Ptacek Family Farm History 1916-2017 Century Farm

It was June, 1916, when the Ptacek family first purchased 160 acres in South Central Russell County. Marie Ptacek, then the widow of Ron’s great-great grandfather, Emil, had only one adult child still living with her. That was Frank C. Ptacek, who was Ron’s grandfather. Marie had purchased the land in 1916 from Anton Kejr in the amount of $8,600. It was there that she and Frank C. moved to, coming from the Wilson Flats in Ellsworth County. Her other children included Joseph, Emil, Louis, Marie, Josie, and Anton. It was 4 years later in October, 1920, that Marie sold the quarter to her son, Frank C., for the amount $1 and hugs and affection.

At the time Frank C was a young, newly married, and hard-working man. His wife, Anna, and he went on to raise a family of 6 boys and 3 girls on this farm. Family members were: sons Dr. Edward, Alfred, Mike, Ernest, Francis, Fr. Maurice, and daughters, Beatrice (Gerstenkorn), Anna Mae (Janda) and Helen (Reeves). Frank C. was quite inventive and he and his boys modified many types of equipment of the day to make the farm more efficient. Many hours were spent behind the tractor, and many times they took turns keeping the tractor running 24 hours a day. As their children matured and moved on to their own means of living, Frank and Anna kept the farm going with much help from their sons, daughters and sons-in-law.

One of Frank and Anna’s sons, Ernest, also desired to make farming his living. Ernest and Frank helped each other with many farming duties, and eventually Ernest took over the farm when Frank C. could no longer handle its challenges. When Anna died in 1971, Frank C. and his children shared in the ownership of the land and Ernest and his four sons, Duane, Ron, Rick, and Keith, and one daughter, Karen (Palmer) Bond, continued to farm it.

In 1974, one of Ernest’s sons, Ron, took over the duties of farming his grandfather’s quarter and began raising his own family at the Ptacek farmstead. He and his wife, Virginia, raised 5 children on the Ptacek land until losing their house to an electrical fire. Eventually the family moved ½ mile west while continuing to farm the Ptacek quarter while adding 4 more children to their family to make a total of 9.

With the deaths of Frank C and two of his sons, Mike and Father Maurice, shares of the land were further divided by Frank C. and Anna’s children and grandchildren. In1991 the family decided to quit dividing up the ownership of the land and sold the entire quarter to Ernest and his wife, Florence Ptacek Malsom. They reserved and sold 10 acres to Ron and Virginia for possible replacement of the house that had burned down.

When the health of Ernest began failing in 1997, he and Florence sold the remaining 150 acres to Ron and Virginia, who now own and farm the entire quarter. As raising a family of 9 children while attempting to earn a living from the farm was difficult, Ron and Virginia were not able to achieve their dream of building once again on the Ptacek quarter.

To this day, their 7 daughters and two sons continue to do their share of tractor, truck, and combine driving and care of cattle. Those children are Melanie (Ohlson), Christina (Mullender), Andrea (Young), Rhonda (Punches), Emily (Bryan), Kelsie (Zeigler), and Janell, Doug, and Trenton Ptacek. They have also added 12 grandchildren, some of whom are old enough to also help with farm and ranch duties. Ron and Virginia continued to farm the Ptacek quarter while living in Ron’s childhood home some 17 miles to the North. Ron and Virginia are members of St. Joseph parish of Dorrance and also attend mass at St. Mary Queen of Angels in Russell.

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A Little Cowboy’n on the Ranch

Cowboy attaboy of the month! So at dusk on Sunday Ron checks heifers to see if any are calving. One black blaze face is calving with only hoof showing. Crud! Have to get her in to help her! This is just as the sun is going down……and she is flippin’ crazy! She just won’t go the last 50 yards toward the corral. Jumps through (not over) the wire panels by the bridge. Then jumps into the neighbors to the North. Now it’s too dark to find her. Gotta wait til morning.

Monday morning comes and Ron, JT Ohlson and Trenton Ptacek go to look for her. Well, low and behold she calved on her own! On horseback the three of them take her and her calf through the gate and up the road toward our pasture. Meantime, the calf gets too tired and won’t move. Trenton gets off his horse to move the calf along. OMG! Cow goes nuts and takes off, back to the neighbors pasture!

Take the calf to the corral and go back after the cow. Up one hill and down another. Through the creek. Back and forth. She jumps into the pond. Aha! Time to rope her. First throw and Ron gets her head. Drags her outa the pond. First throw and Trenton gets her heels. As he dallys she makes her way back  into waist-high water.

Ron gives JT Ohlson his dally and JT and Trenton hold her. Ron jumps in and puts a halter on her head. They lead her outa the neighbors pasture and into ours. Meanwhile after Ron butt dialed (his phone was in the saddle bag and all Rick could hear is whomp, whomp whomp, whomp) Richard Ptacek a few times, he shows up to help. They load her in the trailer.

Trenton would like his share of the heifers to be black blaze face. Now he is not so sure he wants to claim this one! LOL

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Crystal’s Homily

The following is the homily for my niece, Crystal Palmer-Mongeau, 31, who passed away after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. Father Jarrett Konrade, from the parishes of St. Wenceslaus, St. Joseph, and St. Mary parishes in Wilson, Dorrance and Holyrood, KS, wrote and delivered this moving homily at her funeral on August 24, 2012 at St. Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Russell, KS. Published with permission from Father Konrade.

On behalf of Bishop Weisenburger, Fr. Charlie Steier, Fr. Jim Grennan and St. Mary Queen of Angels parish and myself and St. Wenceslaus parish in Wilson, again our sincerest sympathies go out to the family of Crystal Lea Palmer Mongeau. Especially to her husband Joe, her mom Karen, her siblings Terrol, Justin, Kevin, Amy, and Erica …to all their spouses and children and to all family and friends gathered here this morning for this Funeral mass of the Resurrection.
We gather this morning torn between two emotions; the first; a sense of joy that Crystal no longer has to suffer tubes and needles and chemo, that she is at peace…while on the other hand; a deep sense of pain caused by the absence of this beautiful wife, daughter, sister and friend taken from our presence far too early. We find another tension here this morning as well. And it is perhaps the most fundamental tension of human existence.
The tension between…Human logic and Divine logic. What we are able to see vs. what remains unseen…The eyes of the world vs. the eyes of faith.
Take this church for example…human logic might say, what a waste, millions of dollars used on this building, did it need to be this big? That money could have been used to feed and clothe the poor, but through the eyes of faith with divine logic we see in the size and beauty of this structure a sacred temple, God’s glorious dwelling, a place where all are welcome… poor and rich to gather to worship and encounter the greatest truth of our faith, that we have each been created for so much more.
Crystal…A 31 year old kind and loving woman who died after a three year battle with ovarian cancer. Human Logic: How can you possibly believe in a loving God that would allow such a wonderful innocent woman to suffer and die? It is only through the eyes of fatih: Divine logic…that we are able to see in Crystal’s life and death a courageous example, a faith filled participation in the redemption that comes when we participate in the suffering of the cross of Jesus Christ. A reminder that we are made for more. In the words of Wisdom, “As gold in the furnace, he proved her, and as a sacrificial offering he took her to himself.”
Human Logic: a meaningless and sorrowful end – Divine Logic: a glorious example of participating in the cross of Christ in preparation for “the” new beginning.
This is not to say that Crystal didn’t struggle with God’s will in the midst of her pain and suffering, she spoke to me a couple of times of her fear of death, of what was to come struggling at times to really believe what we say we believe when we come to Church… in reading through St. Faustina’s diary with her brother Justin, they came across a passage where the holy saint stated, “suffering is my daily bread, my delight.” And Crystal’s response was “I’m not really hungry.” However, a little over a week ago, on the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, when asked whether she was still able to offer her suffering up for others, she responded with a faith-filled yes.
Six months ago, with her doctors giving her only a few months to live, Crystal and Joe chose to get married in the presence of God and the Church.
Human logic: a foolish decision focused only on themselves. Divine Logic: an example of living to the full… the life that God gives us. A desire to pour God’s sacramental grace upon their already established love for one another.
In her final weeks of life, with her family by her bedside Crystal prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet daily, continued to wear her scapular that she had worn for years, received the Eucharist daily, frequently requested the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and regularly experienced God’s mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. Again, human logic says ancient superstition, manmade ritual…while the eyes of faith communicate to us that these are the greatest instruments God has given us to aid in preparing our souls for something more; for the life to come; for eternity with God.
Perhaps a never more appropriate time to stop and ask, what are we doing with the life that God has given us? Have we allowed human logic to convince us that what is most important is the wealth, comfort, pleasure and notoriety of this life, or do we seek the divine logic that tells us to live our lives for something more? In the words of St. Paul, “What have we allowed to keep us from the love of Jesus Christ?” Hardship, distress, persecution…death. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
“Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” What is Jesus saying here…that we are not supposed to be happy, that we can’t enjoy life? He’s telling his apostles and he tells us that you must be detached from what the world offers in this life so as to remain unattached and ready for the life to come.
As we continue our prayer on behalf of ourselves and Crystal in this Funeral Mass of the Resurrection our human eyes will see, a simple white cloth draped over Crystal’s casket, a big candle blocking our view of the altar, small wafers of bread that, after the consecrating words of the bishop, will continue to look like bread. However, when we allow our eyes of faith to be lifted to the Divine unseen realities, we are able to see in the pall, a hopeful reminder that Crystal was clothed in the dazzling purity of Jesus Christ in her baptism, and in the Easter candle, that the flame of faith that was confirmed in Crystal’s life through her confirmation and in the consecrated host, the body of Christ… we see our partaking in the bread that comes down from heaven, the food for the journey; the Eucharist; In all these things our eyes of faith should be lifted to the hope of the life of the world to come.
It is important that this day we mourn the loss of our beloved Sister Crystal, it is an expression of our profound love for her. But, we also remember in the annoying words of my nephew… “It’s not goodbye…It’s See ya Later!” As we will hear in the words of the Preface for today’s mass…”For your faithful, Lord life is changed not ended.” With the eyes of faith we remember that “When this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for us in heaven.”

–Father Jarrett Konrade
2012

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Harvest Angel

Just as I maneuvered the 2-ton 1976 Ford wheat truck down the winding sand road toward the wheat field North of Russell, my cell-phone rang.  Looking down to see my husband, Ron’s picture on the phone display, I quickly pushed the answer button and quickly said “Hello?”  It was hard to hear over the roar of the engine as the truck slowly climbed the last hill near the field. He usually did not call unless I had been gone for a long time and he was making sure I was ok, or else his John Deere Combine had a breakdown and he either needed tools or parts from town.

“You need to stop at the top of the driveway….” he yelled into his phone.  He knew I would have trouble hearing him.  He continued.  “Janell rolled the truck.”  “What?!!!!!”  I screeched, not because I did not hear him, but because I did not believe what he just said.  My stomach did a flip-flop.  Visions of a wrecked truck and an injured daughter cascaded through my mind.

My mind quickly went back to the moment when we had switched trucks and to my fear that she would have trouble making it up the steep driveway. I now had to take the truck to Gorham for that field has smut and they would not take it at Russell.  Janell, Ron thought, could finish the bottoms and take her truck up the driveway and to Russell.  It had good wheat there. Even though I questioned the logic in that theory, I reluctantly agreed to switch.  That fear, it seemed, had been realized.

“She’s ok.  Just wait at the top of the driveway”, he said as I pulled up to that very location. I could not wait for him to come get me as I began walking down the steep incline and quickly maneuvered around the slight curve. Different scenarios flashed through my mind.  Visions of a truck on its top, on its wheels with the cab all bent up, and a truck wrecked beyond recognition kept flashing through my head. I hurried to go see for myself asking, “I wonder exactly what happened?”   In my heart I knew she had had trouble with the truck either popping out of first gear or the engine dying under the strain of climbing that steep incline. I knew from experience what happens then, especially with a load of wheat on the truck.

I had done that very thing years before on this same driveway while in the old Chevy Viking.  Its engine had died due to dirt in the gas line.  I knew what it felt like.  Your heart races, You breathe rapidly, you pray to God to help.  Yes, I had done that.  Yet I  guided the truck down the slope until I was able to stop because it was still in gear.  But Janell did not have the 36 years of experience in driving a wheat truck as I had.  She was only on her third harvest and she had tried to put in the clutch and try to start the truck again. Perhaps we had thrown her into a situation she was not yet ready for.

As I rounded the last corner I saw the truck on the south side of the driveway, against an embankment and laying on its driver’s side.  Well, at least it was in one piece.  Hurriedly I walked toward the truck’s resting place and looked at my youngest daughter who was standing behind the truck.  She  sadly looked at the wheat which had spilled onto the driveway.   I saw that she had not a scratch on her.  No blood.  No broken bones. Just the look of a teenage girl who just went through holy heck.  I quickly sent up a prayer of thanksgiving.

June, 2012 The day the 66 truck failed to make it up the driveway.

Ron was standing there with scoop shovel in hand, looking the situation over.  Gerald, the owner of cropland we were cutting, walked up to me with a reassuring smile.  “She sure was lucky”, he said, “I saw her weave back and forth all the way down……I was hoping she would go into the round bales on the North side and that it would stop her.”  I looked at the bales.  “No”, I thought, “likely she would have gone through the bales and into your beautifully landscaped front yard. We might have found her in the bottom of the ravine or in the middle of your living room….” Smiling, I said to him out loud, “I’m just glad she is ok.”

Walking over to my youngest daughter, I wrapped my arms around her with a big hug, saying “I’m glad you’re ok!” I stood there for a moment, with arms holding her tight.  I quickly sent up another prayer of thanksgiving.  “Thank you, God, for protecting her.” I knew things could’ve been a lot worse.

With a sigh of relief that Janell was ok, I quickly took my cell phone and snapped a photo.  Her brothers and sisters need to know about this.  I sent a mass picture text to my other seven grown children with the caption “The Driveway won this round” and the message “Janell is ok”.  It was now time to attend to the task at hand. Ron, Trenton and Janell took turns scooping the wheat out of the truck and onto the driveway.

I turned around to the sound of a payloader coming down the driveway.  At the top of the driveway lay a sandpit and the operator of the sandpit had brought his payloader down to help.  After evaluating the situation, he and Ron decided upon a plan of action.  Using a chain and positioning the payloader across the pasture fence south of the truck, the payloader hooked the chain onto the frame.  Janell’s brother, Trenton, climbed through the passenger side window and put the transmission back into gear to keep it from rolling the rest of the way down the hill.  Next, the payloader pulled the truck down until its drivers side wheels were again  in the ditch and the passenger side wheels were on the embankment. Then, repositioning the payloader in front of the truck, the man told Ron to take the truck back out of gear.

Ron opened the door and stepped back as a water jug, Janell’s lunch box, extra oil and brake fluid all fell out of the truck, along with a guardian angel on a chain that had laid on the dash. He told Janell to move the items out of the way and she quickly deposited everything a few yards away.

Now,  the payloader lifted the front end and swung it over until the front end of the truck was on the driveway.  Finally, with the chain wrapped around the front bumper, the payloader pulled the truck all the way up the dreaded driveway and parked it on top near the sand pit where the truck’s injuries could be evaluated.  All that is left to do is clear the driveway of about 180 bushels of wheat.

Dad came back down with the 1976 Ford truck that I had just parked by the mailbox on the sand road.  It was this truck that was going to have to haul the spilled wheat. After several scoops by the payloader, the majority of the wheat, plus sand and rocks from the driveway, were loaded on the truck.  After thanking the payloader operator, we began to take turns with the shovel, scooping the remaining wheat that he could not get to into a five-gallon bucket.  By this time, Janell’s brother, Doug joined in to help. Janell stood in the bed of the new truck and the four of us took turns scooping and handing the buckets to her to dump in.  Finally, all the wheat was cleaned up off the driveway.  That, along with sand and rocks.

Janell’s dad  looked at me and said, “take it to the sandpit and park it.  We have to check out the 66 Truck.  We still have wheat to cut.”  My heart sank. It was now I who had to climb that dreaded driveway.

Ron, Trenton and Janell jumped into the tool-hauling  pickup, Doug into his pickup, and I reluctantly entered the 76 Ford truck.  After a short prayer, I started it up and eased it into first gear.  Letting out the clutch and stepping gradually on the gas, I guided the truck  slowly and steadily up the steep incline.  My heart raced.  “Please help me, God….please help me, God…” I said over and over in my head.  I could hear the transmission make a grinding noise which, in this truck, means it is about to slip out of gear.  Knowing this, I rapidly shoved in the clutch and slammed the gearshift upward back into gear and let the clutch back out.  The truck kept going without even a pause.  Still I was not at the top of the driveway yet.  My truck and I were only about three-fourths of the way up, and the steepest part will come just past the curve in the driveway ahead.  Holding my breath and praying, I listened again for the rattling of the transmission.  Once again I shoved it back into gear.

Finally the more gradual slope of the driveway appeared. Letting out a sigh of relief, I knew I would make it now.  I turned into the gate of the sandpit and expertly parked the truck next to the pickups.  Getting out of the truck, I sauntered toward everyone else who was standing by the   ’66 truck and evaluating its injuries.  All were amazed at how little damage there was.

Oil had leaked out of the oil bath air cleaner and left a streak down the driver’s side fender.  Gear grease had leaked out of the rear end and coated the rear axle hub.  The side-view mirror was history, mangled and broken as it had met its match with the hard dirt driveway.  On the bed of the truck we saw scratches where the bed had held the truck cab off of the road.  Not a scratch was to be seen on the cab or fenders of the truck.  “Looks like all we have to do is replace the mirror and fluids,” dad said.

As the boys began to do just that, I grabbed Janell and positioned her by the scratch of the truck.  Retrieving my camera from my pocket, I began to snap pictures of her next to the truck, showing her only scratches on her elbow next to the scratches on the truck. Again I sent up a prayer of thanks. As harvest was about to resume, I then quickly made sure that Janell’s truck once again had her guardian angel safely back on the dash.

With a broken mirror as well, Janell show her and her truck’s only other injuries.

The last  truckload of wheat was soon loaded at the bottom of the driveway. This time the old truck held nearly 250 bushels.  Dad looked at Janell and said “You’re going to take it up the driveway again.”  Doug and Janell looked at each other. In my mind I thought “You’re kidding, right?”  But no one said anything.  Because in our family, whatever dad says goes.

Doug and Janell hopped into the recently injured truck.  Slowly Janell made it through the rough, flat part of the field’s path and to the bottom of the steep driveway.  Out of sight of everyone at the field now, Doug told Janell to stop.  Then, secretly, they switched places.  Doug, driving now, made his way up the steep incline…………..

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Fowl on the Ptacek Farm

By Virginia Ptacek

 Chapter 1

 The Hens and the Rooster’s Revenge

 It was a cool, sunny day.  Old Mr. Kirchen, being in very bad health, was no longer able to care for all of them.  He had begged daddy to take them away to our farm to feed and care for them.  Daddy had agreed and that’s how they came to our farm.

It was mom who was the first to feed them all. She filled a five-gallon bucket with milo and started feeding.  First she went to the chicken coop.  Twenty-three hens were waiting for their daily meal in a small, rectangular building with a 5 foot fence around it.  It didn’t take much to feed them all – just about a gallon.  Hens aren’t that big and don’t each that much, you know.  They’d survive on the smallest amount of grain as long as we threw occasional table scraps into the pen along with the grain.  They would even eat their own shells that were tossed in with the garbage after the most recent scrambled egg meal.  This provided the calcium needed for them to produce eggs that were thick-shelled, not to crack easily as they were placed into the bucket.

Mom had devised a way to be sure she could gather the eggs without letting her hands and arms get pecked by the protective hens.  She decided to try feeding them away from the roosts and when the hens hopped off to get their meal, she would snatch the eggs and place them carefully in the bucket.  A couple of dozen eggs daily was the usual prize, plenty enough for the 7 of us with even a few left over to give away.  Eventually Melanie, Chrissy, Andrea and Rhonda would feed the hens and gather eggs.

The hens weren’t the only fowl given to us by Old Mr. Kirchen.  About fifteen old roosters came with the package deal.  We knew they were old when we saw the 2-inch long spurs sticking out of their legs like rose bush thorns just above their feet.  Since mom was not interested in raising any chicks, these roosters were the first to be butchered.  We can always use chicken in the freezer for an occasional meal, she would say.  This proved to be a waste of time as the first rooster that was fried was so tough and chewy even the dog would not eat it when it was thrown out with the table scraps.  Grandma came to the rescue on that deal and got us in touch with one of her cousins who liked to make ground chicken sandwich filling out of old hens.  Old rooster meat would suit her just fine, as it turned out.  All of the old roosters ended up in the lady’s freezer in the town of Beaver except for the one rooster that we could not catch.

The hens were given protection from the coyotes and dogs by keeping them penned up and in a building for shelter at night.  Not the rooster.  He could never be caught, nor could his wings be clipped to prevent him from flying out of the pen.  He was cunning enough to avoid becoming the lunch of the family dog as well.  This rooster took it upon himself to be the protector of the hens.  Andrea, Rhonda and Doug found that out the hard way.  One of their jobs on the farm was to gather household trash, take it outside to metal 50-gallon barrels which sat about ten yards from the chicken coop, and light a match to the trash in the barrels.  They also had to watch the fire, making sure to put out any fires that might start as a result of trash spilling out of the cans or floating up and away to the surrounding grass.

One day as they gazed upon the flickering flames of trash, Andrea felt something bump into her leg.  Turning around to find out what it was, all the three kids saw was a rooster walking away, paying no mind at all to them, pecking at the ground and acting as if nothing had happened.  Not knowing what bumped into her, they turned back to tend the fire.  Again, only this time harder, she felt a big hit on her leg.  Darned if it wasn’t the old rooster who had flown at her with feet stretched out, landing against her leg and bouncing off. This time the kids ran for their lives, and after that became wary of that rooster.

Even while the kids were playing baseball out in the yard, the rooster would decide to go on the offensive.  It would chase them around and around the yard until they dashed to the house, looking for safe haven.  So often this would happen that they were afraid to go outside and play without scouting the area to be sure the annoying bird was not around.

One day Andrea, Rhonda, and Doug had just finished playing a bit of baseball and were heading toward the house with balls and bats in hand.  Here came the rooster to defend his territory.  A surprised and somewhat scared Doug, with bat in hand, defended himself and his sisters by whacking that annoying cock square in the head, knocking it unconscious to the ground.  Relieved, but at the same time fearful of what mom would say of the rooster’s demise, they reluctantly hurried to the house and confessed.

Mom and the children ran out to view the dastardly deed, only to find that the old nemesis had seemingly returned back to life, stumbling around the yard like a drunken sailor.  Mom wasn’t fast enough to catch him and the kids were too scared of him.  All they could do was look at him.  Again, the old chanticleer got away scot-free. After that, the baseball bat became the weapon of choice for protection whenever the children would ever-so-cautiously venture outside to play or to burn trash.  The rooster kept its distance, however, for quite some time, especially if anyone had a bat in hand. They were ready to whack that rooster should he come near.

Mom had a hard time believing what they had said about the old rooster.  Who ever heard of a rooster attacking innocent children?  They must be imagining things.  It was only after Doug actually took a whack at that rooster that mom started to believe the children. Well, sort of believed them.  She would just have to see for herself.  Armed with the baseball bat (just in case it WAS true); mom went outside to burn the trash.  Lo and behold, the rooster DID jump at mom, landing feet first on her backside. She chased that rooster around the yard, yelling and swinging the baseball bat to no avail.  It would suffice to say that mom decided at that moment that this rooster was now ready for the butchering block. The problem was this: it first had to be captured.

After mom’s insistence, dad was persuaded to help rid the farm of the attack rooster, and at the same time clear out all of the old hens.  Mom and dad decided that now was the time to butcher all of the old hens and one remaining rooster.  After all, the old hens had begun to lay fewer and fewer eggs and the rooster was just plain annoying.  A chicken hook was fashioned out of super-heavy gauge wire to catch the hens.  Being a wire which was about 4 feet long, the end was in a “u” shape which, after placed in front of the hens’ legs and quickly jerked, was able to snatch them from the ground and into the hands of the butcher.  Such was the fate of the hens.

Dad was the expert at butchering hens.  As a kid he had frequently helped his mom butcher them.  He was real good at taking the hens by the head, swinging them around and around until their heads would just pop off.

The first old hen was butchered without incident.  It was easy.  Just swing the chicken around until its head pops off.  Easy for dad, that is.  Mom and the girls never had the strength enough to get the head to pop off.  Doug, the only boy in the family at the time, was just too little – being only about 6 years old at the time, he had not yet attained his muscular physique.  The first hen mom tried to do just bent its neck enough to make the chicken walk with a crooked neck and a dazed look on its face.  She grabbed the dazed chicken by the head, held its body down on the ground with her foot and tried to pop the head off.  Still no luck. Consequently, wringing the neck of the remaining hens ended up as daddy’s job.

One by one, the hens’ necks were wrung with daddy’s expertise, and then their feathers had to be pulled off.  Andrea, 9, and Rhonda, 8, took off as many feathers as they could, but these old hens seemed to cling to their feathers and not let them go.  It was a tough job.  Daddy and mom cut open the belly and took out the innards.  Doug would then take the naked dead chicken to the house.  Melanie, 14, and Chrissy, 12, took the carcass, held it over a burning candle and burned off the little hairs that remained. What a putrid odor filled the room as they de-haired the fowl!  Mom was told years later that burning off the hairs was the most disgusting job they ever had to do in their young lives and that they would never forget that nasty smell.  Finally, the prepared whole carcass was put into an old bread sack and taken to the freezer.

All went well until it was the infamous rooster’s turn. He was the only fowl that had not yet been caught.  His zigzag running style had made it difficult to get the hook around his leg.  And smart he was.  He would stop and go, zig and zag.  We were all sure he had spent extra hours training in his elusive, evasive running style.  Since the chicken hook was ineffective at catching the tricky capon, daddy decided to get out the .22 rifle and try his hand at that.  Daddy did not want to shoot the rooster in the body and damage the potentially tasty chicken meat.  However, it was nearly impossible to draw a bead on the rooster’s head. With every step the head would go forward, then back, forward, then back, never staying still. Additionally, the rooster’s running style of going this way and that made a double moving target.  After several frustrating minutes and several missed shots, this idea was abandoned in favor of diving under the lilac bushes and snatching the rooster’s leg as he stood on the other side.  His fate was now sealed.

But oh, the trouble that old geezer of a rooster gave us.  Not that dad couldn’t wring its’ neck. That part was easy.  But daddy had neglected to tell us all to watch out for jumping dead chickens. We were not prepared for what happened after the rooster’s neck was wrung.  The thing was, that old rooster even it its dying minutes had revenge on his detached mind.

We watched as daddy quickly swung the rooster around twice and popped its head off.  The now headless rooster hit the ground running and jumped directly toward young Doug.  Doug watched dumfounded, trying to dodge the zigzagging of the jumping fowl.  He went left, the rooster went left.  When he went right, the rooster went right, all the time splattering blood out the top of its neck.  Left, then right again.  Finally, with a final leap, that rooster landed right on Doug’s shoulder, painting the boy with splashes of blood.  Stunned and falling to the ground, the six-year old was avenged by the doomed rooster.  Mom had to grab the beheaded cock from on top of Doug in order to save the frightened, crying youth.  It was much more difficult then to complete the butchering process as all of those helping were laughing so hard while at the same time trying to console and reassure the boy.

Finally rid of the chickens and roosters, we were celebrating; well, sort of.  After all that work, even these hens must have been old as the hills and twice as dusty.  They tasted ok if you liked the feel of shoe leather in your mouth. They were not the kind of main dish you would take out of your freezer and serve to company.  But, at least the grain bill was somewhat alleviated, we would just have to do without eggs, as few as they had become.  The chickens became hash, which hardly anyone would eat anyway, so the only good thing that came out of the butchering incident was the fact that we did not have to feed them any more and the children were no longer afraid to go outside and play.

It wasn’t long after the butchering episode that Old Mr. Kirchen once again showed up in the neighborhood.  In passing, daddy happened to see him and went over to visit.  “How are the hens and roosters doing?”  Old Mr. Kirchen would say.  “How are Rita, Nancy, Penelope, Geordie and Marvin doing?……”  Gulping down this surprising discovery that all the hens and the roosters were Mr. Kirchen’s pets and all had names, Daddy had to confess the fate of the fowl to their resting place in the freezer.  Old Mr. Kirchen was quite upset and didn’t talk to daddy for a real long time.

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