The Headless Chicken

My first memory as a child was when my folks were butchering chickens. It was late fall or early winter as there was snow on the ground. I can remember the old piece of black railroad tie lying against the white snow. The hatchet used to cut the chickens heads off was stuck in the black wooden RR tie.

Scene of the headless chicken. Crites Farm - Gildford, Montana

Scene of the headless chicken

The first order of business when you butcher chickens for those of you gentle souls who have never witnessed this is to kill the chicken. I’m sure there are thousands of ways to do this, from wringing their necks to shooting their heads off, etc, etc. My folks cut their heads off with a very sharp hatchet and let them bleed out. I probably was 2 or 3 when I witnessed this spectacle for the first time.

I can remember the day exactly.  My mother caught the chicken and put her right foot on the chicken’s head and with her left hand grabbing the legs she stretched the neck out for a clear shot with the hatchet. Then with the right hand she expertly chopped the head of the white chicken off in one swift blow. She then let the chicken go.

Gladys Crites painting.

Ma could paint too, as well as wield a hatchet..

I can still see the white chicken with yellow feet without a head running in the white snow with the blood spurting out it’s neck. Amazing how long a chicken without a head can run without it’s head spurting red blood on white snow and on it’s white feathers. Made quite an impression on a little boy.

Russell B. Crites picture with western shirt, as a boy

I’m sure this is what I looked like after seeing the Headless Chicken !!

I didn’t need the headless horseman when I was young I already had witnessed the Headless Chicken. Still can see that old hen as clear as day when I close my eyes.. Ah life on the farm..

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