Life on the farm had turned gloomy with its own dark Bronte periods. My mother was saddled with a gaggle of drunks since my father and both of his parents lived on the farm and they were all into the drink: or in the patois of the Boomer generation, substance abusers. So there we were, all of us – 20,000 chickens, six children, three drunks and not a single partridge in a pear tree.
Note from Me: This is a “casting call” post. I like to illustrate my posts, as you know, and I didn’t have much in the way of photos for this one (I don’t have a time machine but Jim is working on it.) The last time I was in Connecticut I went back to the farm and got a few photos then I begged my friends to help me with the rest. This is why the photos are in color. I like them better this way. Kudos to Rhod who played my Dad with alarming accuracy and to little Ryan who sat among the broken dishes on the lawn. The martini is all Marlene. As for the book by Jane Eyre, I was shocked to find that I had it tucked away in a bookshelf. It’s mine. I signed it a long time ago in my childish script. Now for Dead Drunk Down on the Farm.
When my Dad was “indisposed”, my mother and my oldest sister took care of the farm. My sister remembers going out in the night with my mother, lighting their way with flashlights, to check on the baby chicks in the brooder coops. This was important because the chicks had to be kept warm on cold nights. There were heaters that hung down from the ceiling to within inches of the floor ending in large metal hoods – the chicks huddled under the hoods when it got cold.
When my Dad was indisposed somebody had to kill the chickens; there were orders to fill, customers waiting. I could not have done that job. I would have let the chickens loose, all 20,000 of them and pretended I didn’t know who they belonged to. My Dad’s cousin, Bobby, came over to “help” but both he and my mother were novices – and terrified. It was a horrible task. My mother had seen it done but had never done it herself. She was supposed to hold the chicken’s head back exposing the neck while Bobby slit its throat and then put its head in a funnel to let the blood run out.
Bobby danced around with the knife yelling “Don’t let it go, don’t let it go” while my mother held on to the screaming chicken with her eyes squeezed shut. She and Bobby would get distraught, stuff the chicken back in the crate and flee to the house to re-group and work up their courage and then they’d go back out and try again. It took them all day to do one chicken.
When I told this story to my husband we were standing in our kitchen. I had him in a nice friendly hug when he laughed and said, “I loved killing chickens”. I was so shocked I let go and stepped a few paces away.
“What?” What?” (I was thinking okay…is this guy not quite as normal as I thought? Should I get a plane ticket to somewhere?)
He backpedaled at my reaction and said, “It was a guy thing, we were guys. We were farm boys. We hunted and we ate what we killed. We had a real farm not a boutique chicken farm. We slaughtered cows and sheep and made our own sausages. I killed squirrels and my aunt dressed them and we ate them.”
“You ate squirrels? Why would anybody on the planet eat a squirrel? Maybe if you’re starving to death you might. Why didn’t you just go to the grocery store and buy some meat to eat”?” I asked.
“Farm people ate frugal,” he said.
Farm people ate crazy in my opinion. Their fields were full of pork chops, bacon, steak-of-all-cuts, succulent white and dark meat chickens and they ate squirrels.