Thursday, February 26, 2009

There Is No Mechanical Chicken

As children, my brother and sister and I often were assured by my father (a master of deadpan delivery) that a mechanical chicken lived in the attic. The mechanical chicken was the explanation for any unusual noises we heard. It was the reason we could not play in the attic. Can't disturb the mechanical chicken.

(Oddly enough, there was no prohibition on our playing in the basement or the garage, both of which were filled with dangerous tools and household chemicals. Hm.)

Of course, we knew he was kidding. At least, we were pretty sure. Regardless, it was enough to keep me out of the attic for next forty-odd years.

But finally, a couple of months ago we decided to have the attic insulated, get some flooring put in, and install a nice sturdy pull-down ladder. It's still an unfinished space, but now we can store all kinds of stuff in it we can't bear to part with, but don't want underfoot. On top of that, we're setting the thermostate four degrees lower at night, and we're still warm.

On the downside, it was confirmed that no, there is not now, and probably never was, a mechanical chicken.

However, there were a couple of interesting things I never knew were there, sitting patiently in the dark for half a century or more. First, this 18" by 39" pastel painting, here taken out of its ornate (and utterly filthy) gilt frame:

It's in great shape for something that was done on cardboard. Signed "Phillips." A family member? A friend? The visible pencil lines on the ice suggest an amateur effort. Sadly, we'll likely never know who the artist was, as anyone who might be able to tell us is gone.

Then, there was this perfectly lovely kerosene lamp, which is back on the main floor of the house now. (Well, on a table, not on the floor as you see here.)

I imagine it might have been used regularly long ago, when my grandparents first moved into this house around 1924. Electrical outlets were fewer and much farther between than today's code requires.

And now, the attic once again holds old furniture and stuff for others to find...but no chickens.


Beth Niquette said...

I LOVED your story! I was remembering when my Dad told all of us about the "Rocky Mountain Canary." For years I thought the big "bahwhooooophfff" sound every day at Noon, was the Rocky Mountain Canary.

How shocked I was to discover it was the big horn at a nearby mental hospital going off to let everyone know it was lunchtime!


Dads are fun, aren't they?

Clytie said...

I really liked this story. It made me smile.

Maybe your mechanical chicken was a relative to our "Gibson Ghost". He was the one who made all of the weird noises at night. He only had one leg (hence all of the single socks that disappeared in the wash) and his birthday was Feb. 24th.

Steve Rogg said...

It was a viaduct all along not a chicken, down by the wire fence. Also does the house still have wood shakes on it? With the open board sheathing you can tell it is an older home, no plywood.

Sharon said...

When we had the asphalt shingles replaced, the roofer told us the original wood shingles were still in good shape below it, and he left them be; so I guess that's them you can see? We just had it done again after 20+ years, this time by the guy's son.

Steve Rogg said...

Yep, the roof rafters run from top to bottom in the photo, the open board sheathing run left to right, and the wood shingles are nailed to the boards. So you can see the under side of the wood shingles. Good wood properly installed have never failed. It is the most green product out there. It is renewable, once you cut a tree down and use it for a building you lock the carbon in for as long as that building is up.

My college(SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry) is selling a t-shirt now that says I've been green since 1911.

The year the school was founded.