A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gary and the Art of Chicken Hypnosis

Even though I was a town kid, we always seemed to have some farm animals around when I was growing up.  One time my older brother Phil, who was working at the furniture factory at the time, brought in two little runt piglets.  Somebody at the factory had given them to him; they had been rejected by the mama sow and so were on their own.  They were chubby little cuties, about the size of your hand.  Phil gave one to me and the other to my sister Janet, and we determined to raise them into adulthood.  Well, I guess the odds were stacked against the little pigs, because they only lasted a couple of days.  But they were cute, and they certainly appealed to my family's penchant for unusual animals.

One of my earliest memories relates to some chickens that we kept in the smokehouse.  I was about four or five, I guess, and we had a couple of chickens in coops.  I have no idea where we got them; probably somebody that Daddy had fixed an appliance for gave them to us.  Anyway, these were not pets - they were supper.  I remember sitting on the back steps watching while Mama performed the regretful task of "wringing" the hapless chickens' necks.  To be graphic, for the benefit of the more cityfied reader, this consisted of grasping the chicken's head and twirling the chicken's body in a circular motion, producing a catastrophic separation of head and body.  To add to the trauma of the five-year-old viewer, the chicken, at first seemingly unaware that his head and body were no longer functioning in unison, proceeded to thrash about wildly, apparently seeking some sort of reunification with the missing part.  The participants in this unlikely drama could do nothing but watch sheepishly until the chicken, realizing the futility of its pursuit, decided to hang it up.  Then, it became a matter of plucking the feathers and heating up the frying pan.  But the story is told today of me, sitting there on the back steps, a little tear rolling down my tender cheek, experiencing a brief moment of compassion for the departed fowl.

My brother Gary, the oldest in the family and a genius on many levels, once provided a demonstration of chicken mental capacity that left a profound impact on me, even to this day.  He took one of our chickens, sat it down on a board, and with a piece of chalk, began to slowly draw a line down the length of the board.  The chicken, undoubtedly sensing that something was up, first attempted to ignore the strange proceedings, but ultimately was caught up in the transaction.  The chicken cocked its head, watching as the line slowly grew longer and longer.  In a matter of seconds, the chicken's cocked head remained motionless.  Gary reached over and pushed the chicken's head back a few inches, and it stayed in its new position.  He then gently pushed the chicken's head down closer to the board, and it stayed in the spot he left it.  This went on for several minutes, and we all took turns positioning the chicken's head.  Each time, the hypnotized chicken would remain motionless in the position we left it.  After a bit, the chicken, having enough of this nonsense, began to stir, and quickly resumed its noncompliant attitude.  Years later, I tried this with some of the little chicks that we would get at Easter time.  It still worked, and I even altered the process by swinging a little silver necklace in front of the chick, which worked just as well.

By the way, when it came to fried chicken, Mama was an artist.  She made the best fried chicken ever, and she fried it up in the old iron skillet that had been a wedding present for her and Daddy.  I didn't think anything could top Mama's fried chicken, but she managed to even outdo herself when she ran across a new recipe.  She started rolling the chicken in cracker crumbs and baking it, producing a whole different chicken experience that was nothing less than superb.  I cannot count the number of Sundays when we had Mama's baked chicken, but we never got tired of it. 

I'll take the pully-bone, please.

Click here to see a chicken get hypnotized.

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