On a Wing and a Prayer Christmas Lunch - 1943

In the war years, chicken was not on many families dining tables. Chicken was hard to get and very expensive. So there was much excitement when, one Saturday morning, mom turned up in an old truck, with a big wooden crate on the back. The driver unloaded the crate in our backyard so we had to have a look. Wow, two chooks. Mom was telling Reg and Tony that these two beauties were going to be the Oliver’s Christmas lunch. Oh boy.

Christmas day was about ten weeks away, so Reg and Tony were to build a chook house and we were going to fatten them up for the big day. Anything to do with eating was high on the Oliver boy’s priorities. Reg and Tony cleaned out the shed and any old bits of wire and building materials that were piled up. Then a trip around the neighbourhood, begging or borrowing anything they could. They set to, and with me supervising, they built what I thought was a really good-looking chook house. It got a tick of approval from mom and to make it unanimous, the chooks seemed to like it too. We bought some chook food from Mr. Wilson and I went through the rubbish bins at school regularly for scraps. The chooks were looking sleek and fat.

Then about a week (I think) before Christmas, lucky Reg is given the job of head lopping. Reg, Tony and Bill are out the back yard on the big day. Reg is telling Tony and Bill about how the chooks will still be able to fly without their heads. They don't believe him, so an experiment with the chooks is a must. Tony and Bill hold one wing each while the chooks head is on the block. Then they are supposed to throw it in the air with a coordinated effort as soon as it loses its head. This is a wonderful idea and I am very interested.

The head is chopped off; Tony and Bill get themselves in a tangle in their efforts to launch the chook into the air and spray Reg and themselves liberally with the gushing blood. Nevertheless, they launch it into the air and with strong beats of its wings, it flies off. Oh dear, I thought, there goes half our Christmas lunch. Moving quickly it flies up the side of the house, past the kitchen window. Lucky mom wasn't looking out. It makes a sharp left hand turn and flies out over the blackberry patch and disappears. A big panic now as three very red boys and me run out the front to find our fast moving Christmas lunch. Santa must have been smiling on us for there he is in the gutter. If the chook hadn't been dead, he would have been eligible for a few brownie points I reckon. He covered about seventy yards, flying blind too.

A little bit of reorganisation with the next chook made sure the boys only got a little bit of spray, but the back of the dunny was changed from off white to bright red. Mom was not very pleased, to say the least. But Reg proved to the others that chooks can fly headless. But how did he know? That got me.

The chooks made a truly wonderful Christmas lunch. I must say they disappeared off our table nearly as quickly as flying, but into our stomachs, which was very nice indeed.