A few years back, I talked about a gift shop item that had become so popular our UPS man couldn’t get the boxes here fast enough. Fidget spinners were the must-have item that spring, and for several weeks it seemed no one wanted anything else.

Then, almost as rapidly as the fad had caught on, it disappeared. After boxfuls flew out the door for weeks, I’m not sure we sold three spinners the rest of that year.

This season, pop-it toys are the big deal. Several versions exist, but most of them amount to a silicone-like mold featuring rows of little half-spheres which can be popped (inverted) back and forth toward either side of the device. We have small square pop-its as well as pop-it bracelets. We’ll see how long these hot little anti-stressors remain in vogue, but they’re great innocent fun.

Bev, who operates our gift shop for us, has a real knack for also knowing — beyond just the latest trend — what ordinary toy or item will be wildly popular with our youngest crowd. This spring she happened upon some rubber chickens, and in typical Bev fashion, she bought a boxful, somehow knowing they’d be a hit. Once again, she wasn’t wrong.

Now, to be concise, they’re not actually rubber…they’re soft plastic. But they very much resemble the classic rubber chicken gag that seemingly found its way into every comedy act or goofy skit of the 1970s. You know the one: just a silly-looking, rather linear chicken body with a disproportional neck. That’s it. Oh, and these squawk annoyingly when you squeeze their middle.

How she had the advance sense to know, on just a chance find, that these two-dollar, gangly hens would be a hit, I’ll never know. But they were an absolute smash. Every school kid has wanted one (as well as a few adults) and we can hardly keep them on the shelf.

I put a good deal of time into planning for new logo items we might carry, balancing solid quality, looks and affordability with, hopefully, general interest mostly to our adult guests. But as much as I love kids, I simply cannot out-guess this demographic in terms of what toy they’ll think is cool – traditional or otherwise.

If I’d have bought two dozen rubber chickens on a whim and hauled them in here, do you know what we’d have had one month later? Two dozen unsold rubber chickens. But somehow, Bev barely glances at them on a shelf in some random store and clairvoyantly knows they’re just right. I don’t know how she knows.

We could do worse. In a society top-heavy with savage video games and an unsettling array of other noxious youth entertainment options, Prairie Village is loading your kids up with fun rural history in a great outdoor setting, and…a rubber chicken to go. Really. Think about it.

God bless the teachers who skillfully commandeered hundreds of students to our property this spring and then braved the bus rides back home. Once their students had finished touring and happily made their final gift shop purchases, those loaded buses couldn’t have been less noisy than three coops full of active chickens. Our educators are saintly souls in more ways than one.

Please consider joining us for our Miss Prairie Village/Miss Prairie Princess pageant Sunday evening, June 5, at 6:30 p.m. in our Opera House. This key event dates to our founding and stretches into a full, fantastic week of growing experiences for the young ladies competing. Our director, Sydnie, has proven her skills at leading this detailed scene, and it shows. We hope you’ll join us.

But please, leave your rubber chickens at home that evening.