by a pure-bred cockerel I had carefully raised in the old chicken house. His first attempts to crow were hilarious. He gradually improved to a shrill cock-a-doodle-do. It took some time before he mastered a lordly baritone.

[LJA to Children, 11 Aug., 1996]