I received this one from David Evans a month ago, and thought I’d save it for Christmas Day. I’m sure many readers recall rearing their own chickens, or maybe working on the farms locally from time to time. As ever, I thank David for his wonderful memories, and would like to wish both him, and you, the readers and very good day and the compliments of the season.
A bird of a feather
A dear old family friend was Rachael. She worked and lived on a farm not more than a mile away and she knew the ways of farming like the back of her hand. Thanks to her I drove a Ferguson tractor on the farm for my first time. I had a close, rather gaseous encounter with one of the farm’s shire horses. One year I helped the farm hands with the harvest by pitching the wheat sheaves on to the wagon, sometimes at the first go, which brought a hearty cheer from the men, until I got blisters on my hands. I was allowed to help Rachael load the double-barrel shot-gun which she then took out into the fields with her for a while. At some time during the next half-hour we would hear a bang! Ah ! Rabbit pie for dinner that evening, after getting in the wheat for that day, then.
She helped the kids in the street at home to pluck and prepare the chickens or cockerels for Christmas. But first, of course, the chicken had to meet its fate. Rachel performed this task of despatching the fowl with consummate ease and rapidity. Plucking a chicken was not a task we children relished either, but it was kind of her to show us all, so that we would ‘know in the future’. So we grimaced and put our minds and our clumsy young hands to the task.
Then, of course, we had to turn the poor, defunct creature ‘inside out’ as Bill called it. This was impossible until other ‘surgical procedures’ had been carried out, said one of the lads. We assigned this pleasure to “Winkle”, an inoffensive lad in the gang who had two large sticky-out front teeth. Well, who else?
Christmas preparations were well in hand. The onions had been pickled for some time and the sweet smell of Malt Vinegar and onions lingered on most of the children’s clothes, even on those who had had nothing to do with that task -but any mention of this would incur a swift “smack in the gizzerd” from the boy , or girl, in question.
Then, of course, there was the Day the Pig Got Done. This gruesome but necessary spectacle is best not described here of course. Most homes kept a few pigs in their pig stye. ‘One for the ministry, one for the home’ was the motto. We all had to help our parents, of course, but only after we had been “initiated” into this world of reality by plucking and drawing the chickens for Christmas.
Today’s sanitised food and meat production has brought many changes .
David Evans, November 2011