Pioneer training

[This originally appeared in The Journal, a print publication in Seneca, S.C.]

Don’t wear your favorite dress to pluck a chicken.
That’s not advice I expected to be able to give, but I can now 100 percent assure you that your second-favorite dress is a better choice.
I experienced a first on Tuesday afternoon — slaughtering a chicken. In my dream life, I have three backyard chickens named Ella, Nellie and May. They lay eggs for my gourmet weekend omelets, get along swimmingly with my future dog and cackle like hens at my egg-celent jokes.
But part of that dream life must acknowledge that hens don’t lay eggs forever, and my current life acknowledges that chicken is delicious in chili this time of year.
Knowing this and discussing it with my preacher, he generously offered to let me assist in harvesting one of his girls as his four laying ladies had stopped producing eggs in the last few months.
I, for some reason, eagerly agreed. Maybe I just wanted to prove I’m capable of doing it and maybe I wanted to see what it took.
Two quick disclaimers here, dear readers:
First, this is not some weird church ritual, as I jokingly yelled when I exited to the newsroom announcing I had to go kill a chicken with my preacher.
Second: I am about to walk through killing a chicken. This likely won’t go well with your breakfast and morning coffee.
Step one, for me, was picking a chicken. After a brief chat with the girls, I picked the one who didn’t run away when I said the word “knife.” Simple enough.
The first thing we tried was a homemade harvest cone, which involves placing the chicken upside-down in a funnel. This disorients them and prevents any disagreements they may have with becoming dinner.
As it turns out, this chicken’s head was bigger than the opening of the funnel, so we ditched the idea we saw on YouTube and went old-school.
We held her down, I hummed her a little song and her throat met the knife. She put up a little fight and we contemplated letting go to see if she’d run around, but I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to catch her — or if I wanted to.
This is where the dress lesson kicked in. We soaked the bird in hot water and began plucking.
Feathers. Went. Everywhere.
More soaking and more plucking for the two amateurs took about 20 minutes, and then it was time for the part I most dreaded — butchering.
Since I have smaller hands, my preacher suggested I do the gutting portion, which was his way of avoiding it, I think. Rupturing the gallbladder can be dangerous if you plan to eat the chicken, and it should be noted I never found said gallbladder so there’s no way to know whether or not I punctured it with my delicate, organ-slaying skills.
Well, that’s not true.
If I show up to church on Sunday and we’re short a preacher … I’ll blame it on the flu.

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