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Reminiscences

Memories of the Covington area and changes that have occurred as recalled by a native of the area for over forty years.

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Running Around Like a Chicken With Its Head Cut Off

March 24th, 2014 at Mon, 24th, 2014 at 9:50 pm by Rick Bergum

Our house in Covington used to sit right about where City Hall sits now.  The parking lot between city hall and Highway 18 was our back yard.  We raised chickens and rabbits and had dogs and cats.  We had a garden, a chicken coop and rabbit hutches.  We had a cool tree house and a root cellar.  It was like a small farm.

My dad raised the chickens and rabbits for eggs and food.  So, occasionally we would butcher them.  I never liked helping out with this task, and seeing dead rabbits hanging from the clothes line, their throats slit as they were bled before being skinned and gutted always left me with a queasy feeling.  And then when we ate dinner consisting of potatoes, vegetables, milk and meat (rabbit), it was always hard to swallow.  Eating rabbit didn’t last long.

Eating chickens lasted longer.  Maybe it’s because they aren’t fuzzy and cute.  Or maybe we’re so used to eating chicken that it didn’t bother us as much.  Still, the process of moving them from happy-go-lucky poultry wandering around in the chicken coop or yard, pecking bugs and crumbles or scratch (chicken food purchased at the feed store in Kent), to the dinner table was always a full-day adventure.

I distinctly remember one time we were butchering chickens.  I never liked watching pa chop off their heads so this time I hid behind a small tree near our swing set. I heard the chicken squawking and feathers rustling as my dad pinned his head down between two nails spaced evenly apart atop an upended log.  Then I heard the crack of the ax as it severed the chickens head from its body.  I cringed, but stayed hidden, glad the execution was over.  Within seconds though, I heard rustling noises to my left and to my horror saw the headless chicken body come running around the tree I had hidden behind!  I screamed and took off running with the headless poultrygeist right behind me!  It seemed possessed as it followed me across the yard only to finally drop dead at some point while I ran. My heart was beating out of my chest and I was completely freaked out.

A few minutes later after regaining my breath and nerves, I walked back over to look at the chicken head on the ground.  To my surprise and chagrin, the eyes were blinking up at me.  Horrified I turned away.  That’s an image a child doesn’t forget.  Across the yard the putrid smell of steam interspersed with the rancid odor of chicken feathers, body parts and guts rose from the kettle of boiling water. Once hot enough the feathers were removed and the chicken gutted and prepared for freezing or eating.

To this day that smell sticks in the folds of my brain.  I have not raised chickens myself since those formative years.  It’s easier, cleaner and safer just to buy it ready-to-go at the store.  And there’s no chance of it chasing me around the kitchen or house or having its head blink goodnight to me.  So if you’re ever in the parking lot behind City Hall, think about the horror that was impressed on my brain some 40 years ago and be glad you weren’t there with me!

I've lived in Covington for over 50 years. I've seen a lot of changes in Covington during that time and hope to share a few of these periodically. I enjoy writing and also write a blog for those in the custodial field. (The link is included on this blog page.) You can also find information on Facebook under the name Custodial Soupçon.

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