A Barnyard Life
Back in 1941, one of the greatest horror films of all time was released, “The Wolf Man” starring the late Lon Chaney, Jr.
It was an international sensation of fright. A new demon was born in America…once bitten, forever changed we were.
By the 1950s, the film had made its way to that relatively new contraption known as a television set.
Life in the barnyard in the 50s and 60s was nothing short of brutal, a prickly peckish existence. As a young chick within a family of five to six, that consisted of a mother hen, a clutch of four younguns, and a rooster that rarely graced our coop, we moved about every new or full moon, or so it seemed.
We were often cursed.
Like the werewolf, things were constantly changing within our little world.
Staying one step ahead of the man with papers was our goal, and it kept us in a frenzied state of flight. Good thing we had wings. Mom would gather the eggs as we skedaddled more than a few times before being tossed. But, sometimes, with help, the man came calling with a writ and a quick boot ruffling our tail feathers, as we in arrears were scattered into the wind, rain and snow from the temporary roosts. Fowl doesn’t pay rent.
With regularity, we experienced various living quarters for at least a few weeks to a month.
But, in the mid-fifties, we young chicks, hen and rooster found a warm nest with a roof and food, as we bedded down with the rooster’s parents, my paternal grandparents. They lived on a small farmette that was snuggled within the northwest section of Atlanta, Georgia. It was a marvelous short stay on the farm amongst plenty of our own kinds such as birds of a feather, hogs, cats, dogs, booze and crops. For us, life was almost good for a few months.
I was about three or four at the time. So, it had to be around 1954 or 55. We were so close to becoming a real family, but other hens and their feathered beds were calling. Little red roosters are like that, sometimes.
I rang my first neck at three or four. The supper menu called for fried chicken. Somebody had to do it. My grandmother picked me for the bloody, dastardly, cowardly deed. One of our peeps had to go.
It was a brutal and nasty event, but the pot needed a bird.
Where no new down grows, this hatchling’s scars remain.
The second tragedy after the murder was the fact I went fried chicken less during the meal, too young for the good stuff was the reasoning portrayed.
After supper that chilly night, with a full, orange, harvest moon dangling low in the night sky, the television set was fired up. Their timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The television premiere of “The Wolf Man” began to play. This little box was a miraculous device. The adults were seated on the furniture around the room. We children were seated or laying on the cold floor. All eyes were glued to the flickering screen awaiting the wolfman.
He had been cursed by a creepy, old, gypsy woman who had branded him with the mark of the beast, the werewolf. She chanted the lines of the curse to the poor fool. By the light of the full moon, he would become the wolf.
What mortal could forget the wild growls, howls, and pain, as the man was changing into a beast before our very eyes? The unblinking, lifeless, full moon staring down at him with indifference. His body slowly exploded into the savage wolfman.
Each scene that followed became more gruesome. It, the monster now, was on a frenzied rabid hunt for the blood and it craved the flesh of humans.
Fog covered the woods where he hunted.
He stalked his prey with the speed and cunning of a pack of wolves. The wolfman was unstoppable.
We cringed in horror, as his first victim was viscously murdered by the savage animal. It was a bloody scene. I couldn’t help but mentally replay the bloody episode from earlier that day inside the chicken coop as my beast within sent a defenseless bird to hot grease. I may well have been chicken man.
The locals were onto him. The warm body found in the woods. Armed with hunting rifles and dogs, they gave chase and tracked their prey. The hunt was on to find and kill the wild beast that had the taste of fresh human blood. The wolfman wanted more.
It was a show for the ages, but not for all ages. The adults should’ve never allowed we kids to watch it. Times were different then. Hell, I’d murdered one of the chickens earlier. He’d done nothing wrong to me.
Was I cursed?
There were too many mouths to feed and more beheaded and plucked birds were needed. My older brother also participated in the neck-ringing ritual. He seemed to enjoy his bloody murderous act, as he pleaded to our grandmother, “Granny Shaw, let me do another one?” I wanted no further part in the fowl massacre.
The movie scared the barnyard crap out of us.
Immediately, after the film had ended, several of the boys including this tender chick were sent outside to the woodpile to gather logs for the night’s fire. Our uncle Pug, who was covered with thick, black hair, had sneaked from the house as the movie concluded. He had a wolf man’s traits without a curse. Little did we know that Uncle Pug had hidden himself behind a fallen oak where the split logs of wood were. He was laying in wait for us to fetch it. We were scared and cold as we hustled out into the night. At the perfect moment, he sprang from his spot howling, growling and screaming with his hands high above his head. His fingers were flexed like an attacking grizzly bear. The Fall full moon hung behind him, backlighting his form.
Screaming, we scattered in all directions like those headless chickens but away from the wolfman, dropping the firewood as we fled.
Yes! Life on the farm was rough.
Before the season of the wolf had changed, we were packed and out of there. We had de-assed that place, homeless again. The green acres, animal farm, and coop weren’t for us. The rooster was on the prowl. Mother hen and her chicks would fend for themselves again, but that was nothing new to our barnyard life.
Check out my Horror Memory video of this story at Bleeding Critic by clicking the link below.