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Old Crip the One Legged Rooster

Updated on March 15, 2017
Fiddleman profile image

I am Robert Elias Ballard, married to Pearlie Jane (PJ) for 45 years on November 24, 2017. We live in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Old Crip

So many memories fill my head of my youth and spending many days at my grandparents farm. For a boy whose parents lived in a cotton mill village community and worked long hours in the mill, getting to ride the big yellow taxi (Henderson County School bus) up to Mount Olivet was something I looked forward almost every Friday afternoon.

Living in the mill village wasn't really all that bad. We had a community ball field where the mill village kids spent a lot of time after school down there playing ball or in a vacant lot where a house had burned. Our elementary school was in walking distance so we could walk down there and play on the playground equipment or play basketball and shoot baskets on the playground. It wasn't as if I was bored,I also had regular chores that were expected of me like chopping wood for our cook stove and heater and filling the wood boxes. Occasionally milking our cow and making sure the other animals were fed. My mama made sure that I knew how to wash dishes! Then, homework!

My dad had been the first son to be born in a family of 14 and the last child of my grandparents was an Uncle who was only eighteen months older than me. We were more like brothers than an Uncle/nephew relationship. When I was just beginning Junior High, I had already caught up and passed him in school while he was still in elementary school. It wasn't that he wasn't smart, he just did not see the value of school and never applied himself to his schooling. Sadly, he quit school at the age of 16.

Riding the bus to the mountain was always exciting. The road up the mountain was gravel and had many curves so our ride was almost as much fun as being at the county fair and riding one of those bone shaking tummy turning rides.The mountain air just seemed to smell better and the skies more blue. Being up there on the farm also opened so many options for us boys. There was plenty of work to keep us both busy but enough time to play in the woods or go squirrel hunting.

The weekends were the best and Saturday afternoon meant one or more chickens must be caught to be prepared for Sunday dinner. My Grandfather always had plenty of hens and roosters so he would tell us which ones to catch. Usually a big fat hen that had ceased to be productive laying eggs or an old rooster that somehow became unlucky.

I had never killed a chicken but I had seen my daddy take an old hen by the head and ring it right off with the quick twist of his wrist. My Uncle and I were assigned the task of catching Sunday dinner and Old Crip was to become the unlucky bird. Crip had been a good old boy but suffered the misfortune of having a wharf rat chew one of his legs off one night while roosting in the hen house. Having one leg didn't seem to hinder him in any way. He would hop around the farmyard as happy as a one legged rooster could be and gobble up as much of the scratch feed I would throw out to the chickens every morning with the best of the yardbirds on the farm. None of the other roosters bothered him and I am not sure the hens gave him more than a second look much less notice him when he flap his wings and would crow loudly at the crack of dawn.

We caught him and another old hen and set about the task of killing them. I grabbed Old Crip and as I had seen my daddy do many times before, gave him a quick twist. To my dismay, his neck remained attached! He flopped about on the ground shaking off my futile attempt. By then I knew I couldn't finish the job and my Uncle finished killing Old Crip by chopping his head off with an ax along with the hen we also had to kill.

We had heated water to a boil that we would dip the dead chickens in to pluck their feathers. I had plucked chickens before and the stink of hot chicken feathers almost turned me against eating chicken. Soon our birds were ready to dress and remove the entrails saving the gizzards and the livers. Once all that was done, my grandmother would cut the chickens up and put them in the refrigerator to be fried on Sunday.

We have all heard of Colonel Sanders and his recipe but the Colonel couldn't hold a candle to my grandma's recipe. It wasn't complicated herbs and spices but simply a concoction of flour, salt, pepper and a little cornmeal placed in a bowl or in a brown bag to be shaken. The pieces of chicken would become coated and then fried in a big black cast iron fry pan that had an ample amount of hog lard already good and hot. The chicken would fry to a golden brown when done and then once removed from the fry pan, she would make gravy using milk and flour. The little crispies that fell off from the chicken during the frying process made the gravy taste so good. with an occasional crunch in our mouths.

Sunday dinner came as usual and aunts, uncles and cousins arrived after Sunday meeting. Old Crip and that hen sure looked good piled on a platter on my Grandma's table cover with a red checkerboard table cloth. Dinner was a virtual feast and the table was filled with fresh vegetables:green beans, okra,squash, tomatoes, mashed potatoes and that big bowl of gravy. Huge biscuits, light and fluffy! Sweet tea and always a great dessert.

The men folk always ate first at my Grandparents on Sunday and the ladies and children ate last. By the time the men folk finished eating, we were getting pretty hungry but there was always plenty left for us. Seems wings and necks were always left for that second round of eaters! I sat there that day and my Uncle looked at me and said,"Well, what do you think about Old Crip now?" To be honest, I don't remember eating any of that chicken or Old Crip that Sunday but that chucky gravy over a hot biscuit sure was good!

Fried Chicken-Fry myself or No

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Southern fried chicken


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    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 months ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Thank you Jo Miller for reading and taking time to comment.

    • jo miller profile image

      jo miller 5 months ago from Tennessee

      Wonderful story of your life. I grew up in the country, but never had to kill a chicken. My parents did that. I just ate the chicken. I've never been very good at frying chicken, and don't eat a lot of fried food. But I have yet to find fried chicken that is as good as that of my mom's or grandma's.

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 months ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Hi Bob, long time, no see!!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 months ago from UK and Mexico

      It's funny how fond one can become of barnyard fowls. I have shed tears at having to dispatch one or two in the past. I was a farmer and learned at an early age how to hold a bird in the right hand by the feet, pass it down across the body; grasp it behind the head with two stiffened fingers with the left hand, and - with that twist - break it's neck (a twist and a downward pull). It was quick and clean and the fowl suffered very little.

      I have not done it for 60 years and hope I never will have to again.

      Good story of your life


    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 months ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Good morning breakfast pop, thank you for your nice comments. Definitely was a simpler time and folks had sense. The values once held sacred have been discounted by our society and replaced with a value system that condones and encourages narcissism. There is a ray of hope but stumbling stones are in the path. It's time some need to wake up and chin up to real responsibilities which require work and sacrifice. These two things our generation accepted but not the libtards of today.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 months ago

      I always, and I mean always, enjoy your stories. They remind me that life was once simpler and I miss that.

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 months ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Precious memories.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Your story about your youth and spending time with your grandparents on their farm was enjoyable. I loved spending time with mine who lived close to us. They were like a second set of parents to us and much loved.

      My grandparents did not have a farm but certainly had large gardens and my grandmother was an excellent cook. I never saw animals slaughtered and then eaten. Not sure I would have wanted to eat Old Crip either.

      Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 months ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Good morning Pollyannalana, thanks for stopping by to read and comment on my hub. Farm kids grew up and experienced seeing hogs,chickens , cows or other animals slaughtered and processed to be eaten. We loved having those country cured hams and fried chickens or a big pot of dumplings. We didn't have a McDonalds like we do today, many still don't have a clue where their fast food breakfast came from or how it arrived at the drive through window.

    • CJWood71 profile image

      Christopher J Wood 5 months ago from Florida, USA

      A good read. I never had to assist in gathering any of our family meals, however I remember many of my grandfather's stories. Personally, I am happy we only had to make a trip to the local grocery.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 5 months ago from US

      What a great story, but I knew it would be. You tell the best.

      Sure glad I never had to kill anything to eat. Have seen my mom wring or chop a neck and I sure enjoyed the things my dad and brothers brought from the woods so I never complained. I did try to avoid looking at anything before it was cooked I have to admit.

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 5 months ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      I think you are probably right. Growing up in a rural area where most of our food supply was grown on the family farm, we were blessed to have a good variety of meats and vegetables. Nothing was wasted. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment on my hub.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 5 months ago from USA

      Poor Old Crip. You'd think his age and disability woulda saved the poor old guy. If people had to do their own hunting and killing for their dinner, we'd have a lot less food waste.