The chickens were ripe for the plucking, and my good friend Ezekiel Mossback was feeling opportunistic. He raises poultry out in Hoosierland, and he needed my help with the slaughter, scalding, plucking and gutting. They say "Early to bed and early to rise makes Bill E. a pre-loader at UPS and very tired", but I made the trek out to Ezekiel's homestead last Friday night for a Saturday Poultry Harvest. Steve's owner Lucas met me out there. It should also be noted that the Willig Matron lent us her artful plucking services for the day.
The day began with what will be forever immortalized (I know that's redundant, but the point needs to be made) as the "Traffic Cone Fiasco", or TCF. For slaughter, the chickens are placed headfirst into upside down sawed-off traffic cones. I had been telling Zeke that his plans for suspending them by taping them to the barn posts would be fruitless, but his country folk stubbornness would not mind my city-slicker attitude. He kept insisting that things be done "the old farm way" and that he was not about to ditch 300+ years of Mossback farming tradition on account of some hokey dude from the 'burbs. But when the pole-taped cone was squeezed too hard to allow a single chicken head through, he begrudgingly allowed me to go with my brilliant idea: a pair of 2-by-4's strung between the barn poles between which the traffic cones could snuggly nestle. I spend so much time on this anecdote because it was really only meaningful contribution I made the whole day.
I caught a few chickens with Z-Moss and wheeled them back to the farmhouse, where I pondered the wonders of man-made technology (redundant again) as I watched something called the "Plucker 3000" skillfully remove the feathers from a freshly dead bird and give Ezekiel a half-way decent backrub.
It could have been my destiny to slaughter chickens that day, but I instead chose what I am going to call "Ignorant Manifest Destiny" or IMD, and decided to help gut the chickens.
As I leaned over a sink with a sage Mossback elder for upwards of the next 9 hours, severing chicken legs and pulling off their heads, scraping my fingernails into their putrid innards, hoping that a stray squeeze on my part didn't cause some leftover excrement to sputter out of their anii and listening to Lucas spew a variety of oaths whilst trying to coerce the scalding water to EXACTLY 145 degrees, I reflected that it is indeed natural for the human to work. Not in the Communist sense of Marx, but in the Christian sense in imitation of St. Joseph. Work in this context is not the telos of man but the result of love, which is man's true telos. I also reflected on how long it would be before I could bring myself to eat chicken again.
Actually, it was today, when I ate a chicken patty sandwich at school. Though it was a processed mess with no resemblance to the wholesome free-range meat of Mossback's farm, it was the first step on the journey back to enjoying chicken.
That night, Sage Elder Mossback took us to eat at the local tavern in appreciation for the help. Actually, he was just really hungry and too tired to cook. None of us ordered any chicken. I was effectively asleep before the meal was finished and we drove back. In lieu of our usual night of Mossback Music, I dreamt of a local bishop playing "The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down" on the piano for the entrance song at a mass to make a facetious point about good liturgical music. I blame the poultry.
Needless to say, I have baited my breath for the summer poultry harvest. Give Mossback a ring on the tele for the finest free-range chickens east of the Mississippi.