The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Chili dinner good for memories - and local causes


February 22, 2018

Every year when I tuck into a bowl of Portales Kiwanis chili (as I plan to during this annual fundraiser from 5 -7 p.m. Friday in the Fellowship Hall at the First United Methodist Church, 200 South Avenue C, Portales), I think of … oddly enough … sea monkeys.

A disclaimer seems in order: I promise that the always-delectable Kiwanis chili — whether you choose beef or vegetarian — has absolutely no sea monkeys in it. Not even a microscopic morsel.

But the $8 tickets (half that for kids) help underwrite some memorable local causes like Little Olympics, swim meets, the American Youth Soccer Organization, science fairs, scholarships, and (this is where the sea monkeys come in) the pet show at the Roosevelt County fair.

Sometime in the 1960s, when my brothers and I were small and squirmy, our parents packed us into the back of the old yellow station wagon for a trip across the American West.

One of our stops was the Great Salt Lake, and one of the lures, especially appealing to small children who have spent too much time in the back of a station wagon, was the promise of capturing our very own brine shrimp.

At the time these were popularly known as “sea monkeys,” sold on the backs of comic books in a devious enterprise portraying lithesome little creatures lounging in a castle, often sporting tiny crowns.

In reality, as our wise parents knew, these were actually the almost microscopic artemia salina — brine shrimp — that could be harvested for free from the Great Salt Lake.

Better yet, they could pull double duty: Entertain the troops for the 900 mile trek home, and serve as entries in the upcoming pet show.

Country kids can have a tough time when it comes to pet shows. Our “pets” tend to range from ranch-broke horses to orphan calves to half-feral cats.

None of these translate well to a happy experience when crated up, driven for 35 miles, and unloaded into a barn full of barking, meowing, squawking contestants.

But sea monkeys? All those required were small water-tight bottles. I seem to remember ours lived (and likely also died) in old prescription vials, perfect for competition.

All three of us may have entered sea monkeys that year, and I’m sure the judge found creative ways to give each of us blue ribbons for entirely different reasons, leaving three small children very happy.

It’s what Kiwanis members have been doing for well over half a century. They keep giving children in our area reasons to smile, whether it’s a blue ribbon for a non-traditional “pet,” a new backpack for school, or a scholarship to pursue higher education.

So, as I eat my chili on Friday night, I’ll be fondly thinking of sea monkeys and the long Kiwanis legacy of caring for our youth. Maybe now you will be, too.

Betty Williamson wonders if anyone she knows ever bought the comic book sea monkeys. Reach her at: [email protected]


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