Winter, 1945-The Ozarks

My Grandma Effie Johnson, sweet, tender, gentle woman, maker of the best Pineapple Meringue Pie I ever tasted, a woman who never ever raised her voice in anger… yes, this same woman… was a slap-out Chicken Killer…

Grandma would order her baby chicks, every year, from the Radio Station XERF, 500,000 watts of power, down on the Mexican border. The big box with the holes all in it for air, and about 50 chicks, would arrive by our Rural Mail Carrier. He would pull up in front of Grandma’s old farm house, honking his horn, and she would go out and get the box and bring it in the house to a closed in porch on the back of her house. She had fixed a circle of Chicken Wire to hold them… she would feed them… cuddle them… love them, and I, in my nine year old logic, figgered she had them for pets. After awhile the baby chicks thought Grandma was their Mama. After they got big enough, she moved them out to the outside Chicken house, and every day she would let them out in the yard, take a handful of cracked corn and feed the little rascals.

The little chicks became big roosters and hens, after so long a time. One day I was in visiting with Grandpa… well actually just continually firing questions at him, which he answered with a grunt, a nod or a head shake, as he puffed away on his pipe of Prince Albert Smoking Tobacco. Y’see, Grandpa was a man of few words, and many gestures. Since I wasn’t getting a whole lot out of Grandpa, I went outside and saw Grandma with the Chickens all around her in the back yard. I wandered over, just as she grabbed one of the roosters by the head and started twirling it around in a circle like a whirley-gig… causing the head to come off in her hand and the rooster to begin about a five-minute headless dance while it bled out. Finally, the rooster lay down and gave up the ghost (if chickens have ghosts), deader than a flattened road kill.

I was horrified! Grandma killed one of her darling pets! I ran off to the barn to try to get my mind around this startling action. All I could think about was that Chicken dancing with no head, slinging blood everywhere.

That afternoon, Grandma and Grandpa’s kids and my cousins arrived for some of Grandma’s famous fried chicken. As I sat down at the table, Grandma slipped me my plate…with my favorite piece of fried chicken on it… the drumstick! Oh man, I did love me a drumstick. I bit into the hot, crunchy delight…and I realized that life could be mighty rough on the chicken, and Grandma had to make some hard choices and strong actions…and at the end of those hard choices was my drumstick… I reckoned I could live with that alright… Uh would you please pass some more mashed taters and gravy… and another drumstick, if you don’t mind. Thank you very kindly.

Stan Hitchcock