Reader advisory: A previous reader commented that it is not a good idea to eat while reading this post. However, eating may seem like a good idea at the end of it. 

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Lyndon recently had his name changed from Lynn. He was beginning to disturb the neighbors. The girls had begun to see him as their leader, their hero, their protector. But Lyndon said the wrong thing. That got him in hot water. And the heat had just barely begun. Lyndon would never have guessed what was about to happen to him.

There have been countless millions of Lyndons before, but this Lyndon was especially striking. He was taller, more commanding than his peers. I am not referring to former president Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was taller and more commanding than about anyone who preceded him. The Lyndon I’m referring to is the recently discovered rooster in the flock of baby chicks that I reported on in October 2012. The flock belongs to my son-in-law Luke and daughter Joy. We were present at the birth of some of the chicks–possibly even Lyndon’s.

Last week Luke heard a member of the flock crow for the first time. Lynn  (named after Lynn Hill, one of the world’s best rock climbers) was the best climber in the group. Lynn had shown signs of being a rooster earlier, such as signaling the other chickens when they were given fresh feed, acting protective of the girls, and leading the rest of the flock to roost (hence the name, “rooster”). But Lynn had never sounded off about any of this before. Luke had to watch the birds for a while to see where the crowing sound originated. Turned out it was Lynn, so her/his name quickly changed to Lyndon. Both Luke and Joy were deeply concerned that Lyndon would disturb the neighbors in their early morning slumber, possibly causing ill will among otherwise wonderful neighbors.

Luke and Lyndon minutes before the ax fell. A bit of a heavy moment.

Luke and Lyndon minutes before the ax fell. A bit of a heavy moment.

Plus urban chicken owners normally have a high priority on eating fresh eggs from their flocks of hens. Roosters eat a lot of feed but, of course, lay no eggs. Having roosters that fertilize the hens that then produce fertilized eggs can later produce more chickens–under carefully controlled conditions.  The sum of this is that Luke and Joy concluded that Lyndon had to go.

I asked Luke if he needed any assistance in getting Lyndon ready for the dinner table. He eagerly accepted my offer. I asked if he had an ax. He did not. So I took my ax to their house last Sunday afternoon, along with a piece of old garden hose for Luke to practice his swing on a makeshift chopping block.

As all this was going on, a big pot of water was coming to a boil in their kitchen. Joy brought it out a minute or so after Luke chopped off Lyndon’s head. This was much as I had done it on our farm over a half century ago.

I lowered Lyndon into the boiling hot water as Luke checked to see when his tail feathers were easy to remove, a sign that he was ready to pluck. Luke took Lyndon to a picnic table behind their house and we teamed up in removing the feathers. This was no picnic for Lyndon.

As we were finishing plucking Lyndon, their next-door neighbors came out and were curious about what we were doing. Luke explained that, while the neighbors were out of town for the holidays, Lyndon began crowing. As Luke put it to the neighbors with his sardonic sense of humor, “He said the wrong thing.” The neighbors seemed quite impressed that Luke had the moxie to harvest the first chicken of his life.

The next step, gutting Lyndon, was foreign to me. I had seen my mother do it many times, but I never had. So Luke was ready with the steps illustrated on a website on his laptop. He placed it on the dry end of the picnic table and covered the keyboard with plastic wrap to keep the keys clean.

Luke did all the gutting, start to finish, with extraordinary first-time skill learned by reading the website and applying each step. I held Lyndon as needed for extra support. Luke’s confidence and systematic approach impressed me greatly.

As I washed up, Luke weighed Lyndon on a kitchen scale to see how long he should bake. Joy had to leave a bit earlier on a run to the airport, so Luke was going to have Lyndon in the oven when Joy returned.

Later that evening Luke sent me a photo of Lyndon as he appeared from the oven. As you can see in the photo, Lyndon still had his commanding form—right until the end.  Joy said he was tough and stringy, even though he was only three months old.  Herein lies the answer to why young roosters are caponized.

Lyndon standing up for his last crow. Remember Luke's sense of humor.

Lyndon standing up for his last crow. Remember Luke’s sense of humor.

Some may find this blog post repulsive and offensive. But I hope not.

I hope it illustrates something about the food chain, something about the nature of humans since the days of cave people. Eggs are harvested and mysteriously appear in supermarkets. So are chickens. So are cattle, hogs, and sheep. The hamburger on your plate resulted from a very recent harvest of a beef animal. The process is similar for bringing fish, shrimp, oysters, and other seafood to the table. The process for harvesting plants is basically the same in that it requires killing living things.

And it’s a law of nature that each of us will be harvested in due time. None of us has to like it, but it’s a fact. There’s a clear connection in thought between the Grim Reaper and the harvest.

Lyndon served well. May we all.

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