Juanita Hughes: Cherokee chickens and death of Woodstock’s famous turkey
by Juanita Hughes
January 18, 2012 12:56 AM | 20563 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
he 20 minutes I spend on the treadmill three times a week at Synergist Fitness could be the most boring 20 minute segment of my day. But I learned early on that reciting poetry, or words to songs, or concentrating on my next column, would make the time fly. All during the Christmas season, I sharpened my memory skills by trying to recite “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

By the time I mumbled through it a few times, interspersed with a few verses from Luke and Matthew, the mile was complete. One thing I came to notice about the song was how many fowls were in the twelve days. Two turtle doves, three French hens, (Dominique? Or Dominecker!), four calling birds (or Colly birds, which were just black birds), six geese, seven swans. What a flock, and with repeats every day, it totals 172, if my math is correct.

I have always loved chickens and birds. I spent my early childhood in “the country,” where there were always chickens — Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, “Domineckers”, White Leghorns. When eggs hatched, there were precious baby chicks, and it was so sweet to watch the mother hen as she clucked to her babies and cuddled them under her wings. In child-like faith, I didn’t look ahead to a Sunday dinner where one of them would be the main dish. I tell the story often of the two Dominecker roosters who stalked me between the house and the privy, determined to flog and spur me to death! We named them Hitler and Mussolini and eventually had them for Sunday dinner, tough though they were.

A nearby granddaughter recently came into possession of four hens and a rooster. Her husband built a neat hen house and pen, and the little chicken family has become a part of the people family’s daily life, including gathering the eggs. When I went for a visit to check out the situation, I was surprised to find as many different breeds as there were chickens, even some I couldn’t identify. They all seem to get along with each other, which is more than I can say for birds at the birdfeeder where belligerent cardinals “rule the roost,” and other, smaller birds – finches, chickadees, nuthatch and titmice — must wait their turn.

In the new history of the county, Rebecca Johnston tells us about Cherokee County’s poultry industry during a period of many years. We lived in Canton in the early 1960s and the sight of chicken houses and the odor of chicken litter were common indicators of the thriving poultry business. We had no garbage pickup at the time, and the MOTH would take the trash to the dump located on Ridge Road. One day he came home from the garbage run with a big surprise. It seems the chicken growers culled the babies, and any that had defects ended up at the dump. So suddenly we had baby chickens. As I recall, they spent a few nights in open boxes in the house until appropriate accommodations could be built outdoors. The chickens survived, as did we.

There are hundreds of emails floating around about senior citizens, and occasionally one shows up that is worth repeating. (Some are too close for comfort in their descriptions of the many frailties of folks my age.) The latest tells about a little silver-haired lady who was having trouble with a jigsaw puzzle. She calls a neighbor to ask for help. When he asks what the puzzle is, she tells him the picture on the box shows a rooster. So he goes to help and she shows him where she has the puzzle spread all over the table. He studies for a moment, then looks at the box, and turns to her and says, “First, there is no way we can assemble these pieces into anything resembling a rooster.” He takes her hand and says, “Secondly, just relax, and let’s have a nice cup of tea. Then let’s put all the Corn Flakes back into the box.” For proof, there is a photo of a Corn Flakes box. Makes me want to work a puzzle. Also makes me want to send the story to all my friends, especially those who work puzzles.

A footnote to my ramblings about our feathered friends. Bob, Woodstock’s turkey mascot, was killed on Sunday. We will miss him. He was the talk of the town, just an added attraction to a city that is proving to be the perfect place to live, work, and play… unless you’re a turkey.

Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.
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