I heard what she said , but I wished her words would have went in one ear and out the other. Instead they repeated in my mind several times before I could answer. I will not show my fear, I decided. So I did it. Next morning I followed Mom out to the chicken coop, and clumsily chased the chickens around, trying my best to catch one at a time.
I set my eyes on the mean rooster first; once I had him cornered I slowly moved in, ready to catch him. Yet, my slow actions failed me. As I reached out to grab him he flew up over my head, landing on the other side of me. I’m sure I looked as silly as I felt, because Mom, who stood outside the coop, her face pressed up against the fence, giggled at the miserable scene.
I rolled up my sleeves and dove in for the second round. This time I carefully watched his moves; when the right time came I dodged in, trying to keep my eyes open. There! I did it. Now, the nerve testing task was next: I would kill the rooster. Whether I should have been thankful or irritated, I don’t know, for I was neither at the time. But Mom said, “There now, darling, I’ll kill him for you”. I was about to give the rooster to her, but she would not have him. She simply said, “No, you hold the body, I’ll hold the head”. I didn’t understand this method at first, but then with all her back-and-forth talk she took the rooster from me, then she demonstrated exactly how to hold the rooster.
I didn’t think much of it, I did what Mom said to do: putting my index finger between his wings and securing my thumb and the other fingers around his wings. Then holding his legs firmly with my left hand, I placed his head on the block, where Mom stretched out his neck. Then one, two, three . . . his head laid on the block, yet his body . . . I held in my hands. Suddenly Mom spoke up, “Now, point the throat towards the ground until he’s bled out”.
Well, the worse is over, I thought, patiently waiting for the bleeding to quit. However, I was disappointed. The rooster started shaking with all his might, nearly flying out my hands. Somehow I managed to keep a strong grip on him; I certainly did not wish to see a headless rooster running around the yard. Of course, with no beak I highly doubted he’d be able to cause much harm. Yet, I didn’t want to chance it. Even if he wouldn’t do any harm, my heart would reach out to the poor rooster for having such an unusual, horrifying death.
Just when I thought the rooster would never give up he finally stopped shaking and closed his eyes. (Interesting fact: once a chicken’s head has been removed the eyes will not close until the heart stops beating.) I laid the rooster down beside an old alfalfa bale.
I did the same thing with the other seven roosters, although this time I looked and felt more experienced. However, when it came to plucking the feathers I took baby steps, for once again, I had not the slightest clue what I was doing.
We carried the birds to the cottage sidewalks, where Mom asked me to pour boiling water into a five gallon bucket. After that Mom gently put the rooster in the boiling water, with a stick she dipped the rooster to the bottom of the bucket. Gradually she handed him to me, telling me to start plucking. I realized this would be easiest part of the whole experience.
Just as I thought, plucking the feathers was the easiest. Because next came scrubbing the skin until every part of it looked clean enough to eat. I didn’t think about scrubbing them, it wasn’t anything I wasn’t use to. Yet what came after that made my skin wrinkle. I swallowed hard when the rooster’s intestines became visible. Cutting the roosters skin, then breaking the thighs wasn’t nerve taking at all. Even pulling the gizzard out hadn’t bothered me to much, but pulling the intestines was a whole different story.
Mom told me what to do in as little amount of words as possible. The last simple words she said were, “just don’t tear the colon. It’ll stink if you do”. Of all the words she could have said she chose those.
We’ll I did it. No colon was torn, all the intestines glided down into the waste bucket under the table. Next I cut and broke the rooster’s bones into separate pieces. By the time the other seven were cut and broke into pieces I felt well experienced. Of course, I wished I would have known what I was doing at the beginning. But as they always say, “For everything there is a first time”.
After all the roosters were cut up,we washed and checked over the pieces two more times to be certain there was no filth left. We bagged them up; two legs, two thighs, one breast, one back and two wings in each bag.
We cleaned the mess and after everything was sparkling clean we walked to the house with our butchered meat in hand. From the corner of my eye I saw Mom smile to herself, what for,I didn’t know. I wondered if she smiled because of my greenhorn way of butchering chickens, yet I didn’t know, therefore I pushed the thought away.
We froze most of the chicken and made dinner with the rest of it. The rooster that ran around that morning, now laid on our dinner table.
The next time Mom mentions butchering chickens I wont burst into an instant panic!