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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Headless Chicken

Happy Halloween!

For my first "real" post, I figured I'd share a story from my grandmother (who I call Nana), Mary Ruth Dishner Chambers.  While the title sounds spooky, it's not really a scary story (unless you are scared of headless chickens).

In the early 1950's, Papa, my grandfather Clayton E. Chambers, suggested to Nana that they have a "fresh" chicken dinner.  Nana had spent a lot of time with her grandparents on a farm in southwestern VA growing up - so he must have assumed she knew what to do with a fresh (aka live) chicken.

So, my great-great-grandmother brings over a live chicken from the farm and leaves it with Nana for their dinner.  However, even though she spent large quantities of time on the farm, Nana had never actually dispatched a chicken herself.

So, the dragged the unhappy fowl down to the basement to start the process.  She had seen her grandmother do this many times while on the farm so I think she just just thought, "how hard can this be?"

I remember asking her why Papa didn't cut off the chicken's head for her.  Nana said Papa just couldn't cut the head off a chicken.  He had apparently a incident as a child and accidentally lopped the head off a tragically inquisitive chicken one morning while chopping firewood.  And then had to deal with a crazed, headless chicken running around the yard (chickens don't need their heads to do this, at least for a short while).  He then got in trouble with his mother, who didn't believe he cut the chicken's head off by accident.  But I bet they had a fresh chicken dinner that night.

Anyways, back to my grandmother's story.  Nana had always seen her grandmother grab the chicken by the head and, from her wild gesticulations while telling the story, whip crack the chicken in order to break its neck.  This apparently didn't work for Nana.

I can only picture her, holding a now very irritated chicken by the head, and swinging it around her head like some sort of crazed avian slingshot complete with frantic squawking and feathers flying.

The chicken decided to fight back and managed to get away and started to dash around the basement.  My dad was a young child at the time and was down in the basement to "help".  They then had to chase this harassed chicken around the basement.  The chicken was finally caught and my grandmother placed it under a basket and had my Dad sit on top to keep the chicken from getting away.

She then went to get an ax.  I am going to pause here because if you don't want to read about chickens actually being killed, it's time to move on (here's a link to a cute video of a kitten and a chick for you instead).

Nana pulled the chicken's head out from under the basket (while leaving the rest of the chicken under) and according to Dad, proceeded to saw the chickens head off with the ax.  (FYI - sawing a chickens head off with an ax is not the most efficient or humane way to fix your fresh chicken dinner.)  I'm not quite sure why she didn't lop it off executioners style - knowing my grandmother, she probably didn't want to damage the basement floor.  Eventually, she did manage to separate the chicken from its head.

To draw this story to an end, they did, indeed, have a fresh chicken dinner.  I believe that she said she couldn't eat any of it.

She also made it abundantly clear to Papa that this was going to be the only fresh chicken dinner he was going to have from her.

So, Happy Halloweens and may all your chickens (at least the ones for dinner) be headless ones!
Advertisement from The Kingsport-Times, Feb 28, 1950

1 comment:

  1. lol! My MIL saw them kill a chicken when she was a child. Refuses to eat chicken! My mother, oon the other hand, helped her parents prepare the chickens every week for their delivery business. She had NO issues eating chicken!