The children looked intently at the geese, chickens, wild turkeys and ducks. They were fascinated by a chance to stand next to the birds. The poultry were in cages, but this wasn't a zoo.
The birds were for sale by Harr Family Farms, which occupies a couple of stalls at the Soulard Farmers Market. The noisy fowl drew a lot of attention. People walking by stopped dead in their tracks, wondering what these birds were doing at a farmers market. Then, there was the "oh, yeah" moment.
The younger children did not comprehend that the birds would end up on somebody's dinner table. The adults did.
"You're doomed," a man called out to the fowl as he walked by. They responded with a blast of honks, clucks, gobbles and quacks that overwhelmed all of the human voices.
"The market loves us," Scott Harr, 37, said. "The birds are a big attraction. For many city people, they haven't seen birds like this up close."
Based in East Carondelet, Ill., the Harr Family Farms has been a fixture at the Soulard Farmers Market for 100 years.
For Harr, it was business as usual on Saturday. Bundled up against the chill, he, his wife, Stephanie, and an employee stayed busy, selling free-range chicken eggs, slabs of salt pork, bacon, raw ducks and chickens. Even an ostrich egg.
In a couple of weeks, Harr will offer beaver, muskrat, rabbit, squirrel, raccoon and possum provided by hunters and trappers.
So, do people occasionally take a chance for something exotic for Thanksgiving?
"Not really," he said, plopping a bagful of bacon on a scale. "Most people are traditional. They stick with turkey. Some will buy a wild turkey. We'll have it butchered, then they come back a week later to pick it up. Wild turkey tastes better than domesticated turkey."
He has dined on all of the animals he sells, except for one.
"I've tasted everything, but possum," said Harr, shuddering at the thought. "They're the filthiest animals on earth."
Danielle Tweedy of Belleville, Ill., once contemplated buying a live turkey and butchering it. However, after listening to Harr, it sounded a little too complicated.
"I just went out and bought one," she said. "There's too much work."
Emily Rowley of South St. Louis is a bit more adventuresome.
"My boyfriend and I try a lot of different things," Rowley said. "We'll have geese for Thanksgiving, but we also eat a lot of lamb and beef."
Harr Family Farms no longer sells lamb or mutton.
"The profit margin is too low," he said. "It costs a lot of raise them."
A customer wanted a duck. He pointed to a fat, white one. Harr opened the cage door, expertly grabbed the bird and put it in a small wooden cage. It happened so fast that the duck didn't even have a chance to quack.
That skill comes after years of practice. Harr is the third-generation to run Harr Farms.
"I grew up behind that counter," he said.
The business raises the poultry on the farm. Farm chickens also provide most of the eggs. Another company provides the bacon and smoked meats.
"We've got a good reputation," he said. "People know us and come back."
A lot of the fowl is sold to immigrant families who stick to the old ways of butchering and cooking the birds.
However, dinner is not the only reason for some purchases.
On Saturday, Alaskar Rizayer of South County bought a goose to be a pet for his son, Eldar, 6.
Others will buy hens because more people are keeping chickens in their backyards for the eggs.
"They'll talk to us about where's a good place to buy chicks," Harr said. "They might raise the chicks or give them away as presents."
A sudden wave of customers drew his attention. He and the crew went back to work. The ducks, geese and turkeys, their ranks depleted, sat quietly in their cages.