So, I gave an acquaintance a ride on my way to work this morning. It turned out that she was headed to the supermarket to pick up a few things in preparation for Old Year’s Night. I was curious so I inquired. Didn’t she buy enough for the season? During the conversation my passenger let out that she was really looking for a “whole fowl” to cook on Old Year’s Night. It was then I realized how far we have come as a society. Back in my days as a child, finding a fowl to cook on Old Year’s night was significantly more challenging and more fun than it is today!
Back in those days, every yard was populated with any number of uncaged chickens at varying stages of development. These chickens, or “yard fowls” were a popular source of protein derived from the eggs and the meat. Finding the eggs was easy since the laying hen tended to announce their arrival with long, loud and annoying cackling. After that, it was just a matter of picking up the eggs. However, turning these yard fowls into meat was a bit more challenging. Thus, strategies had to be devised and deployed to capture that chosen fowl which, in most cases, tended to be a cock. I vividly recall five of those strategies. I now take the time to share them with you.
1. Drunk the Fowl: This required summoning the fowls in the yard to be fed. Once gathered, their favourite food soaked in strong rum was tossed out. The food was then eagerly eaten by the fowls so gathered. In a few minutes they fell to the ground in a drunken stupor. The chosen cock was then picked up to be turned into meat. This strategy was effective but wasteful. First, it was expensive. No one wanted to use up their rum in that fashion. Second, there was no guarantee that the remaining fowls would recover from the involuntary inebriation. And third, the chosen cock was often smart enough to avoid that party. I don’t think I could recall that strategy ever being put to use in my household.
2. Feed and Snatch: As with the first strategy, the fowls were summoned under the impression that they were about to be fed. As they crowded around the food, someone sneaked up and grabbed the selected cock by the feet. It was quite an effective strategy that required stealth, agility and dexterity to make it work. The problem was, these skills were often absent or deficient at best. And, as with the first strategy, the chosen cock often found a way to avoid the gathering.
3. Chase and Stone: The chosen cock was chased all through the neighbourhood while being pelted with good size stones. The thing was, it often took much more than one stone to disable the cock after several misses! Later, as said cock is stripped, one encountered fractured bones, lacerations and bloodshot marks all over the meat. For us as kids, the chase was fun! As I reflect now, however, it was truly a cruel way to catch a fowl cock.
4. Canine Assisted Capture: Every yard had a dog. With or without invitation, this dog was often willing to assist in the hunt and capture of the designated cock. The main advantage of being assisted by the dog was its ability to sniff out the cock from its hiding place. Sometimes though, the hunt ended in disaster. It was either the dog did not want to hand over the fowl, or worse yet, all that remained were blood and feathers by the time you caught up with dog and prey. One had to be very cautious when employing canine assistance in apprehending the chosen cock.
5. Chase and Pick Up: This involved chasing the fowl cock all through the neighbourhood. The objective was to run it out of breath. No matter where it went, we followed. Up the road; down the road; across the field; behind the latrine; on top the pig pen; wherever, we kept following. Eventually, the cock was completely out of breath. As a result, it sat motionless, unable to move. At this stage, we just walked up to this wayward fowl and simply picked it up. Although it called for persistence, speed and stamina it was definitely my favourite strategy. And, compared to strategies three and four, it was not painful to the cock.
We have come a long way! I doubt very much that anyone has to put in this amount of time and effort in procuring a fowl cock to cook on Old Year’s Night. Frozen dead cocks are available in abundance. Just do like my passenger and go to the supermarket. It’s easy, convenient and safe. But, is it fun? You tell me!
A Happy and prosperous 2020 to you and yours!