Many friends were lost for our Christmas feast: OPINION

A CHICKEN once was a chirpy little yellow critter that if it was lucky grew up to be a chook. Somewhere along the line ... blame it on the Yanks ... the trend was reversed and the chook became a finger-lickin' chicken.

Chunks of its anatomy are sold at outlets everywhere. So much is used as fodder that today's kids find it hard to accept that a couple of generations ago chook was a once-a-year treat.

Before Christmas our dad would arrive home carrying a sugarbag with a hole in it. A rooster that had become too slow for the hen race would have its head poking through the hole. As the youngest kid in the family I'd be given the job of fattening the bird for the Yuletide feast. I'd give it a name, feed it scraps, talk to it, it became my friend.

When the big day arrived dad would get out the axe and place the squawking bird's head on a wooden block. The axe would come down with a dull thud and the severed head would fall to the ground.

Let go, the headless chook would do a couple of laps of the chopping block splattering blood everywhere before dropping and lying still.

To drain more gore the body was hung on the clothesline. After that someone had the job of plucking it in hot water, removing fistfuls of gut and finding a fisherman to give the gut to and a pillow to stuff with feathers.

Every year I'd resolve not to watch the execution but something always made me look. After seeing my friend decapitated like a guillotine customer in the French Revolution, I'd vow never to eat chook, no matter how much they coaxed.

But when it was placed on the table, browned and nestling among baked potatoes, the vow was forgotten. A boy's appetite overrules the best of intentions.

Since those days the chook - frozen hard and under plastic - has rivalled the one-arm bandits as a fund-raiser for sports clubs, though they sometimes became a weapon.

Husbands who stayed too long at the club and naively thought they could use a frozen bird as an excuse, have been known to wear it alongside the ear.

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