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Growing up on a chicken farm
Liberty lore
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Years ago, if someone asked where to buy fresh eggs, the answer would be, “Groover’s Egg Farm in Gum Branch.” I recall going there many times in the 1970s and buying dozens of eggs. They had many long chicken houses on the farm. I don’t know if there are any operating egg farms in Liberty County today, but chicken production is a huge business in Long and Tattnall counties.
I enjoyed the story “I Don’t Eat Chicken” in Russell Groover’s book, “Tales of Grandpa and Gum Branch.” He tells the story of growing up on the chicken farm in Gum Branch and explains all the hard work and humorous moments. Here is an excerpt from the story:
“Chicken has always been a mainstay in the country diet. A preacher’s ability to convert a congregation of sinners is tied directly to his reputation as a chicken eater. A finicky eater surely could not have the best interest of God and man at heart. The bone pile beside his plate told the truth. If you had a preacher who stacks bones higher than his tea glass and accepts the last piece when offered, you have a man who can be trusted.
“At our farm’s peak we had 1,000 white leghorn chickens that were laying. This could be broken down to five chicken houses: 1,000 nests to gather eggs, 13 snakes curled up somewhere in those nests eating eggs, 25 watering stations that had to be cleaned, rinsed and refilled daily, and 25 feeding stations to clean and fill. One hand pump, centrally located, supplied the water for the five buildings.
“Chicken farming did have its lighter moments. When my cousin came over, I would sneak a bucketful of eggs and we would play war in the field behind the barn, using the eggs for hand grenades. After the first time Mama caught me, I learned to go back and cover up the eggshells after the battle ended so there wouldn’t be any evidence.
“When Mama wasn’t working, we would take the eggs to Camp Stewart and the stores in Hinesville on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Outside of going to school, this made me one of the most traveled kids in Gum Branch.
“Our chickens were sold to Cousin Lowell when Mama and Daddy separated. I knew that with those chickens added to his larger flock he had to have the biggest chicken farm around. My cousins would be having all the fun I had enjoyed.
“I learned much from the chicken farm experience. First, there is an easier way to make a living than farming. And second, no matter how hard you work and how much you produce, sooner or later, the neck-wringer will come your way!”
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