My daughter and son-in-law were snowmobiling in a remote area north of Talkeetna, Alaska. After an exhausting day on the trail, they ended up at a restaurant for a hot meal and to warm up their tired bones. While waiting for their hamburgers to arrive, they became engaged in a conversation with a local old-timer.
One of the stories they enjoyed the most was about two women, recently retired from secretarial jobs in Anchorage, who decided to live in a cabin in the woods. The ladies were tired of the rat race of Anchorage, the noise, traffic, and hassle of city living. Concerned with what they were going to do with their time while living in a cabin, they discussed raising 25 chickens. They would have fresh fryers to eat, eggs to trade and sell, and to use for their own needs, like omelets, deviled eggs and angel food cakes. Their plan was carried out.
In time, the chicks grew to fryer size. The ladies knew they had to butcher some of the birds, but neither woman knew much about this gruesome task. One of them had grown up on a farm in the Midwest. She at least remembered how her parents performed this ritual. They held the chicken by its legs, laid the neck on a stump and chopped off its head, then dropped the chicken on the ground. It flopped around until it was dead. The other lady had no idea how to kill a chicken and dreaded the day she would have to learn.
One sunny day in late summer they decided the time had come for this event to take place. The inexperienced butchers made preparations to keep the bloody mess out of their clearing. The nearby woods was the scene of this carnage.
The cabin, wired for electricity, had no water available except what they hauled from a nearby spring. They knew that when the chickens were flopping around on the ground blood would be splattered here and there and maybe some would end up on their clothes. It was a chore washing bloody jeans and shirts by hand so they decided to wear only their underwear while killing the chickens. Washing blood off themselves was easier than washing clothes.
When the job was finished, they put the chickens’ bodies in a wheelbarrow and rolled them back to their cabin. They were just coming into their clearing when the meter reader drove into their yard. He saw two women wearing bloody underwear coming out of the woods with a wheelbarrow full of dead something or other.
The frightened man made a quick u-turn and left the yard, not bothering to read the meter!
Elverda Lincoln arrived in Alaska in 1950. She, her husband and three children homesteaded near Wasilla. Her experiences of developing a Grade A dairy farm were documented in her book, Udder Confusion. She has also been published in Alaska Magazine, Northern Mirror, Alaskana, and the Frontiersman. She is now living in retirement and enjoying the fruits of a lifetime, such as writing, traveling, quilting, and volunteering in the community.