Petaluma Pete

 

24" X 18"

Oil On Canvas

 

1976

Specialty: Egg Laying Chickens

 

    Piedro, aka Petaluma Pete, personified the old Petaluma countryman farmer/rancher in my mind. He showed up frequently on the main street of Petaluma, Petaluma Blvd North, with eggs to sell. This was, of course, before the city's restrictions on what local farmers could sell without permits. At that time Piedro had a fairly active chicken farm that turned out enough fresh eggs for him to sell and make a profit. 

     I met Piedro one Saturday morning at the bakery where the local ranchers and farmers would congregate to discuss the town news and close a few small deals they had going among themselves. They liked to call these Saturday meetings "Board Meetings." In truth Piedro was an ornery old cuss with an attitude that could scare anybody meeting him for the first time. If he decided he liked you he would address you as "Amigo." I was never sure if he really thought of me as a "friend" or if he just couldn't be bothered to learn my name.

     On this particular Saturday the others were questioning Piedro about the size of his chicken eggs. They jokingly told him he just could not sell the small eggs for a normal egg size price. They asked him why his chickens laid such small eggs.

 

     He replied,

"Amigos, you will have to ask the chickens.

I feed them very well.

At night I sing to them so they will get a good night's sleep.

In the morning they lay the eggs."

     Piedro was always willing to detail his hardships and explain how his troubles began when the Chamber of Commerce hired Bert Kerrigan some time back (uh, like 1918). . .Piedro was not a young man.

"'Mr. Fancy Pants' had all the answers. He declared Petaluma the egg basket of the universe! (Actually, "The Egg Basket Of The World.") He said that we got to get people to come to Petaluma and think up some good reasons for them to come."

     In a powers-that-be consensus it was agreed they would build a hatchery. The incubator had just been invented and the production of chicken and eggs exploded. Mr. Fancy Pants must have been a good talker because the city went in to debt for the project. To help promote this venture they created "The Egg Queen Ball" and a "chicken" rodeo. Today Petaluma annually celebrates The Butter And Eggs parade as well as the National Ugly Dog contest and the World Wrist Wrestling competition.

     By the 1970's Petaluma Pete was one of the many small ranchers and farmers who just could not compete with modern technology.

"Little guys like me lost out to the large chicken farmers."

     The rest is history.