Easter eggs always make me chuckle. Not the inside-joke or special treat hidden inside a movie or video game ‘Easter egg’ – not the trinket filled, plastic variety, but real, from a chicken, dyed-with-food-coloring-tablets-and-vinegar Easter eggs, in all their splendor.
Some years ago I lived in Marshalltown, Iowa, and was a member of the local Jaycees chapter. We hosted an annual Easter egg hunt on the grounds of the Iowa Veterans Home; a sprawling, hilly landscape dotted with Civil war cannons and statues of various ilk – ideal hiding places for eggs.
And man, did we hide eggs.
The egg boiling and dying took the better part of the week, as did the stuffing of plastic eggs with candy and trinkets. On the appointed Saturday before Easter, we showed up early in the morning, two hours before the start of the event. Taking care to avoid places rabid egg hunters might trample, we avoided neatly manicured flower beds, but pretty much everything else was in play. We used every nook and cranny of statue bases, shrubs, antique cannons, trees…you get the idea. We had two pickup trucks filled with eggs, and we used the bulk of those two hours making sure things were distributed over a wide area.
When we looked back over the scene from the high ground where the hunt would begin, we could see a smattering of color here-and-there, but for the most part we knew we had concealed the bounty well. Then the kids arrived, roughly one hundred of them, none older than nine. They had their baskets and bags clenched tightly in their hands, the starter got ready with a countdown to let them loose, and long-term Jaycees suddenly flipped their wrists to check their watches, and the starter yelled “GO!”
It was over in forty-seven seconds; an impressive Biblical-in-scope-locust-swarm-in-OshKosh-B’gosh had stripped the grounds of anything pastel in color and/or plastic in nature.
In less than a minute.
There were other activities for the kids to partake in elsewhere on the grounds, and as the kids departed, baskets of goodies in hand, some of the Jaycee vets of egg hunts past started strolling the various cannons and statuary, and I overheard multiple variations on a theme.
“They found the one in the cannon fuse hole.”
“Didn’t think they’d find the one I hid THERE!”
“Yep, they plucked us clean again.”
I have not seen anything like it in the thirty-plus years since.
Since my muse is egging me on…
When my daughter Lindsay was two, we helped her dye Easter eggs, and to her delight but eventual boredom, we whipped up an extra dozen to give to our staff at the small town radio station I managed.
The Thursday morning before Easter, I stuck a whimsically decorated egg into each staff person’s mailbox, including a bright, purple egg into the slot labeled ‘Don Thomas’. In reality, ‘Don’ was Tom Shumacher, a middle-aged, part-time announcer at the station. Uncle Tommy (as we sometimes called him) was a quirky guy with deep bass radio voice and a hearty laugh that got ample use, as his sense of humor and inability to keep a straight face were both easily triggered.
I made the plain, bright purple egg special for Uncle Tommy, because I wanted to make sure I didn’t get his egg confused with one of the eggs for the other staff.
Because Tom’s egg was the only one of the batch that was not hard-boiled.
I had learned that Tom liked hard-boiled eggs, during a conversation about our respective family Easter plans. I figured giving Tom and only Tom an egg would have seemed suspicious, so I came up with the plan to color eggs for all to basically legitimize my prank.
As I envisioned the gag, there were three, highly possible outcomes:
1. He decides to eat the egg at work, cracks it open, makes a mess, we all have a good laugh
2. He takes the egg home, gives it to his (then) wife to make egg salad with, she cracks it open and, as a woman with a droll sense of humor would find her annoyance overridden by the amusement
3. Tom takes the raw egg home, and somehow his teenaged son Patrick gets a hold of it, cracks it open, and responds with confusion
You know what they say about the best-laid-egg/plans.
I had not considered option number four: that Tom, finding the egg to be quite colorful, would bring it to his sister, a resident of a local long-term care facility, to brighten up her room during the holiday season. To top things off, he had also taken with him the little die-cut cardboard chicken to hold the egg (I had put some of those in the mailboxes, too) so the egg could stand on the table in her room for all to see.
Eggsactly what happened.
One of the staff nurses came in later that afternoon, complimented Tom’s sister on how lovely the egg was, to which she replied, “Well, it will just go to waste here, why don’t you take it home for your little girl?” The nurse, very appreciative did just that.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
Tom returned to the station the next afternoon to help record some commercials. There were still a number of eggs sitting in mailboxes, which prompted Tom to thank me for the nice purple egg. Keeping a straight face I said, “Oh you’re welcome….” I paused, as comedic timing is everything, before adding, “How was it?”
“I don’t know. I gave it to my sister. Thought her room could use some holiday cheer.”
“Are you headed back over there today?” I asked, hopefully.
“Wasn’t planning on it.”
“Do you think she’ll eat it?”
“No, she doesn’t like eggs and it’s been sitting out.”
I figured I needed to spill the beans (or, in this case, let him in on the intended yoke) to which Tom responded with gut-busting laughter. Once he caught his breath, he calmly said, “I’ll just call over there and make sure the nurses tell her not to eat it.”
He was still laughing.
He made the call, explaining to the nurse that there was a purple egg in his sister’s room he wanted to make sure she didn’t try to eat. There was a pause, Tom waited. A minute later the conversation began anew.
“It’s not? Oh, realllllllly…” he started chuckling. “O.K., thanks a lot.”
He returned the phone receiver to its cradle and, between guttural chortles explained that his sister no longer had the egg, that she had given it to a nurse to bring home to her daughter, and that the nurse in question was off all weekend, not returning until Monday.
By the end of relating his phone call with the care center, he had tears in his eyes from laughing. I was laughing as well, but figured there would be some eventual blowback on this – and there was, but nothing bad. As the story eventually made its way back to us, the nurse brought the egg and it’s holder home, her daughter displayed it on the counter, as mom suggested she not eat it since it hadn’t been refrigerated. The girl agreed, but somewhere along the line, the girl grabbed the egg to show to someone, dropped it, and it went ‘splat’. Child and mother cleaned up minor mess, the mom simply figuring somebody goofed, and colored a raw egg by accident.
By the Tuesday after Easter, the story of the wayward egg had made the rounds of the care center, Tom’s family, and the WYRQ staff, all of whom seemingly found the story more odd and/or dumb than amusing, causing Tom to find it even MORE amusing with every retelling, especially when he related the dialogue, starting with his sister and the nurse.
“That egg you gave me was raw.”
“I know. I’m sorry. My brother called and told me it wasn’t cooked, but you had gone home already.”
“Why did your brother give you a raw egg?”
“He didn’t know it was raw. It was a gift from his boss.”
“Why would his boss give him a raw egg?”
“I think it was supposed to be a joke.”
Although, I could have laid a gigantic egg with this gag, Uncle Tommy and I at least amused ourselves (and occasionally, others) with the story for many years after.
And as far as Easter egg stories go, “Ebbeddaebbedaebbedda! That’s albumin, folks.”