…We were attacked by a zombie!
Note: Today’s post deals with butchering an animal. There are no gory pictures, but there are slightly gory descriptions and several dark senses of humor. Remember, I’m an ICU nurse. ICU nurses don’t survive without a heavy dose of compassion tempered with a dash of warped humor! And…my kids,…well let’s just say, ‘they’re ‘kin to their Mama’.
The first animal we butchered on the farm was also the first our kids ever helped with. Then, the kids ranged in age from twelve to eighteen. I know they aren’t really ‘kids’ anymore, but they’re still my babies. So, I was trying to be sure everyone was comfortable and no one was traumatized.
The animal in question was a large Muscovy drake (male duck). This breed is unrelated to other domesticated ducks. They’re easy to raise, and their meat tastes like excellent beef. However, they’re hideous to look at. The males have large red fleshy nodules on their heads and faces.
We’ve wanted to raise Muscovies for years and were thrilled when a neighbor gave us a breeding pair. However, after a few months, it became clear, there would be no ugly ducklings. You see, because Muscovies are unrelated to other ducks, crossbreeding doesn’t work. If you mix Muscovies with other ducks, the offspring is a mule. That means they’re sterile. Our ducks, Fred and Ethel, were crossbreeds.
Unfortunately for Fred and Ethel, their infertility issues meant they could only serve one purpose on the farm. Since we’d waited past normal butchering age in the hopes of ugly ducklings, Fred was huge! I mean, he was the size of a medium turkey! He also made this nasty hacking sound whenever he saw people. Since he was the least endearing character, he was selected to ‘go’ first.
As we were setting up to do the deed, I tried to feel the kids out and be sure they were cool with the plan. I didn’t want sibling pressure to force anyone into an uncomfortable position. They assured me they were now ‘farm kids’ and were fine. Just before go-time, I made a silly comment about there being two types of homesteaders.
“One group of homesteaders would thank Fred for his sacrifice and stroke him gently. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, but the other group is the ICU nurses of the farming world. They do the deed quickly and efficiently, then look down at the twitching body and ask, ‘Do you think he’s faking?’” We all had a chuckle and got down to business.
Please don’t judge me too harshly for that comment or my family for the story that follows. We’re very careful with our animals, and it’s always sad to butcher them. However, much like the trivial conversation or funny anecdotes at a funeral, silliness helps us deal with the stress of butchering.
Now back to our regularly scheduled funny: We use a chopping block on our farm. That first time, one kid held Fred’s body, another held a slip noose on his neck, and Liam was the hatchet man. It was all over in one clean whack. Then the craziness really started! You know that phrase, “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”? Well, ducks do it too!
Jonah, who was holding the body, wasn’t expecting Fred to be quite so strong. Headless Fred, in his death throes, leaped from Jonah’s grasp. Fred (minus his head) jumped to his feet and rather than thrashing on the ground began to run! If he’d had his head on his shoulders and both eyes open, that dead duck couldn’t have taken better aim.
Not-quite-dead-Fred, spurting arterial spray, went barreling straight at Grace. It was one of those moments when your brain tells your eyes they’ve got to be nuts. It took me a moment to register what was happening. In a few seconds, nature took its course and the death throes ceased.
I looked up at Grace. I was worried. I can imagine how scary it could be at age twelve to be attacked by the duck you just helped decapitate. Grace met my eyes, and in a totally deadpan voice asked, “Do you think he’s faking?” All the nervous tension evaporated into thigh-slapping rolling-on-the-ground laughter!
Our family still refers to that event as the ‘Attack of the Killer Zombie Duck!’
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