Fear Of feathers

Lee Pitts

I’ve made a career of making fun of chickens and the people who raise them. I take some small degree of pride and pleasure in the fact that my second best-selling book was the I Hate Chicken Cookbook! And I really do. Hate chicken, that is. As a writer I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think all fowl are foul.

Normally if a writer picked (or is it pecked?) on a group of people like I have he’d expect to get all sorts of nasty letters, but I’m disappointed to report that I’ve never received a single one from a poultry plucker. Not one! But I’ll keep trying. The only reason I can get away with picking on chicks is that although they used to be raised on 95% of the farms in this country, I think they are now all raised by four brothers in Arkansas. They must not read my column, or perhaps they can’t read. (Cheep shot!)

It’s just that I have this thing about poultry. The way they look at you with their shallow and glassy eyeball, and their useless wattles and comb. What’s that all about anyway? I hate to admit this but I raised a few chickens when I was younger and didn’t have my wits about me. Certainly it wasn’t because they were a profitable endeavor. It’s no coincidence that poultry comes just before poverty in the dictionary.

Mostly I raised chickens for the enjoyment I got in how stupid they were. For example, I used to bore a hole through the middle of a kernel of corn and I drug that kernel all over our one acre of ground with some fishing line. I swear, those stupid hens would have followed it to the ends of the earth. And I’ll never forget the time I hypnotized all 35 of our laying hens, all in a row. They’d still be there today, 50 years later, if I hadn’t snapped them out of their stupid stupor.

Chickens aren’t even good at being birds. They’ll sit on a golf ball hoping to hatch a chick and the world record for the longest flight of a chicken is 13 seconds. What kind of bird is that? Heck, the Wright brothers stayed in the air longer than that!

What did chickens ever do to me to deserve my wrath? The answer is that our rooster scarred me for life, both physically and emotionally. He was a monster, killing one of our cats and even scaring the steers I raised on a daily basis. If I’d have known about cockfighting back then I could have owned Las Vegas with that rooster.

Another reason I dislike chickens is that I’ve always hated eggs. Normally I’d say the only good chicken is a dead chicken, but that’s clearly not so in the case of eggs. I wonder, whoever came up with the idea of stealing unborn youngsters and then eating them? Whether they are fried, scrambled poached or deviled, all eggs are from the devil in my book. Even if they are in an angel food cake!

To this day, just the smell of a cooking egg is enough to make me nauseous. When I was a kid we got a couple dozen eggs per day from our farm flock and they were terribly hard to get rid of! This meant my mom tried to sneak them into everything she cooked. She could even ruin a good meat loaf by trying to hide an egg or two in one. So I became very suspicious of everything my mom put in front of me and I would only eat whole foods that hadn’t been adulterated. No casseroles, pancakes, French Toast, cakes or even brownies for me, because I knew there was an egg hiding in there someplace.

Another reason I hated chickens was chicken killing day. It was the day we cut the heads off the broilers and watched them flutter around like a bunch of stupid congressmen. And you couldn’t just skin them like a steer and get a real clean carcass. No, you had to physically pick their feathers out, a task I hated and tried to get out of whenever I could. Being a picky eater, I was extremely weary of eating a pin feather or two and I remember my mom saying to me one time as I picked a feather from between my teeth, “If you don’t like the way I pick chickens, next time you pick.”

So I did. I picked beef.