Holidays of the 40s

As the holidays neared, Mom and Dad would start preparing the food stuff and housecleaning. Our guests were Gram and Gramps, my mother’s parents. They were always welcome for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. That was okay with me because they were very generous.

As I was the only child for my first nine years, I had chores. Clean my room, clean the hall and stairs up to my room. Geezs, why? No one goes up there! Also, straighten up the porch. Well, I could see that — anyone that came into the house came through the porch. The summer table and chairs got stacked neatly, other stuff got taken to the barn. Skippy’s [my dog] bed and dishes got moved whether or not he liked it!

And then it was my chore to care for the chickens. We had 3 or 4 roosters, each for a holiday dinner. Turkeys — what are those? Yes, I knew wild turkeys were the traditional birds of Thanksgiving. But, where would you get a wild turkey? I never remember seeing one in the grocery store. I knew of a turkey farm in Duxbury — on occasion we drove by it. My mom said they were expensive. I had no idea what expensive was.

 Anyway, I took care of the chickens — about twelve hens and three or four roosters. During school years, it was tough to get up early enough to feed them, so Mom did my morning chores after she saw me off on the school bus. After school, I would lug a bucket of fresh water to them, a coffee can of mash, then a treat of cracked corn scratch. Boy, would they run for that! The roosters would get all puffed up and stomp around in circles, telling the hens where the food was! The hens cleaned that scratch feed up fast. There was little corn left for those dumb roosters!

About two weeks before a holiday, it was time to fatten up a rooster. Dad had a small cage he put in the chicken yard. He put a rooster in it. Now he got special treatment. Warm, wet, fattening-up mash, and a half can of corn twice a day. He was fed well and had limited exercise so he fattened up fast. Now he had a bad attitude — he would try to attack me when I fed him. Dad said he was mad and wanted out with his hens!

On the Saturday before the holiday, Dad would get his gear together to do the rooster in, pluck him and clean him. Oh yes, I watched. I knew where chicken came from — roosters too. Mom would take the naked bird, singe the fuzz off it and wash it up. Then it went into a cooler box on the porch. Dad would always have Mom weigh the bird. He would be disappointed if it didn’t weigh more than six pounds.

I remember so vividly my Dad carving that rooster, always saying, “What a great bird.” My favorite was a wing, but white meat smothered with gravy was equally accepted. There was never much left on that bird after a holiday meal, but enough for Mom’s soup or a chicken pie, both my favorites to this day.

Happy Holidays.
– Ray

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