That’s a lovely sweater your headless chicken is wearing.

Ok so I lied on Sunday. (I have been doing that to y’all with alarming regularity lately. Someone stage an intervention!) I told you that I was going to write a post telling you the story of my mother’s childhood trauma regarding chickens. And instead I wrote about my road rage. Because apparently I’m selfish like that. 
Actually, it’s because I wasn’t really ready to write about the chickens. Because I’ve been off my vitamin B12.

Ok, fine. I just plain forgot. Go ahead. Smack me with a herring now. I deserve it.

Anyway, about those chickens.

We in my family have a rich history involving rural trauma. Historically speaking, every single member of my family before myself spent all of their formative years in very, very tiny farming communities. To be fair, I spent quite a bit of time in them, but I lived permanently in a place that was big enough to be called a city. (Note: There is a lot of debate on this issue. No one can decide what number is the cut off for township and cityhood. Either way, one is bigger than the other. But I subscribe to the “If it looks like a duck…” theory of definition. You know a city when you see one, just like you know a town when you’re in one. Easy peasy.) Granted, it was not a large city. It was, actually, a very small, barely at all city. (But we cling to things by our fingernails in the Midwest. Did I not mention that? That I was born in the Midwest. Weird, right, y’all?)

Anyways, trauma abounds in the rural Midwest. For example, when I was a toddler and playing in the backyard, my aunt ran over a snake with the lawnmower to save me from it. 4 times. My dad was forced to eat his pet turtle (a story for another day). My childhood swing set at my grandparent’s house was really a deer rack that the neighbor hung swings on 8 months a year.

This is a good story, though I considered not writing about it. In her book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, The Bloggess talks about running inside a deer carcass by accident and throwing up inside of it. How does one top that? One does not. Unless the deer is hanging from one’s childhood swing-set. I did run into it. Not into into it, but against it. And I screamed a lot.

Ok, so my story isn’t nearly as awesome, mostly because there’s no puke. (Puke automatically makes a story better. Everyone knows that. It’s like the first thing they teach you in an MFA in writing program) But it is still a hell of a lot more redneck than most people see in their childhoods. (Other than the whole “my dad was force-fed his pet turtle” bit. It doesn’t get worse than that shit.)

My grandparent’s neighbor must have been a very successful hunter, because overnight, it was like the Dead Deer Fairy visited the town. (PETA is coming after me for sure after the last 5 posts.) The next afternoon, there were three more hanging from the rack. And then he skinned and butchered them on a table in the driveway. All in a day in a small town. Am I right?

When my mom was growing up in that same house, the neighbor had chickens. (Different neighbor, same old shtick.) My mom is one of 5 kids, and what better way to keep 5 kids occupied so mommy can have a Rob Roy than to send them out in the yard to chase chickens? Answer: There is no better way.

But did I mention that the chickens were headless?

That’s right. The neighbor brought out a large table and a cleaver (maybe it came with the house?!?!?!?!) and started whacking chicken heads. According to my mom and aunt, the chicken, after its beheading, would flop off the table and run like a bat out of hell all over the yard. For like 5 minutes. And my mom and aunts and uncles would chase them.

(Note: I’m gonna go ahead and call “f*cked up” here. Not because the chickens were headless. That’s nothing out of the ordinary. But because the kids had an unfair advantage. Here you have this chicken body that’s all, “Where’d my head go?” and its head is all, “Dude, they lopped me off. I’m over here. Veer left, mother f*cker! That kid is gonna get us! Veer left!” …..I don’t have issues at all.)

When my mom and aunt told me this story the other day, my first question was, “Where the hell were your parents?!?!?!?!”

I should have known better. (Deer rack.) My mom and aunt bother said, simultaneously, “In lawn chairs, on the back porch, watching!!!”

Again, I should have known. Why? Because that shit happens all the time in small towns. That, and I also come from a long line of farmers and butchers. Headless chickens are NOTHING.

As you may have guessed, this is NOT what we do with our chickens in my mom’s hometown. But she does look stunning, no?  
When you grow up/spend a lot of time in rural communities, you get very comfortable with the facts of life, as they call them in Charlotte’s Web. (Newsflash: There ain’t no Templeton to run for the dump to find words for you in real life.)

I know this perhaps better than anyone.

I was nearly murdered by a cow and the Illinois State Fair, after all.

Yes, you read that correctly. My mom says I’m overreacting when I tell this story, but let me promise you something. She’s f*cking wrong. The cow nearly murdered me. Lit’rally.

We were at the dairy barn exhibit, mostly because my dad and mom wanted to carry on the tradition of going to see the world’s largest statue made out of a solid piece of butter. And the to-scale cityscape of Chicago made out of butter. And the life-sized replica of Abraham Lincoln carved entirely out of, you guessed it, butter. (We’re a proud and humble people, we Illinois natives. Incidentally, we also have a high rate of heart disease. I have no idea why.)

In the back of the dairy barn, past the refrigerator cases filled with all that dairy art, there was a hands-on exhibition. They were letting the kids milk a real live cow. (Because this is what every child in America does at the State Fair. Right?)

My parents bullied me into the line. “Oh, think of how cute she’ll look!” and “She comes from a long line of professional milkers! Such history!” and even “It’s gonna be so adorable in the Christmas card!”

The closer we got to the cow, the more excited I became! It was like an episode of Sesame Street! Only instead of hugging Big Bird, I was gonna get my hands on some cow teats! (Ok so it’s nothing at all like Sesame Street. That seems to be the case with the majority of my childhood.)

Finally, it was my turn. I sat on the stool. And turned around and smiled for my dad with the camera. I grinned at my mom who was an FFA and 4H member. I listened carefully as Farmer Bill (Yes, that was on his name tag. No, I am not making this shit up as I go along.) explained the finer points of cow milking. On his signal, I raised my tiny, 5-year-old hands to the udders. I grasped two of the teats firmly. I started to pull gently downward when the cow swiveled its head around so that we were nose to nose.

And it mooed.

I flipped backwards off the milking stool because I was so terrified and began to cry. (Because a cow mooing in your face is f*cking terrifying! Do you know how big they are? And how cranky?!?1) At the time, I was all, “Thanks a lot, you dumb cow. You ruined our Christmas Card!” (Because I wasn’t allowed to cuss as a child.) But I get it now. 
Now that I’m an adult and have had the hands of more than one eager person attempt to greedily get to my goodies, I realize that that cow was all, “Excuse me, bitch. You think you’re gonna come in my barn with your ice cold little hands and touch my magnificent tatas? Is that what you think’s gonna happen? And then you’re gonna squeeze as hard as those grubby fingers can so that your family can have a fun Christmas card? Bitch, please.” (Because cows, like Japanese Anime characters, can say a lot of things with very little movement of their mouths.)

I cried like the little girl I was. And my father dejectedly put the camera back in the bag. And my mother hurried us out of the barn in shame. Imagine: her own daughter couldn’t even milk a cow. For shame! 
I’m kidding. She put her arm around me and then bought me an elephant ear and a fresh lemonade. This means that she essentially bought me 45 Tablespoons of pure sugar. Which makes any kid happy. Which made her an awesome mom. In the 90’s. Now, you’d get drawn and quartered for feeding that to your kids. EVEN THOUGH WE ALL TURNED OUT JUST FINE! 
Am I the only one that’s noticed this? It’s like the parenting experts are saying, “Well, you turned out ok and all. But not really. So everything your mom did with you, we’re going to tell today’s moms to do the exact opposite. Because clearly there’s something wrong with you.”

And who’s to say they’re wrong?

But I think my parents did an awesome job with me, even with all the sugar and TANG and Spagettios. (They threw a vegetable in here and there. It wasn’t them. It was me.)

Carter has no idea about any of this. The worst thing he’s ever encountered is a dear carcass in an igloo cooler in his driveway. (Another story for another day. And technically, I’m the one that found the cooler. So, maybe he knows more than I give him credit for.) I only hope that we can offer our children the same kinds of scarring experiences that I was so fortunate as to have enjoyed.

And that they bring back TANG into mainstream children’s culture. Because that shit is good.

And that Carter lets me have my suburban chicken coop.

And that foxes don’t murder my chickens in front of my future hypothetical nonexistent children. Because I can’t afford that much therapy. And because I’m pretty sure the kids would be really upset about it too. 

Happy Tuesday, y’all! 
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  1. HOLY CRAP! You’re killing me! (Sad looking Naked Neck in miolt, by the way. *grin* But adorable Banty Cochin on the leash…) (No, I do NOT live in the Midwest…OK, yeah I do…Rural Indiana. I have been the one traumatizing my offspring with the spriting headless poultry…)(Look, I’m not PURE evil…I needed a couple shots of whisky to do the “deed”, both shaming my ancestors that I needed to be half-popped to “prepare” dinner and making them proud for doing a couple of shots before noon on a week day.) (OK, that kinda made me sound like I have a drinking problem, which I don’t. It was a beheading chicken problem. Ya know what? I’m just gonna stop while I still can.)
    Great post!

  2. what’s life without a few headless chickens and animal carcasses. funny post , you crazy girl.

  3. Got to say I would totally pap my trollies too if I came nose to nose with a cow! *cringes at the prospect*

    And yeah…what the hell is wrong with so many of those sugars?! I still have my own teeth and turned out relatively fine while being raised on sugary drinks! 😀

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