SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Ode To A Dead Chicken,"Hilda's Wake"

By Bob Weaver 1996P>

Scottia and Hilda in happier days

Scottie McCoy was the last of Hur's storekeepers. She was a feisty, independent woman who spent her entire life in the village, either caring for her invalid mother, farming or helping with the store. "She was the hardest working woman I ever met," Ersel Husk once said.

More often than not she wore her brothers discarded gray work pants and shirts, raising some of the finest gardens ever produced.

Sometimes she would be friendly and outgoing, the next it could be, "Don't bother me."

She was always interested in her neighbors, giving them praise or giving them hell.

If you would ask her for a favor, it might not be granted, but she was otherwise gracious and generous, giving candy and sodas to every kid who came through the door, sometimes a cup of ice cream.

Scottie was among Calhoun's most skilled quilters, turning them out slowly and perfectly. I made a mistake years ago asking if I could obtain one, which meant I never did.

The store was started in 1895 by the McCoy brothers, Everett and John Ira (my grandfather), the latter giving up on the mercantile business. Everett died young in 1910 before Scottie was born, leaving his widow Ida with six children.

The store was operated over 40 years by Scottie's brother, Harley. After his death in 1979, she kept the store open until her death in 1995 - a 100 year run.

Scottie was a lover of animals, not your normal cat and dog person. She had a penchant for pet chickens and turkeys. "I know they're dumb," she said, "but I can train 'em," and she would.

Sometime in the 1980's I took some out-of-staters to visit Scottie and the country store, after they wanted to get acquainted with the countryside.

Scottie came downstairs and opened the door, but it was apparent she was in poor spirits.

"Hilda is dead," she said, referring to her pet chicken. The Pennsylvania couple asked about the longevity of the chicken, after which she invited us to the back room.

Scottie and Ersel Husk at McCoy's Store

"Accidents happen, you know," expressing remorse for having accidentally thrown an object at her beloved chicken, striking it in the head and instantly killing it.

Hilda's wake was in progress. Reposing in a cardboard box with velvet lining, the chicken was on its back, its feet sticking straight in the air.

On either side she had placed two small electric candelabra with an assortment of plastic flowers.

"She looks pretty good," I said. "How long has she been dead?" She said about a week. My visitors struggled for words of condolence, but said something to the effect "You must have really liked your chicken."

She planned to bury the bird with all her other pets, down in the meadow.

We then went back into the store and had sodas and candy bars, and talked about the neighbors. Scottie then gave me a picture of she and Hilda in happier days, which we have included here.

Scottie remains one of my favorite people, now past, in the fading community of Hur.