Special needs and a lot of love

The following is an email I received from Michael Walker, the father of Tashina, a girl with Down’s Syndrome. Deseret News will be publishing an article I wrote about Tashina, a wonderful young woman who has touched many hearts in our area. I will update the website with the link when the article goes live. In the meantime, Michael has given me permission to post this letter here.

Feel free to leave any comments about your experiences that relate to this topic.

“I have some very strong feelings about dealing with children with special needs and feel to share some of them . . .  in hopes that we can all learn from each other and grow from each others experiences. My stories are not unique, but maybe we can all grow more through a little extra communication. Here is a copy of the birth announcement that I typed in January 2001, when our fourth child was born.

Birth Announcement

 Tashina Darlene Walker

Born 10 January 2001 / Time 12:59 PM / Weight 7.74 pounds / Height 20 inches

We want to add a personal note because we would like you to know that Tashina was born with Down’s syndrome. During the past week, we have learned a great deal about all the positive ways Down’s syndrome can affect our daughter and family. She is a beautiful, responsive baby, and we hope that you will accept her into your hearts without pity or reservations. Please don’t feel that you have to pretend that she is “normal”, and please feel free to ask us any questions you may have about her.

With Heavenly Father’s help, we hope Tashina will grow up strong and healthy. We want you to share in the joy of her progress along the road to maturity. She may travel that road more slowly than the others, but we will consider each new milestone in her life a blessing. We feel that Heavenly Father has placed Tashina in our home and in our hearts for a very special purpose. We also know that our lives will be enriched by all the special gifts that Tashina was meant to bring to her family and friends. Her presence has already filled our home with much happiness and we are so very grateful to our Heavenly Father for her.

Over the course of the last few months, we have thought very seriously she would be born before the end of the year to give us the tax break I was hoping for. When we got pregnant, we thought nothing of the tax break, but timing created the thought for us, since she was due 5 January and both Tina and Christopher were born early, 3 weeks and 1 ½ weeks.

On 31 December, I whispered to Tracey’s stomach asking Tashina to ask Heavenly Father to allow her to be born in 2000. Many prayers, and lots of preparing of our hearts and on 10 January, she was born. No tax break and not a New Year’s Eve baby, like we had hoped for. Our Dr. had told us that she could start labor and deliver Tashina on 30 December, to give us the tax break, but I felt very strongly that we were not supposed to do that. We felt that we were supposed to leave the birth in Heavenly Father’s hands. When the baby wasn’t born before the end of the year, we were both very disappointed; as we thought Heavenly Father was going to give us the tax break. I was a little upset and had some repenting to do, for my feelings. After two days of praying asking why (no tax break), and an additional two days of repenting for asking why, I felt a peace come into my mind, along with a feeling that $1000 is a lot of money, but it costs about $5000 to bury a child. I was immediately humbled, and grateful to a loving Father in Heaven for hearing and answering prayers, even if the answer was not as expected. Our Dr. had been telling us for 5 months that there were going to be complications during the birth. She prepared us for the complications during each visit. Each time she reminded us of the impending complications, we felt a peace from the Holy Ghost helping us to not worry. Without listening to the Holy Ghost, we could have had her in 2000, giving us a tax break, yet lost Tashina during childbirth.

We kept feeling that they that are wise, take the Holy Spirit as their guide, guiding us in all things and not questioning His plans of action. Before the birth, Tracey was given a Priesthood blessing stating the Dr. would know what to do and all would go according to plan. The water broke when Tracey reached 4 centimeters and the baby’s stats dropped like a brick, as it lost all oxygen. The cervix opened from a 4 to a 10 immediately, allowing the birth with less than 2 minutes to spare from the lack of oxygen, an absolute miracle.

During the delivery, a portion of Tashina’s lung collapsed, causing her to struggle to get started in this life. She was born with an infection, a collapsed lung, and lots of congestion in her lungs, a hole in her heart and the dominant side of her heart acting as the weak side. She was put on oxygen to blow up her lung and fix the leaks, to help her fight the congestion and to give her heart the oxygen it needed so the weak side of her heart could strengthen and become the dominant side like it was supposed to be. Her Dr. said that if the heart can strengthen itself, it may close the hole. She is a sweetheart and so beautiful and precious.

There has been an outpouring of prayers and love from our family and friends that we have gratefully appreciated.

Not in this letter that was mailed is the fact that Tashina spent 2 weeks in the NICU, then came home from the hospital with an oxygen tank hooked up to her nose 100% of the time. As she came off of the oxygen a few weeks later, she had three different types of pneumonia, in three different portions of her small lungs. She was born deaf, and had many problems of various seriousness that had to be dealt with. Tracey and I have spent many days in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Also not stated in our birth announcement is what really happened in the hospital when Tashina was born. It was truly a miracle. Although I skirt most of the specifics and give only a few of the particulars, her being alive is truly a miracle. Equally miraculous is the fact that within a few weeks of her birth, her hearing began to improve and today she hears without the aid of hearing aids, though not very well at times.

Earlier in the pregnancy, Tracey’s Alpha Feta-Protein test came back citing that something was wrong with our baby. We had test after test, but everything else came back normal. We decided to not have the amniocentesis because of the dangers of that particular test, along with our fear of the worry that the result of that test might create in our family when we were already feeling completely at peace. Tashina was our 4th child, so we were not new parents. We were both healthy and did not smoke, nor drink alcohol. When all of the tests came in looking good, we thought our child was going to be born to be normal.

In all of Tashina’s life, I have never thought of her as having Down’s syndrome. She is a normal, loving little girl, who happens to have an extra chromosome. She loves to smile, laugh, joke and play. She loves pizza, chips, soda and hamburgers. She has friends and loves to go to grandmas and grandpa’s house, and additionally loves to go bowling, swimming, to the movies and to the park. She was mainstreamed into a kindergarterten class this past year (in the 8th grade now), and I think that this is the real reason that I have shared Tashina’s birth experience with the class. I wanted to paint the picture from the beginning, so that when I talk about my experiences, it might offer credence to my story.

My wife and I look at her pretty often and joke about our little bean (human being). She truly is a human being and deserves all of the rights and privileges that the so called “normal” children deserve. She is no different than they are, except her having the extra chromosome and thinking a little slower, with a little bit of stubborn behavior added in for good measure.”

The Good Wife’s Guide

The good wife 2013_10_23_22_05_26.pdf000

Some of my favorite “guidelines” from 1955 . . .

“. . . catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.” Oh yeah. It provides something alright.

“Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him.” Lucy, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

“Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night.” Oh, don’t worry. I won’t complain. He won’t hear it coming . . .

“. . . remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.” What if my topic of conversation begins with, honey . . . I’m a little gay . . .

“Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement . . . you have no right to question him.” You know, these are pretty good. Where can I get a wife?

Cure for empty nest syndrome

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I’ve been reading a lot about how to cope with empty nest syndrome. I’ve read, and heard from friends in the past, about how the house seems so empty and quiet. People, especially women, speak of listening to the loud ticking of the clocks.

That sounds so depressing.

After hours and months of research I’ve come upon a brilliant plan to help me with empty nest syndrome.

I’m taking the batteries out of the frickin’ clocks.

Problem solved.

French kissing and the alcoholic cat

Domino after a cologne binge

I have a complaint about Hollywood. Actually, I have a lot of complaints about Hollywood, the least of how they glitz up things that have no right or business being glitzed up. I’m not just talking about the crime, adultery, and desperate singles looking for a mate. I’m talking about kissing. Not the cute peck on the cheek from your grandmother or godfather (not to be confused with the kiss of death bestowed upon a minion who has betrayed the family “business”.) I’m talking about the open-mouthed, organ-swapping activity that many of our spray-tanned, uber-sleeked, blinding-white smiled, 10-hour hair and makeup peeps we worship engage in on both the big screen and the little.

First of all, watching a pretty person kiss is so much different than watching a not-so-pretty-person kiss. But even if the latter happens to be close to screen worthy, the act of watching two people chewing on each other is enough to make even a person with the strongest of constitutions dry-heave.

Watching French kissing on the screen is a bit less nauseating when we have been programmed to suspend belief. It’s easy to do when the size of our entertainment (a 27 inch or 52 foot screen for instance) isn’t even in realistic dimensions. But in real life, like at a wedding after the minister announces that the couple are now man and wife, with no compunction, boundaries or filters grab each other like Frankenstein ready to rip off his new bride’s head, or going in for the bite like a Cullen ending a fast, you can almost hear the teeth clank like two wine glasses. It’s shark week all over again.

People, I know it’s your day. We get that. We’ve indulged you for most of your engagement period and we’ve made it this far; but this is where I draw the line.

Keep the mouth closed. Keep. It. Closed. Don’t make us feel like you’ve decided to start the honeymoon early. It’s awkward. It’s painful. And there is nowhere to look.  (Unfortunately, social conventions dictate we watch.) We are left with that plastic smile frozen on our lips, cooing “awwwwww” when we want to turn our heads and groan “ewwwww”. We’ve all brought you a gift; now give us one in return. You can keep the template thank you cards you will be sending out 6 months later. THIS will be our gift. Salvage your dignity and rescue our stomachs. You’re not on a big screen and it doesn’t look like it when we watch, and unlike Hollywood we don’t have the power or authority to yell CUT!

That brings me to another dilemma: alcoholic cats. We call ours “Alkie” for short. (That and Lil’ Hitler but that’s for another post.) Let me hasten to reiterate our Mormon lifestyle. We do not drink alcohol in any form (except Nyquil on occasion. Hmmmmm, does Nyquil still have alcohol?) Nor do we keep it in the house. So how does an Angolan cat get her hands on it?

Any way a druggie can.

She begins by stalking anyone in the house wearing even the tiniest spritz of perfume or cologne. There is no preference of taste or smell; it’s the booze in the bottle that’s been sprayed on the skin. Let that cat get near you and she’ll skin you alive with her sandpaper tongue trying to get every last drop even at a cellular level. She licks every plastic bag that crosses our threshold, hopping on forbidden tables to roll among the freshly placed new grocery bags from petro heaven. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of crinkly, tangy plastic waiting for a taste test.

We can accept the plastic bag fetish, it lasting only as long as it takes to unload the groceries. We turn a blind eye to the cologne sucking. A quick backhand and she is on the floor with that stupefied, slaphappy look of “it was worth it, man. It was worth it.” But we saw something the other day that couldn’t be unseen. It was a bridge too far, the line that was stepped over and now forever erased. We walked into the room to an unsuspecting cat – unaware and not caring who saw anyway – licking away, engorging herself on an opened, magazine perfume sample.

We could control it when the proverbial liquor cabinet was locked up and out of reach. But this – this was inexcusable. This was every pet owners’ nightmare. The outside world had encroached, the pushers infiltrating our haven, their tentacles slyly reaching into and stroking the dark corners of our cat’s psyche. Who would ever suspect an innocent, free perfume sample capable of enabling a cat junkie? We didn’t even consider moving the insert, or that after we had indulged our own nasal senses and casually flinging it on the table there would be enough to attract and entice a weak, foolish, and obtuse feline.

And, like Hollywood, you may think this scenario as glamorous, the image of a model in her penthouse sniffing her reward for landing that job as a centerfold model in a Lane Bryant catalogue. Well, it’s not, people! It’s not glamorous at all. Lives are altered forever. Once a cat has sampled magazine inserts she won’t stop there. Next she will be slinking onto the MW Cleaners truck looking to get hopped up on dry cleaning fluid.

We are taking this day by day, trying to be positive but not getting our hopes too high. Ha. {She chuckles wryly.} High. That’s exactly what we’re up against. A cat with no morals, trying to figure out how to get her next fix, lurking around bathrooms or pawing through the pantry looking for discarded, forgotten grocery bags.

We can keep the bags and magazine inserts out of a cat’s reach. That we have in our control. But the wedding kiss? Or the couple who forget they are in the midst of a crowd at the Renaissance Festival, making out like a monk forsaking his vows? We can only do so much in spreading the word. Blog by blog, subtle “raaaaallfffff” hints placed here and there . . . keeping the pet world drug free and the reality kissing at bay. It’s a lonely job, but someone’s got to do it.

Mornings

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Photograph by Ramona Siddoway

Mornings are not always my friend. At least, not when I first wake up. I can’t say with any accuracy that I’ve been much different for most of my life. That first time I open my eyes, the brief moment of disorientation – not entirely unpleasant, but a moment between the “then” of the night with its dreams and own experiences and the “now” that is about to happen. My dreams are rarely unpleasant or frightening, but I always wake up feeling like I’ve really had a workout. Maybe its my psyche working out all the details of the day before, maybe its my imagination and creativity finally getting a free reign without the internal and external editors that they are constantly butting up against in my waking life, or maybe its my subconscious gently but firmly reminding me of who I’m really supposed to be.

I remember talking to a friend about an upcoming camping trip we were all planning on. I had never personally camped in this particular area we were going to and was asking my friend for some details. He said that mornings are a bit chilly but once you get moving you get warmed up and things are good again. He talked about how he’s a little stiff when he first gets up in the tent, but he just moves forward, starts making the fire, and soon the cold and stiffness are gone.

I still remember the visual in my head of this Wyoming cowboy, crouching over the first struggling fire of the day, waiting for the stiffness in his fingers and the cold in his bones to dissipate. I like that image.

When I first wake up there’s often this mental, emotional, and psychological stiffness – a stiffness of the soul if you will. But once I’ve gotten up, gotten moving and on with my day that stiffness dissipates pretty quickly and I’m good for another twenty-four.

With this new, upcoming season in my life the mornings center around that echo in my heart; the one that reminds me that soon there will no longer be extra bodies in the beds above me (unless, of course, I put them there. Mwahahahaha!!! Ahem. Excuse me. I digress. Back to our regularly scheduled achefest . . . )

Soon there will no longer be breakfast mess waiting for me to clean. (It will now only be dinner mess that I refused to clean the night before.) Nor will I be flying to my cell phone to text the offending miscreant who didn’t do something they should have. Instead the only thing waiting for me in the kitchen will be the mouth-breathing, snarky, Angolan cat who will give me my 30 seconds of allotted affection for the day. Or Jack, our Frankenpuppy (an aging dog who, because of strange parentage, has an abnormally small head for his large body) who will eventually slink down the stairs after sleeping on a forbidden bed.

It’s in that quiet that often frightens me. I can’t exactly say why. It’s the quiet that seems to shout echoes of the past and threats of uncertain futures.

I realize I have to move forward each day with the faith that the stiffness won’t really stay but a minute. I have to remind myself that the emotional and psychological and spiritual manna will always be waiting for me as long as I have the courage to just get up and harvest it.

So once I’m up I usually make my way to our patio. I read some scriptures and meditate as the birds are waking up and just as the Texas sun makes its way over the fence.  I need to remember to take a deep breath and not let fear from allowing me to BE in the quiet, in those moments just after the “me” of the night gives way and melds with the “me” of the day.

In the end it’s all good – the night, the morning, and the quiet in between.

The fly

My new friend . . . or IS he??

I’m trying to get some real, soul searching, satisfying writing done but somewhere, someone unleashed a huge fly jacked up on caffeine. It is circling my head like it was in the Indie 500. Literally. Circling MY head over and over and over and over . . . ahhhhhhhh! I feel like I’m in a cartoon where the main character is either dead or has not bathed in a really long time. Well, I’m not dead.

Hmmmmmm.

Okay. Now it is resting on the corner of my laptop, its shiny green butt pointing right at me. I’d try to kill it but then knowing that I’m not the karate kid with lightening fast reflexes I’d merely get it flying around me in another frenzy.

Oops. It was merely resting for the next twenty-five laps.

The engines have stopped.

Where IS it?? I don’t know which sound is more frightening, the propellers of a huge Kafka-esk fly that could carry away my cat or the icy, Hitchcock-like stillness and quiet, waiting, wondering where it is, what it is thinking, the plots that are hatching behind those 5 billion eyes.

I’m. Going. To. Hold. Really. Really. Still.

No one. Move. Or. Breathe.

Call 911 if you don’t hear from me . . .

Wednesday Whining: Things that drive me crazy

(Author’s note: be sure to click on links as they provide additional flavor and nuance to the blog posts . . .)

Fat kneecaps

To be specific — MY fat kneecaps. I’ve been fairly slim most of my life, tried to eat a well-balanced diet, exercised, etc. Imagine my surprise when one random morning after my shower I flip my head over to wrap a towel around my hair. Can you hear the intake of air? The gasp? My kneecaps have gained weight! Okay, surprise is a mild word. Dismay. Chagrin. Horror. Shock. Disgust. Terror. R e v u l s i o n. Kneecaps? Really? How do you gain weight just on your kneecaps?? Is this a practical joke?

*Update: I do so wish the weight gain had remained only on my kneecaps . . . sigh.

Gorilla BO

Have you ever stepped inside of a gorilla exhibit? At our zoo the highly-charged testeronic beasts are separated from the rest of the crew with their own special house. This zoo frat house has a long walkway in and not a short enough walkway out. The only other time I gagged that much was when I allowed a Belgian city worker to use my bathroom who must have been digesting some horribly decomposed animal. <Insert shudder>

The demise of Better Off Ted

This quirky show was the highlight of my week. The writing was brilliant and the episodes were so off the wall I found myself laughing so hard I was spitting on the TV screen. Leave it to TV executives to execute any show with originality. But yes, we need more Reality TV because our lethargic brains just can’t get enough of strangers choosing “soul mates,”  watching the upteenth DUI trying to walk a straight line for the cops, or truckers driving on yet another highway of snow and ice while carrying a load of . . . oh who cares . . .

Riveting.

(Disclosure: I do like Doomsday Preppers. I now know how to test road kill for freshness. You know – based on the theory that the nuclear bombs don’t finish off the squirrels with the humans, or the premise that squirrels will be immune from zombification. Which reminds me — I need to stock up on Season All.)

My enormous clown feet

I hate buying new tennis shoes. With each and every pair I am convinced my feet grow bigger and longer in a race to beat my kneecaps. I look like a delirious clown flopping around the store. Oh to have petite, feminine feet (without, of course, the ancient Chinese method of feet binding. I do draw the line at that.) Which leads me to . . .

Creepy Clowns

This last Halloween Hubby and I realized we hadn’t effectively scarred any of our children lately. (Yes, you read it right – scarred NOT scared.) Our 19-year-old daughter absolutely, unequivocally hates clowns – in all shapes, sizes, and forms. In her eyes there are no happy clowns, they are all machete-carrying, glazed-eyed, blood-splattered demons. So we skipped over to Walmart, found a morose rubber clown, replaced our daughter’s closet light with a red light bulb, and hung the doll in her closet.

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There was some freakadge, but not enough to warrant the paybacks I received over the next month. No matter how hard I tried to throw that clown away, it would invariably end up in places I did not want it to be; my office chair, under my bed covers . . . you get the idea. Below is a picture of it (finally) in the trash for good. Maybe taking the picture captured the clown’s demented soul, preventing it from crawling out of the dumpster one last time. Anyone a Chuckie expert?

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Tiny pinky toenails

What is the point?  It’s like they were an afterthought.

 People who don’t respond to emails, texts, Facebook messages, etc.

This really, really drives me crazy. Ever write a nice little note and the only response are crickets? Slightly less infuriating is when there is a response but it ends up as an entirely unrelated topic as a piggyback on your email or message stream. It sometimes feels like calling suicide hotline and they put you on hold.

{Tapping microphone} Hello?? Hello?? Is this thing on?

Ending a blog post without tying everything together . . . 

Wednesday Whining: One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest

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I’m starting to feel it, the telltale signs of my last little bird flapping his wings, ready to fly and leave the nest. Is it too cliché to admit I’d never really thought this would happen to me? This is going to sound crazy . . .

You mean unlike your other posts, thoughts, and ramblings?? Good luck.

But in the very back, dark, cobwebbed (and slightly frightening) corners of my mind I thought that, just maybe, if I didn’t take my children for granted, or if I continually felt and expressed gratitude for being a mother, that they wouldn’t really grow up and leave me. Somewhere I had convinced myself that if I recognized that raising children was a privilege, that it WAS a great time in my life, if I didn’t wish away the time wanting them to quickly grow up that . . . somehow . . . magically . . . they wouldn’t. They wouldn’t grow up, that they wouldn’t leave. I could escape that!

Okay crazy lady. Where did you get an idea like that?

I would have older women – empty nesters – tell me that raising children would be the happiest time in my life. My mother said it to me. My grandmother said it to her. They would lament the sound of the ticking clock in an empty house, that echo they would hear in their hearts when all was quiet and there wasn’t blaring guitar music melting their teeth or any more dirty towels to scrape off of the floor or finding random sticky bowls and spoons or ill begotten candy wrappers hidden in the linen closet . . .

Hmmmm . . .

As I think about it, I am enjoying the days to myself, the quiet time I can sit and write and shoo the cat off of my computer after returning from a snack break. I enjoy being able to meet up with a friend at Starbucks or catching a spur-of-the-moment early afternoon movie with my husband and not rushing to get home in time for little ones stepping off of the bus or worrying about timing the car pool line just right, a daily basis of trying to monitor that delicate balance between getting there too early forcing me to idle amongst the noxious gas fumes or waiting just a bit too long to drive over to the school only to have to listen to your tires squeal in at the last second but because you are late you can’t find your kid because he has wandered off or decided to take matters into his own hands and walk home anyway and you just missed him because he took a different route home so you drive around the frickin’ neighborhood with your heart pounding just knowing that some pervert has offered him candy and like that dumb kid in Narnia that thought it would be okay to stuff his face with Turkish Delight from the White Witch your kid is stuffing his face with some corn-syruped, teeth-rotting, ADHD nightmare confection because despite the bajillion times you’ve warned him not to take candy from strangers he is probably thinking in his mind that this dude is not strange looking at all and besides the candy will remind him of the squirrel droppings he saw earlier and tried stuffing into his back pocket and when you finally catch up with him he’s at home on the front yard with his boy-part already whipped out urinating on an ant pile . . .

[Silence]

Never mind . . . I don’t feel so sad anymore . . .

The Best Little Cabin in Texas

I can never look at a chicken in quite the same way.

Now, as I’ve told this story to others who live around here as soon as I mention the name of the cabin and its location I immediately see eyeballs pop and tiny little smiles form on the edge of lips. I was not so fortunate. There was no advance warning for me . . .

I saw this cute little cabin last year while doing research online and I thought if we ever had a free weekend it would be a fun place to try out. It’s nestled just outside of Smithville Texas and not a far drive from where we live. So I come up with this brilliant plan that this would be the perfect getaway for an anniversary weekend.

“No worries!” I assure my husband. “Let me take care of the details! I have a great little place all lined up!”

I call the number listed to reserve the cabin and the sweetest little old lady answers the phone. This is how the conversation went:

ME: So . . . where do we stop by to pick up the keys?

LITTLE OLD LADY (hereforafter to be referred to as LOL): Oh no, dear. We don’t ever lock the cabin. Just drive on up and come right in.

ME: Oh—okay.

Oh crap. An unlocked cabin, alone on 300+ acres. What could possibly go wrong?

LOL: And while you are there we have the best little asses in Texas too if you’d like to drive over to see.

ME: E-excuse me?

Talk about confidence. You go girl.

LOL: Oh yes, dear. We raise donkeys.

ME: Oh! Yes! Awesome! We would definitely want to see that.

Whew.

LOL: Yes, dear. Just drive on up the hill and you will see two signs: one points to The Best Little Cabin and the other to The Best Little [BLEEP].

I think you get the idea.

I’m a little worried as we drive. You see, I’ve arranged this little getaway and if everything isn’t amazing I will feel personally responsible FOR IT ALL. No sweat. Just the entire weekend is riding on how interesting and cool and amazing and NOT AWKWARD this weekend is going to be.

As we drive I shoot my husband a worried look. “Is this okay?”

“Of course, love. It’s a nice area.”

Five minutes later I shoot him another worried look. “This is a pretty cool town, right?”

He laughs. “I’m going to love it.”

“’Cuz you’d tell me if you don’t like it, right?”

“Lets at least see how things are when we get out of our own neighborhood . . .”

We drive onto a gated area of woods with 300 acres of beautiful Texas shrubrush. I shoot hubby a look. “This is nice . . .” I suggest hopefully. We follow the signs and soon are pulling up to a quaint little cabin.

Waling into the master bedroom we finally came face to face with the bed of the infamous Miss Edna. Huh, I thought. I wonder who this Miss Edna was?Image

The website alluded to this woman and the fact that the owners now were in possession of her bed.

We look around and we realize that the master bedroom is decorated in the style of . . . wait for it . . . a bordello! Framed frilly pantaloons adorn one wall with a large Vegas showgirl-type feather headdress. The bathroom holds a framed license to practice prostitution from the 1800’s. Regular and coffee table books, posters, etc. on the same general theme of “bad girls and pinups.” Hmmmmmm . . .

And the chickens. Scattered around the cabin are various decorations of chickens and roosters. Okay, I thought, that can be a theme. So they like chickens.

Oh dear reader. It is not that simple, or innocent.

Then we found the binder. Do you recall Romney’s “binder full of women”? We found the binder. Inside was a complete explanation—and education—about not only Miss Edna’s bed but about the infamous La Grange Chicken Ranch that had been located not but twenty miles away. Encased in clean, shiny sheet protectors were articles and a fairly complete history about this well-known “business.”

Does it ring a bell? How about the movie/musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? Miss Edna was the last Madam of this small Texas town’s brothel that had been thriving since the latter 1800’s. During the depression when money was tight Miss Edna allowed customers to pay with chickens. Soon the place was teeming with poultry. The girls began selling the eggs and chickens to supplement their income. It was known as The Chicken Ranch from then on out.

What is even more astounding is that the place was not shut down until 1973.

1973?

After a reporter’s expose, the governor decided he could no longer turn a blind eye and ordered the Sheriff to shut the place down. A shock, I know. Not even after the Sheriff presented 3,000 signatures to the Governor to keep the place open. 3,000 signatures. I think there were more chickens than people populating that town so I have no idea where they came up with that many warm bodies.

So they shut the place down and the furniture was sold. The 4 poster bed of the famed Madam ended up in a quaint little cabin not too far from its original resting place where two (now much wiser) Mormons spent an uneventful weekend.

When I told my brother and his wife about our discovery they couldn’t believe we had lived as long as we did in Texas and never heard of the Chicken Ranch.

Really?

The study of brothels and the Sheriffs who loved them has never been on my bucket list. But I can honestly say I know more about Miss Edna and the history of LaGrange than I ever thought I would in my lifetime. That and how to successfully run a house of ill repute.

Quiz me and I’ll tell you that the girls were required to be fingerprinted by the local Sheriff with a background check before beginning employment.

Quiz me and I might share that the biggest supporters were the local university and a military base nearby, complete with a free helicopter ride for our troops. Extra-curricular activities indeed.

And if you get me in just the right mood we can discuss how on a return visit this reporter had “words” with the Sheriff who ended up knocking him flat on his back. Shuttin’ down my fave-oh-rite place? Thems is fightin’ words . . .

So, along with the good advice of never starting a land war in Asia, be sure to do your homework, especially if vacationing in some of the smaller towns of Texas. Sometimes a chicken is not always just a chicken.

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