While reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver’s book detailing her family’s attempt to eat only locally grown food for an entire year, I was reminded of my grandmother’s back yard where she maintained a chicken coop.
In the ‘40s and early ‘50s, we lived next door to Gram in Ashland, Kansas, a rural town of about 1,400 persons in southwest Kansas, close to the Oklahoma border. It certainly wasn’t unusual for people there to have chicken coops, where they grew chickens and had a ready supply of fresh eggs. Most everyone also had gardens, butter churns, and kept locally grown meat at the local ‘locker’.
To get ready for the evening meal, Gram would head out to the coop, grab the closest chicken, and after taking it out of the coop, would violently wring its neck, breaking the head off. After releasing the chicken, it would literally ‘run around like a chicken with its head cut off’, spewing blood all over the grass.
It was always a spectacle lasting several minutes, and eventually the chicken would run out of steam and drop over dead. Then she would pick it up and drop it into a boiling cauldron of water on the back porch. After a few minutes then, it would be removed—ready for plucking. I often had the undesirable chore of removing the stinking feathers and bringing the denuded carcass into the kitchen for cooking.
Today, it’s much less exciting – and cleaner. We go to the HyVee meat counter and pick up a package of pre-cut chicken. — Ken Johnson