Remember that house in Bath that I told you about? After we moved there, my parents apparently thought it was a great idea to have our own chickens. Fresh eggs and fresh meat when they got old enough and big enough. Ok. But then my brother and I found ourselves unwillingly and unwittingly elected and appointed as assistants to some pretty disgusting stuff.
Let’s start with the obvious. To a couple of kids who had lived their extensively long and productive six and eight years in a city suburb, moving out to the country where we were able to have chickens was a new adventure! What glorious and unknown excitement awaited us? That excitement was to start in an old chicken coop that was on our property (probably the reason for the sudden realization on my parents’ part that we could have chickens of our own now….yay). It was pretty big for its age. My Dad put in the two-by-fours and chicken wire needed inside the old chicken coop to keep the chickens where we wanted them to stay, along with homemade roosting and nesting places to give it a homey, lived-in appearance. They fell right in and made it very homey by pooping all over and making a distinctly odorous mess for my brother and I to clean up. Oh, the fun! Especially on hot and humid days when we had to help clean it all out. Sure, the manure on the garden made for absolutely huge vegetables, but that smell….makes me feel like gagging just thinking about it.
There were a couple of roosters that hated my brother and I–mostly my brother. When these two roosters were alive, we were the ones sent in to the hornet’s nest of a chicken coop to get the eggs each morning. You could cut the stress level in that little building with a dull axe. So we did! It only took my brother coming back from the chicken coop in tears, talon marks on his arms or legs (or both), for my parents to see that we had a hierarchy issue and that one or both of these feathered bullies was going to be put in his place.
Thus commenced one of quite a few festivals over the years at our place. People came from miles around to witness the execution of such a fowl and evil creature. Bets were made for the distance covered by a headless feathered body running around the yard and fresh donuts from one of many concession stands were devoured as people told jokes and laughed at the court jesters goofing around on the gallows that were built next to the chicken coop.
All fell silent as the chicken–a black bag over its head–was led out of the chicken coop on a wagon slowly drawn by two pigs. It knew its time had come, yet nary a tear escaped either eye of this merciless beast as it looked cruelly about at the bystanders–especially the children. Little six- and eight-year-olds cowered behind their mothers as the chicken was led to the chopping block on the gallows. My Dad, wearing a black hood with eye slits in it, stood at the ready with his dull axe in his hands (this rooster deserved no mercy). Then, as its head was placed between the two nails on the chopping block and its neck was drawn tight–it was just like him try to pull something like this–he looked up at my Dad with great big puppy-dog eyes, just as sad as could be! Which on a chicken looks pretty weird and grotesque, so my Dad promptly ended its life then and there. After just a second or two of shocked silence, the crowd whooped and hollered, a “wave” broke out at one end of the crowd and swelled to the other side as the school band belted out Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” song. A parade commenced and the first “Miss Beheaded Queen of Bath” was named. The Superintendent of Bath officially named it “Exoneration Day” for the whole community–even so far as to establish a “no school” policy for that day so that all children could celebrate their freedom from feathered tyranny.
Say, are you familiar with Dr. Seuss’s book, “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”? Vaguely familiar to me. Yeah, none of the above really happened. Well, no, there was a nasty rooster (or two). And we did have us a beheading one morning shortly after my brother showed the cruelty of at least one of those idiot birds. But the rejoicing that day was rather subdued, shared only between my brother and I.