Death of a Prairie Chicken – February 1910

(Not to be put off by her critics over Killing the Turkeys, Margaret posted this story)

One day I chanced to be relating to some town friends the story of the killing of the turkeys and, after laughing heartily, one of them said that recalled to her an incident in her life on a Canadian farm almost 20 years before.

She had gone to keep house for a young relative until his marriage and had of course all the housework to do without assistance — no township being nearer than 20 miles. The young man took seriously ill and the nearest neighbour, a widower, drove over three miles every day to assist in looking after him.

The invalid was ordered chicken broth and the narrator of the story said she captured one of the fowls that were running about. She had, however, no knowledge whatever of how to kill it, having come from the home of professional people where poulterers and servants undertook the unpleasant task of preparing fowls for table. So it was natural for her to ask the kind neighbour next day if he would kill the chicken for her.

Certainly he would and took it outside with a most business-like air. As there was a little delay in his return, she looked out of the window and saw him struggling desperately with the chicken that appeared endowed with nine lives. He tried to wring its neck as one would wring a dish clout. He twisted it back to form a crook. He stretched it in the vain hope of dislocating its neck but the wretched fowl fluttered and screeched and protested in mistakable tones that death was still afar off.

She rushed out in horror, gully knife in hand and besought the neighbour to use more drastic methods to put an end to the poor chicken’s torture. “Let me hold its feet, “she panted, “while you hold the neck with one hand and cut its head right off with this knife. “

“And there we were,” she continued to me. “In the middle of the prairie two trembling people, fearing to cut off a fowl’s head, its blood squirting over us both.

She shuddered a little at the recollection but laughed also. She went on: “Do you know that that man confessed afterwards that he had never killed a fowl in his life and, when asked to do it, had been ashamed to own up.”

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