Monday, August 23, 2010

Chicken days

My Grandmother referred to it as "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off". I suppose I'm a bit giddy with my freedom. I can't seem to figure out exactly what I need to be doing with myself today. I'm just bouncing back and forth between tasks like that headless chicken.

However, I remember one decapitated bird that seemed to have great purpose. I must have been three or four at the time. I know I hadn't started school yet. The majority of the family had shown up at Grandpa and Grandma's house to butcher the chickens that had been at Uncle Marvin's. My grandparents lived in a very small town in N.E. Indiana. Practically a village. At the time it supported a small cafe, a small grocery (that had penny candy and giant pretzel sticks in glass jars on the counter) and across the street resided the hardware store. It was a small enough burg that chicken mayhem in the back yard was completely acceptable.

The chickens had been delivered to their doom in the back of the pick up truck. A temporary enclosure of chicken wire had been set up and the convicted were placed inside. The garage had been built with a chopping block as a part of the structure, sticking out at just the right height. The hatchet method was adhered to in those parts. Quick and merciful. After we moved to Iowa we found that the broomstick method was held in favor. This required placing the neck of the chicken under the broomstick, standing on both sides of the broom and yanking the chicken by the legs, hence popping off the critter's wee head. For the sake of kindness, I would only recommend this method to the heavier amongst us. I once heard of a scrawny woman attempting this. It took five attempts to finally accomplish the deed. If you are going to eat them then you certainly owe them a kinder end.

But I digress. Back to Grandma's house.....

The operation proceeded like a well oiled machine When the kitchen was ready, we began. Marvin would grab the birds by the legs and carry them to Grandpa. It seemed he could do it in two simple, almost simultaneous arcs. Down went the chicken and down went the hatchet, without a chance for fuss or struggle. Then the bird was tossed to the side in it's final dance, pumping out the last of it's life blood. Most were content to simply run in circles, there by the garage. Some needed to be chased as they took on the life of a pinball machine. But one of the last chickens butchered had a plan. It had seen the flaw in the operation. Finally, it was caught. Then passed over to Grandpa. Down went the chicken. Down went the hatchet. The bird was tossed aside. It immediately sprung to it's feet and was off like a shot! Straight down the edge of the yard. Across the sidewalk. Across the street. Across the neighbor lady's yard and safely nestled under her porch. There in the darkness, owning it's own freedom, the bird died. My older brother was sent after it. I went along for moral support.... as far as I could. I wasn't allowed to cross streets yet. Back we came with the lifeless form. Off to the kitchen it went with the others.

It was over. All that was left was to clean up the aftermath. My brother and I were given a galvanized bucket and told to go pick up heads. You'd think they would have been all in one place but those seemed to jump around a bit as well. I don't remember much of anything else about that day. Mostly that we were only to go into the house to use the toilet. They didn't need kids under foot that day.

So today is a bit of a chicken day for me. Run in circles? Pinball around? or find something of purpose and head for it whether it is the right thing for today or not? Well, we'll see how it plays out. But I warrant that I am the only person around who knows why the chicken crossed the road. It went looking for it's after life, because it lost it's head in this one.


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