Preparing a chicken to eat
by Ruth Baker
Jul 17, 2011 | 2138 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruth Baker
Ruth Baker
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I like to use original stories from everyday life in Walker County. Gladys Williams of Empire has a story from the 1930s when she was in her early teens. Every farm child from those years could write a repeat of these experiences.

Here is her story:

My mama had great confidence in me. She thought I could do just about anything she could do — and, for the most part, I could. But this one time, I surely gummed up the job.

You see back then most people in the country raised just about everything they needed to eat. That included chickens. When we wanted fried chicken, we didn’t have to go to Hardees or Food World to buy it. We just put a young frying-sized chicken in a coop, and fed it real good for a week or two before we planned to eat it. This was done in order to fatten it.

Now comes the bad part of the whole process (for the chickens, at least). First, it had to be killed, and then put into boiling water so the feathers could be plucked. The next step was to take newspaper or a paper bag and set it on fire in the back yard, and hold the bald chicken over the flame a few seconds to singe the little hair-like feathers that we could not remove otherwise. Then we washed it and dressed it for cooking.

In those days, when anyone got sick or hurt or was having a baby, the neighborhood women would go to assist the doctor. The doctors made house calls to care for the sick in the homes. On this particular Saturday afternoon, Mama had to leave suddenly to help a neighbor in need. Before she left, she asked me if I could take the chicken which she had penned the previous week in the coop, and kill and dress it for her. I said, “Yes, Mama, I can do that.”

As soon as she left, I made sure that the water was boiling hot, before I left the house to commit the crime of murdering the chicken. I took the chicken out of the coop, and proceeded to wring its neck. I had seen Mama kill a lot of chickens this way. Dreading the job so bad, I closed my eyes and twirled the chicken around and around several times, then threw it to the ground.

I ran into the house to get the hot water. About that time, the chicken got up staggering around, and ran under the floor. You see, I had not killed it at all. I had just made it real drunk and dizzy. I couldn’t get under the floor to retrieve it. I wondered what I would do now.

There were plenty of chickens in the yard, so I hurriedly threw down a handful of feed and caught another chicken. Needless to say, this one was not as fat as the one under the floor. “Mama won’t know the difference,” I thought. So I wrung its neck, and made sure it was broken before I threw it down. I finished the job, and had it dressed and ready to cook when Mama came home.

I felt pretty proud of myself, but at the same time I was worried about chicken number one under the floor. I was afraid it would die under there. Careful not to tell Mama what happened, I volunteered to feed the chickens for the next few days. I wanted to see if the first chicken survived. Sure enough, it did but was still staggering and walking sideways.

All went well until one day I forgot to feed the chickens. Mama fed them that day. She came back into the house and asked, “Wonder what is wrong with that chicken out there? He walks funny, and he sure does look like the one I put into the coop a couple of days ago.” Well, I had to ‘fess up. I told her the whole sordid story. She laughed and said, “I never heard of such a thing — that poor chicken!”

As it turned out, he was the lucky one. He lived out his normal length of life because we could not bear to kill and eat him. He was still staggering and walking sideways. I hope the statute-of-limitations for killing a chicken has run out, otherwise, Charles B. and I could be in serious trouble.