SPRING 1951 - THE HALL FARM
I grew up one day when I was five years old.
I was on my Grandpa Hall’s farm because my mom was in the hospital. My
younger cousin, Jeffrey, and I were exploring Grandpa’s chicken coop
which was full of baby chicks. The chicks covered the floor like a
bright flowing yellow carpet.
They climbed onto our shoes and as carefully as we stepped out of their
way, I managed to crush a chick with my foot, and then, crush another,
and then, a third. We grabbed up the three lifeless yellow chicks and
left the coop before we killed any others or got caught by Grandpa.
We got the chicks out of sight by dropping them in the old outhouse next
to the chicken coop. It would be a while before anyone would notice a
missing chick or two, if ever. If they did find out, the chicks’
absence could be blamed on a hawk or Gretchen, the cat.
We escaped our little crime scene and ran to the barn to play in the
bales of hay, and slide down the hay chute, quickly forgetting the
Except, one of the chicks was not dead.
It started peeping. It peeped and peeped, just as Grandpa Hall needed to
visit the outhouse. There were plenty of faint peeps to be heard. They
had over one hundred chicks. But this was a singular PEEP. It was a peep
that piqued Grandpa’s curiosity. He turned around and looked down the
first hole in the outhouse seat.
“PEEP. PEEP!” he heard. But he could see nothing. He looked in the
second hole. There it was. Surrounded by two yellow furry lifeless
bodies, one chick, standing at attention on a pile of poop.
“PEEP. PEEP!!” the chick implored. Grandpa buttoned his pants and
threw open the door.
“Jeffrey,” he yelled, “Jesse, where are you!”
Grandpa Hall headed for the barn calling us as he walked and fastened
his overall straps.
When he found us, we were standing on a stack of hay, trying to look
innocent. Tom Hall had seen those looks our fathers’ faces a
generation before. He read us like a book, and as he studied us, our
shifting eyes, he immediately knew who the guilty party was.
“Jesse, you need to follow me.” Grandpa hurried back to the
outhouse. I ran close behind. Jeffery followed.
Grandpa stopped at the outhouse. My eyes were wide, full of fear.
The chick was desperate now.
“Jesse, what do you hear,” Grandpa Hall asked.
“I hear the chicks in the chicken coop, Grandpa,” I said.
“Did you put any chicks in the outhouse, Jesse?” he demanded.
“No sir.” I said the lie without even thinking.
Grandpa Hall bent over, his weathered face now six inches from mine.
“Jesse, did you put any chicks in that outhouse?” he repeated, only,
louder and deliberate.
My tears welled up, the lie tried to get out but the truth screamed
louder, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Don’t spank me,” I yelled,
holding both hands on my butt.
“Come here!” Grandpa led me into the outhouse. “Look down
there!” I looked through the hole at the yellow chick, on a mound of
“PEEP. PEEP! PEEP!”
“You’re going to rescue that chick,” Grandpa said. “I’m going
to lower you down there so you can grab it. You’re gonna save that
chick. You hold that chick soft but don’t let go of it!” I had no
time to protest. He grasped my ankles in one hand, held my arms in the
other and I was upside down and face to face with the chick. Flies were
darting around my face. I held my breath.
“Peep. Peep.” I grabbed the chick making sure that was all I
“I have him Grandpa!” Thomas Hall pulled me back up through the
opening in the outhouse. I gasped for a breath of fresh air.
“Take him to the coop,” Grandpa commanded. I stepped down from the
outhouse, walked over to the coop and placed the chick with the others.
“Don’t step on any chicks!” he yelled. My heart was pounding as I
retreated, leaving the rest of the chicks unharmed.
It’s over. The chick had survived. I looked up at Grandpa ready for my
“Jesse, we need to bury the other chicks,” he said and turned
around. “Jeffrey go get the shovel.” Jeffrey obeyed.
I realized what he meant and was back down the outhouse hole, picking up
the two dead chicks. Grandpa pulled me back through the opening. We
stood there facing the outhouse, me holding two dirty dead chicks and
Grandpa looking for Jeffrey.
Jeffrey brought the shovel and we followed Grandpa to the rear of the
barn, to an area where the ground was soft. Jeffrey dug, I deposited the
chicks in the hole, and we all stared solemnly at the little grave.
“There would have been three to bury if I hadn’t heard that third
one peep, boys. He peeped loud enough to get saved. He peeped, I
listened. God kept him alive so we could learn an important lesson.”
Jeffrey and I started sobbing while Thomas Hall prayed over the little
“Dear God, we ask your blessing on these poor dead chicks who died too
early to meet their purpose in life. Forgive these two boys, God, for
causing their demise and lying about it, and we give thanks for the one
that survived the ordeal. In Jesus name. Amen.”
Jeffrey repeated, “Amen.”
Then I sobbed, “Amen.”
Jeffrey filled the grave, now consecrated, with dirt.
“Boys, let this be a lesson to you. First, do no harm. Don’t forget
it. You hurt those chicks, Lord knows how the chick we saved feels right
now.” I thought I knew. “That’s the lesson. First, do no harm.”
Excerpted from "Jesse Sings" by Victor Hess. Copyright © 2017 by Victor Hess. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.