Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mamie and the Chicken

Mary E. Campbell Kirkpatrick circa late 1950s
I have some memories of my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Campbell Kirkpatrick (1875-1966). She died when I was three, shortly before my family moved to Albuquerque. 

The photo at left was taken before I was born, but it is much the way I remember her. Everyone in the immediate family called her Mamie. She conducted the church choir most of her adult life, and my mom said that Mamie had a voice that could have made her an opera star. 

You will certainly learn more about her in future blogs, but today I will share one of the funnier Mamie stories.

Mary E. Campbell Kirkpatrick - early 1910s

Back in the earliest days of the 20th century, when my grandmother, Edna Claire Kirkpatrick (1897-1973), was a little girl, she witnessed the events that led to this blog post, the events that led to this favorite family story of the infamous day when my great-grandmother tried to choke her chicken.

I had best explain. Mamie and her husband, Louis Dillard Kirkpatrick (1873-1951), lived with their daughter in Bridgeport, Texas. They owned a large house on fourteen acres of land. They had pecans, various fruit trees, and they kept chickens. If the dinner-time meal was to be chicken, Mamie would ask Louis to please go get her a chicken, and he'd go out to the yard and select a tasty looking bird. He would hold it by the head and, with a quick spin of his wrist, the chicken's head would come off, and he'd take the chicken to my great grandmother for cleaning and cooking.

Louis Dillard Kirkpatrick and the chickens in Bridgeport, Texas.

But one day she forgot to ask Louis to get her a chicken. She had witnessed the deed on many, many occasions. And she thus thought, "Oh foot! I can kill a chicken! I've seen Louis do it a hundred times!" So she went out into the yard, snuck up on the feathered dinner-on-legs, and grabbed it by the head. It squawked and flapped its wings, and she took a deep breath and started to spin the chicken around. And she continued to spin the chicken.

The chicken was not amused. It still squawked and flapped its wings. But Mamie kept on spinning the chicken. Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, around the chicken went! All the other chickens looked on in wonder! Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, around the chicken went!

Eventually, my great-grandmother let the chicken go. With a sigh, she went into the house to find something else to make for dinner.

According to family legend, that chicken eventually died of old age - with its head permanently wrenched, turned backwards looking over its shoulder. When my great-grandmother would see the chicken out in the yard she would look at it with remorse and sigh . . . "Oh, Louis, oh . . . oh . . ."

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