From my journal: Saturday, April 11, 2009
Today I slaughtered a chicken. No chickening around, I took a life. To be honest, though, I've taken lives before. I've got a history with a lot of ants, some slugs, snails, a few fish, those dumb June bugs that can never fly straight, some spiders, and definitely mosquitoes. But in terms of an animal that is a bit larger, has a definite character or personality per say, and a generally harmless demeanor, this was totally new to me. To add to this, a chicken is a bird. That was a big deal to me.
Now, before you choose to gasp in disgust and/or dismissal, laugh in enjoyment, cheer in some rite-of-passage approval, or react in any other fashion to this pre-meditated murder, I must preface with this:
I was sorry
Secondly, I am guilty. I am guilty of eating meat and I am guilty with a shit eating grin on my face. But, the most important thing is that I made a decision to do this in order to know the process. Because! There is a difference between knowing the path and walking it and if I'm guilty, then I'm going to be guilty 100%.
My host father raises chickens to supplement the income from his farm and rice paddy. I had a goldfish, some rabbits, a gerbil, a cat, and three dogs. All were pets and where I grew up chickens come in cling wrap from the supermarket. How can I call myself a meat eating American when the only firsthand experience with this is watching my dear friend and mentor, Paul Williamson, clean a trout before my 13-year-old eyes?
I decided to take advantage of an opportunity staring straight in my face through beady little eyes, a beak, and brain the size of a walnut. I decided to ask my host father if I could learn how to kill, pluck, and gut a chicken and he gladly agreed. With that, I stupidly put on a white T-shirt and followed him out back to the chicken coop. I'm not kidding; I put a white shirt on... IDIOT!
Chicken poop smells funny. What's more, chickens make some the funniest noises. Aside from the squabbly gobbilys and "bawk bawks," chickens also make weird noises that sound similar to old yia yias and babushkas quarreling at the plaza or the gargling of marbles and warm salt water whilst reciting the emancipation proclamation. Chickens are also mean to each other despite the fact that their personalities give one the idea that they are dumb and lazy. They are almost completely harmless and they are also innocent. And all of these things were running through my mind when Walter handed me two legs with a sizable mass of feathers attached to it.
I had to hold Stella away from myself because she would have pecked a hole into my calf muscle. When she realized that my leg was out of reach, she desperately tried to do a stomach curl to reach the hand that held her feet and thus kept her from running away from the fate that had been decided. Unfortunately for Stella, thousands of years of evolution through __ selection had given her huge breasts and absolutely now abdominal muscle strength. She eventually gave up in a subtle sigh almost as if her genetics gave her some predisposition to this very situation. As humorous as I may have made this seem, the thought actually came into my mind and I had to dismiss it immediately in order not to chicken out. Pun intended.
I followed Walter out of the coop and over to a spot I dubbed, "Greener Pastures" out of optimism. Greener pastures is a cement pad that looks like an empty sandbox. Against the fence is a wooden plank with a sheet metal funnel nailed to it. This device is what I call "The Rabbit Hole" and it takes you to greener pastures. I stopped and looked at Stella, a 12 pound bird I had named because I wanted to remember this moment for the rest of my life. Her limp body exhausted from flailing so much and heart racing in anticipation of the inevitable. I shook myself out of this daze only to look up at Walter briskly walking with two birds of which had no names. Walter then turned to me and said about a paragraph's worth of information that I can only assume was an explanation as to what was about to happen. I say, "assume," because I only saw lips and mouth move, and heard my conscious not saying, but weighing:
"Um. You are about to kill a chicken. Take a life. Murder in cold blood. Are you ready for what's about to happen? This is it. You've got to shit or get off the pot my friend and all I can say is have fun trying to enjoy your dinner tonight you demon. You evil man. You killer"
Easy? No. For Walter this was easy. It was like brushing his teeth or paying his taxes. Necessary for the financial sustenance of his family. For me this was a watershed moment. What if I failed? What if I changed my mind? What would Walter think of me? Better yet, what if I liked it? What if I couldn't stop? What if I turned into a blood lusting, chicken slaughtering fiend that couldn't resist the smell of chicken blood? Fat chance, I'm the one who gets teary-eyed when I see polar bears on Animal Planet. My Id was right, I had to chicken shit or get off the pot. I took pause and let my cognitive self marinate for about 5 seconds.
Then I said to Walter, "Ok, let's do this," but thought, "Jeff Foxworthy is probably laughing right now and yelling, 'Git R Done!'" Blue color comedy is the pits.
I won't go into the details of how I did the deed in this entry, but feel free to email me if you are curious. I'm censuring this part is because I want people to continue to read. Hope I didn't scare too many of you away with what I've written so far. All in good fun? Maybe not for the chicken,
I did do the deed, plucked and cleaned. It was suggested that I take my T-shirt off and I silently cursed at my negligence forsight. There were two moments when I asked to pause for some fresh air and Walter simply saying, "Don' worry Christopher, you aren't used to this," and me thinking about the last time I tried to donate blood and didn't even make it past the questionaire before almost passing out. Red Cross asked me to come back another time.
But, I pushed through ‘til the end, not missing anything and keeping up with Walter's instructions, actions, and technique. I retold a version of this story to my fellow Guy 21ers during a cultural exchange forum. It was a bad idea. Some volunteers have never looked at me the same, especially Jess who will be working with the Guyana Marine and Sea Turtle reserve. It was an important and fascinating education and I am glad I did it. Now I can confidently say I've had firsthand experience from the egg to the chicken. Or is it from the chicken to the egg?