Nose-less Louie and the Pink Chick of Doom
When you have a farm, you are an obvious dumping ground for any ill-advised livestock purchase gone wrong. When I was a kid, they used to dye baby chicks different colors for Easter. The chicks usually lasted a few days or at most, a couple of weeks before a cat got them, they got stepped on, or simply loved to death. It was a rare chicken that could make its way to adulthood with a start in the local McCrory’s 5 & 10.
Of such stock was a little pink chick who grew into a snow-white bantam rooster with pink underarms. Its two compadres, a green one and a purple one belonging to my brother and sister lasted only a few days after Easter, but not my chicken. He survived the test of fire including dogs, cats, and packs of bored 10-year-olds who decided that chasing a chicken was more fun than waiting for your mom to give you some chore to do. What we created was the skinniest, toughest, meanest little rooster on earth. Soon, no cat or dog would dare enter our yard. I actually saw a terrified boxer running full speed away with my chicken in hot pursuit. I had the toughest pet on the hill, and all was well…until he began to crow. I’m guessing that roosters on farms learn to crow by watching older roosters. Mine had no such luck. It would let out this sick moaning sound at the crack of dawn that was unnerving enough to wake the dead, or the neighbors trying to sleep late on a weekend. He also had the unfortunate habit of roosting on (and fouling) the neighbor’s porch swing. It soon became clear that something had to give with my chicken.
My first attempt was to dig a pit and place screens that my parents had stored in the basement over the top with just enough head room to allow the chicken to pace ceaselessly back and forth like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. This wasn’t going to work. Next, I tried to put a collar on him and tie him to the porch. But a chicken’s head is tiny and the string kept slipping over no matter how tight I tried to tie it. Not to mention the mauling I took trying to get a noose on a chicken. Nothing worked, the chicken had to go.
My dad was a natural salesman. He was a butcher, then an insurance man, then a tavern owner. He could convince people of anything. He also had a passion for anything Italian, except, oddly enough, Italian food. I’m convinced he married my mom because she’s full-blooded Italian, and he joined the local Italian Mutual Benefit Society (read: bar that’s open on Sunday’s). In fact, they changed the by-laws so my dad could be elected president, as here-to-fore, you had to be Italian. We had a problem chicken, he was a natural salesman.
Louie Columbo was a farmer who also belonged to the club. Louie had an unfortunate run-in with a German shepherd that cost him his nose. He liked my dad, and agreed to take my chicken to live on his farm with the rest of his chickens. It was a tearful goodbye, but I was told that I could come and visit him, and off he went in a cage in the back of Louie’s pickup truck.
On Sundays, my dad would pick us up after catechism (catholic Sunday school), and take us for “a bottle of pop”. This involved stopping at one (or more) of the Italian clubs in town where he was a member. We then had to tell my mom when we got home that we had only “stopped at one place, and dad had only had one beer”. A couple of weeks after the chicken departed, we went to the IMBS and there was nose-less Louie playing cards. I asked about my chicken and whether I could visit him and he got a grim look on his already pretty grim face. “Your chicken had a terrible accident. It tried to get a drink out of the rain barrel and fell in and drowned.” I cried and cried. I couldn’t believe that this chicken, who had beaten down any and all comers, would come to such an inglorious end.
As it turned out, the whole story was concocted by Louie to hide the fact that he had been forced to whack my chicken. It seems that when he let it into the yard, the head rooster came over to assert his dominance. My chicken killed it dead. Two other roosters suffered similar fates. The farm cat lost an eye. To save his farm, Louie was forced to take my chicken out. I heard this story a few years later and it still brings a smile to my face. I’ll bet that was the stringiest, toughest chicken dinner anybody ever tried to eat. I hope Louie choked on it.