Suddenly I was all alone with Mustache Man as we made our way back towards the buildings.
“You know, I was more familiar with the older siblings, but I remember your Mom, too. I don’t think she remembers me. We didn’t really interact. I was scared to death of her, honestly.”
Welcome to the club, buddy.
Rocco came running up to us with the camera. I looked beyond him to see Dad hunched over, his forehead turning an unnatural shade of red from far too much giggling.
Chuck and Sharon were emerging from the woods, and Mustache Man nodded towards us, then moved towards them for more childhood tale swapping.
“What did you do to Dad?”
“He’s fine. We’ve been taking pictures!”
“Well, yeah. I thought that was at least partially the point of this trip.”
“No, no, no – look at this!” He sidled next to me and we both leaned over the camera. “Now your Dad says this isn’t actually the roof of the chicken house, but it’s the same corrugated steal. Wait till Gwen sees that!”
Ready for some back story? I THOUGHT so! (Note: we tell this story damn near every holiday dinner, so pretend you see in front of you a plate of turkey, a tumbler of wine, Mom turning beet red with embarrassment while cradling her face in her hands, and a whole mess o’ Lonons and friends giggling their fool heads off.)
It seems Ellen Middleton was a force to be reckoned with when she stepped into a chicken coop. At slaughter time, she’d purposefully stride into the pen, grab an unsuspecting creature just below the head, and swing the bird’s body in a quick circle instantly breaking the chicken’s neck and popping the head clean off. As she needed to put up a hundred or so chickens to feed her own brood for the winter months, Ellen had logged many hours honing the skill. My mom, Pegger the Kegger, would watch with rapt attention.
What little girl doesn’t want to be just like her mom? We sneak into Mom’s bathroom and use her makeup. We clomp around in her high heels. We put on aprons and mix batter. We scream “Bob!” in a cartoon character-esque voice when we want Dad’s attention. We try to slaughter chickens…
After watching Ellen’s trademark move countless times, Pegger decided she could wring a chicken’s neck, too. She crept into the coop and managed to get her hands around the neck of a surprised chicken. Carefully she placed her hand at the base of the chicken’s skull as she’s seen her mother do countless times before. She took a deep breath, channeled her strength and swung with all her might.
The chicken made a garbled cry and looked at her with bug-eyed confusion.
Another deep breath, another summoning of all her strength, another swing, and the chicken emitted a sound more like a gurgle. Dumbfounded, Mom checked her grip and swung again.
Somehow Pegger managed to swing the flapping mess of feathers around over and over again until she could hardly move and the chicken was barely conscious. Finally willing to admit defeat, she looked around in frustration for an axe or knife to put the dizzy chicken out of its misery.
Her eyes seized upon the edge of the coop’s corrugated steal roof. Immediately it reminded her of Ellen’s serrated bread knife. One hand still around the chicken’s neck, she leapt to her feet and ran towards the roof. Lifting the chicken above her head, she finally managed to complete the task she’d set out to accomplish.
George Washington cut down an apple tree. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow burned down Chicago. Pegger the Kegger slaughtered a chicken…and I saw where the historic event occurred.