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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No. 55 "The Wild Chicken"

Chickens of many breeds were always in evidence (see posts no 33 & 36) in our little Island world. Chicken coops, chicken eggs, chicken feathers, chicken biddies, and even chicken smells could be found in almost every back yard or thicket.

Most of the adult birds, even the laying hens, eventually ended up in a pot or frying pan. The usual routine for having a chicken dinner was for someone to go to the coop, trap & catch a chicken, and then see that it was prepared for the table. The first part of that process actually was “to kill” the bird, and that was something I never got used to watching. When Mama, or more usually, Daddy, would head out from the coop with a hen or rooster under their arm, I would run far enough away that I could not witness, or even hear, what was about to happen next.

Inevitably, however, when I made my way again to our back porch, I would find my mother preparing the chicken by removing its feathers. This was done either by “picking it with her fingers” or “singeing it near a fire." To have reached this stage meant that she or my father had begun the process either by “ringing the neck” or “cutting off the head.” of the unlucky bird. If you’ve ever seen either of those unfold, you might appreciate why I had avoided watching it whenever I could. I was not so naive that I did not understand where the fried, baked, or stewed chicken that we ate almost every week had come from, or how it made its way to our table. I just didn’t have the “stomach” to watch or be part of that process.

In this photo, taken when I was seven years old, I am
holding my pet Bantam rooster, Junior. It was one of
the few chickens that did not end up in a pot or pan.
I guess it’s the same as what I’ve often heard about pork sausage; specifically that if you see it being made, you won’t enjoy eating it nearly as much. But this was the inevitable fate of nearly all the hundreds of chickens that were always in evidence in my boyhood world.

I offer this as prelude to a simple story told about one of those chickens that ended up as the main course of a Sunday feast. It was said to be a rooster, and had been so wild as it ran free, and had been so hard to catch, that even after having been slaughtered and dressed, the cook was forced to put a brick atop the boiler as it was cooking in order to keep it from jumping out of the pot and escaping yet again.

The next time you hear or see mention of a wild bird, it might be well to remember the rooster that was just as wild dead as when it was alive.

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