He Axed for It

Man splitting log in half for fire wood with ax

Man splitting log in half for fire wood with ax

It’s hard to imagine why, but all Billy asked for that Christmas was an ax. Maybe he was remembering the year before with Evil Larry. That’s not a typical item for an eleven-year-old to ask for, but he stuck to his guns. The ax was his only request. Christmas morning he got up to find the tree mounded up with presents, but no ax shaped gifts, though it’s hard to imagine how one might expect to see an ax wrapped. After a few tension filled minutes of searching, he spotted the old broken ax that had been lying out on the wood pile the night before. Whoever was playing Santa tricks hadn’t even bothered to buff the rust off the head or knock the dried cow manure off the cracked handle. It lay carelessly against the brick hearth where it had been tossed at the last minute. Bill was sick. He looked at Daddy’s stern face, “You didn’t really think you’d get something dangerous as an ax, did you?” His Christmas was ruined. Daddy let him suffer a minute of devastation before pulling the age old trick. “Well, if you look behind the tree, you might find…………” Of course, it was the ax of his dreams, complete with a bright red bow, probably the only ax delivered that Christmas morning. He was delighted! He had to hang around long enough to open the rest of his gifts, including the obligatory item he needed, new shoes for school. He endured a safety lecture before bursting outdoors to try his ax.

He had a glorious time for several days, chopping everything in sight. After he seemed like he might have the essentials down, Daddy put a pretty sharp edge on it, thinking he understood the danger now. Big mistake. He just had time to build up a little confidence. He took a whack a log. It rolled. He whacked again. It rolled again. He steadied it with his foot this time. Hitting his foot with a glancing blow, he was horrified to see a cut on the side of his show. Knowing there was no way to hide the damage to his shoe, he headed for the house, ready to face the music, ax still in hand. He came into the living room. “Mother, I cut my new shoe.”

She blanched. “Did you cut your foot? Take off your shoe and let me see!”

“No ma’am! I just cut my shoe, but you can take it to the shoe shop and get it sewn up.”

“Don’t worry about that. . Just take off the shoe and let me see about your foot!” He should have left it on. When the shoe came off, it looked like the side of his foot came with it.  Blood gushed all over the floor. “Oh, My Lord! Somebody get me some towels! We gotta get to the doctor!” My aunt and her boys were there. The women scooped him up, Mother holding pressure, and my aunt driving. In the brief time they were gone, her four-year-old twins were skating around in the huge puddle of blood like they were the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Thank God, Daddy met them just down the road and he and Mother took Billy on to the doctor to be stitched up. This freed Aunt Esther up to come back and clean up her little hellions and their blood bath. Amazingly, he’d sliced neatly through the ball of his foot, missing bones and tendons. Though he had dozens of stitches, inside and out, it healed beautifully, with no problems.

Later that evening, he lay on the couch, foot elevated on a pillow. He’d had pain medication and finally felt well enought to eat. Mother felt awful for him, so had made oyster stew, his favorite. She brought it to him on a tray table, so he could eat without moving. That would have been wonderful, had she not maneuvered just perfectly and whacked him directly on his bandanged foot, rewaking his screaming pain.

Our budget being what it was, that shoe did go to the shoe shop to be mended. Bill was restricted to crutches, so Mother borrowed a set from a friend. The fly in the ointment, was that one of them lacked a safety tip. Mother really meant to get a replacement, but time got away from her. It probably wouldn’t have mattered except for the ice storm the night before he started back to school. He hobbled out toward the bus, managing pretty well till he hit a patch of ice with that slick crutch tip. He went flying head over rear, landing in icy mud, skidding the rest of the way to the bus. For what it was worth, he got an extra day of vacation.

Recently, I asked Bill why in the world he’d wanted that ax. We had just moved onto a farm of one-hundred twenty acres, all uncleared.  Daddy set to clearing the land, he cut the trees and it fell to me and Billy to pile the brush.  Naturally, Daddy didn’t let us near the power saw.  Billy wanted the ax so he could clear the smaller stuff and avoid some of the brush piling.

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The Sad Saga of the Beakless, Tailless, Gizzard-bobbing, One-leg Hopping chicken

Repost of an earlier post.

Being a farm kid is not for sissies and cowards. The dark side of the chicken experience is slaughtering, plucking, cleaning, and preparing chickens for the pot.  I watched as Mother transformed into a slobbering beast as she towered over the caged chickens, snagging her victim by the leg with a twisted coat-hanger, ringing its neck and releasing it for its last run.  We crowded by, horribly thrilled by what we knew was coming.  It was scarier than ”The Night of the Living Dead”,  as the chicken, flapping its wings, running with its head hanging crazily to one side, chased us in ever larger circles until it finally greeted Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.  It looked horribly cruel, but done properly, a quick snap of the wrist breaks the chicken’s neck instantly, giving a quick death. Of course, this is my assessment, not the unfortunate chicken. The chickens always looked extremely disturbed.

Afterward, my mother grabbed the dead chicken, plunged it into a pot of boiling water, plucked the feathers, slit its pimply white belly, removed its entrails, cut off its feet and head, and prepared it for dinner.  I was repulsed  when Mother found  unlaid eggs in the egg cavity and used them in cooking.  That just didn’t seem right.  I was happy to eat the chicken, but future eggs….disgusting.  It kind of seemed like genocide, or chickenocide, to coin a new term.

Mother looked out one day and saw one of her chickens eating corn, oblivious to the fact that her gizzard was hanging out, bobbing up and down merrily as she pecked corn with all her lady friends.  Apparently she had suffered injury from a varmint of some kind.  Clearly, she wouldn’t survive with this injury, so Mother and I set about catching her.  At least she could be salvaged for the table.  Well, she could still run just fine.  We chased her all over the yard with no luck.

Finally, Mother decided to put her out of her misery by shooting her.  She missed.  She fired again and shot the hen’s foot off.  I knew I could do better.  I shot her beak off, then hit her in the tail.  By this time, we both felt horrible and had to get her out of her misery.  Her injuries had slowed the poor beakless, tailless, gizzard-bobbing, one-leg hopping chicken down enough so we could catch her and wring her neck.

All chickens didn’t end life as happily.  The LaFay girls, Cheryl, Terry, and Cammie raised chickens to show at the fair for 4-H, with a plan to fill their freezer with the rest.  Late one Thursday evening while their widowed mother was at work, they realized tomorrow was the day for the big barbecue chicken competition.  Mama wouldn’t be in until way too late to be helping with slaughtering and dressing the chickens.  After all the time and effort they had put in on their project, they had no choice but to press forward without Mama’s help.  They’d helped Mama with the dirty business of putting up chickens lots of times.  They’d just have to do manage on their own.

Cheryl, the eldest, drew the short straw, winning the honor of wringing the chicken’s neck.  She’d seen Mama do it lots of times, but didn’t quite understand the theory of breaking the neck with a quick snap.  She held the chicken by the neck,  swung it around a few times in a wide arc,  giving it a fine ride, and released it to flee drunkenly with a sore neck.   The girls chased and recaptured the chicken a couple of times, giving it another ride or two before the tortured chicken managed to fly up in a tree, saving its life.

Acknowledging her sister’s failure, Terry stepped up to do her duty.  She pulled her chicken from the pen, taking it straight to the chopping block, just like she’d seen Mama do so many times.  Maybe she should have watched a little closer.  Instead of holding the chicken by the head  and chopping just below with the hatchet, Terry held it by the feet.  The panicked chicken raised its head, flopped around on the block, and lost a few feathers.  On the next attempt, Cammie tried to help by holding the chicken’s head, but wisely jumped when Terry chopped, leaving the poor chicken a close shave on its neck.

indian-dress-and-henBy now, all three girls were squalling.  Cheryl tied a string on the poor chicken’s neck, Cammie held its feet and they stretched the chicken across the block.  By now, Terry was crying so hard so really she couldn’t see.  She took aim, and chopped Henny Penny in half, ending her suffering.   Guilt-stricken, they buried the chicken.  Defeated, they finally called their Aunt Millie, who came over and helped them kill and dress their chickens for the competition, which they won.  All’s well that ends well.

Miz Dalrymple and the Pig, True Story

imageThe neighbors gathered after the first frost to slaughter the Jackson’s hogs.  Terrified by the commotion and scent of blood, one of the pigs managed to escape and hide up under under the neighbor’s outhouse, a good ways off, where Miz Dalrymple was
enjoying a little time to herself, thinking all the menfolk was off killing hogs.  Just as she got relaxed, she heard A deep voice, “I’ll git behind here ‘n poke ‘er with a stick.  You hit ‘er in th’ head with th’ ax when she comes a’runnin’ out!”

Thinking madmen had ‘er fee shore, pore Miz Dalrymple come a’flyin’ out with her drawers around her ankles.  It was amazing how fast an ol’ lady could run like that.  It took her two days to walk back!

The Sad Saga of the Beakless, Tailless, Gizzard-bobbing, One-leg Hopping chicken

Repost of an earlier post.

Being a farm kid is not for sissies and cowards. The dark side of the chicken experience is slaughtering, plucking, cleaning, and preparing chickens for the pot.  I watched as Mother transformed into a slobbering beast as she towered over the caged chickens, snagging her victim by the leg with a twisted coat-hanger, ringing its neck and releasing it for its last run.  We crowded by, horribly thrilled by what we knew was coming.  It was scarier than ”The Night of the Living Dead”,  as the chicken flapping its wings, Continue reading

All He Wanted for Christmas Was an Ax!

It’s hard to imagine why, but all Billy asked for that Christmas was an ax. Maybe he was remembering the year before with Evil Larry. That’s not a typical item for an eleven-year-old to ask for, but he stuck to his guns.  The ax was his only request.  Christmas morning he got up to find the tree mounded up with presents, but no ax shaped gifts, though it’s Continue reading