Sunday, June 10, 2012

Famous Author's Backward Walking Chicken

A Good Chicken Is Easy to Find                              Photo: Nancy Shobe

Perhaps one of novelist Flannery O'Connor's (3/25/25-8/3/65) finest moments was when she was captured on film at the young age of five with her backward walking chicken. O'Connor said of her experience, ""I was just there to assist with the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax." (Click on link to view the film from British Pathe showcasing Mary Flannery O'Connors backward walking chicken.)

It seems that Ms. O'Connor might have been a bit of an odd bird herself.

In a New York Times Sunday Book Review (2/26/09) titled Stranger than Paradise, writer Joy Williams said, "Flannery. She liked to drink Coca-Cola mixed with coffee. She gave her mother, Regina, a mule for Mother's Day. She went to bed at 9 and said she was always glad to get there. After Kennedy's assassination she said: "I am sad about the president. But I like the new one. As a child she sewed outfits for her chickens and wanted to be a cartoonist..."

Does raising chickens and sewing outfits for them make a person stranger than paradise? Do hen savers count? I wonder...

Ms. O'Connor also raised peacocks and penned a a famous essay, Living With A Peacock, in September of 1961.

It begins:
"When I was five, I had an experience that marked me for life. Pathé News sent a photographer from New York to Savannah to take a picture of a chicken of mine. This chicken, a buff Cochin Bantam, had the distinction of being able to walk either forward or backward. Her fame has spread through the press and by the time she reached the at­tention of Pathé News, I suppose there was nowhere left for her to go—forward or backward. Shortly after that she died, as now seems fitting.
If I put this information in the beginning of an article on peacocks, it is because I am always being asked why I raise them, and I have no short or reasonable answer.
From that day with the Pathé man I began to collect chickens. What had been only a mild interest became a passion, a quest. I had to have more and more chickens. I favored those with one green eye and one orange or with over-long necks and crooked combs. I wanted one with three legs or three wings but nothing in that line turned up. I pon­dered over the picture in Robert Ripley’s book, Believe It Or Not, of a rooster that had survived for thirty days without his head; but I did not have a scientific temperament . I could sew in a fashion and I began to make clothes for chickens. A gray bantam named Colonel Eggbert wore a white piqué coat with a lace collar and two buttons in the back. Apparently Pathé News never heard of any of these other chickens of mine; it never sent another photographer."
(The rest of her essay may be found at Holiday Mag website.)

I know that friends giggle when I tell them that I raise chickens. But, it doesn't seem too odd to them as the chicken coop is nestled on a hillside with a field of sunflowers and planter boxes overflowing with ripening tomatoes, beans, peppers and cucumbers. It all seems to be in synch with going organic.

At least, that's what I like to think.

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