I passed a truckload of chickens this morning before the Southern heat became a swelter this afternoon. In their rolling cages, their dingy feathers fluttered and revealed a bright white underpinning that'd soon need scalding and plucking, no doubt; well, could've been a layer I suppose, so maybe there's some doubt. Anyhow, somewhere I learned that chickens in transport are drugged beforehand to calm their nerves, possibly to keep their meat from spoilage by some version of "junglefowl" adrenaline -- maybe it's the same good old adrenaline regarldess of species, but I'm no zoologist.
Most of these unlucky cluckers stared out at the passing countryside bleery-eyed; who knows their focal length -- they're certainly not old enough for cataracts in the factory system. One bird, however, seemed more alert than the rest, and this one clung to the edge of the truck, outside its cage in a little alcove, peering out at me as I passed. The plump, billowing chicken was nearly immovable in the gusts of transit, but I'd seen his ilk, as have we all in Perdue's and Tyson's and Gold Kist's North Georgia, flattened and wasted on the ashphalt, dinner's 2-d version.
With Dr. Kevorkian's death this week, I began thinking, "What's stopping this one Houdini chicken from briskly flapping to a glorious, high-speed demise in place of a putrid, yet USDA certified, factory slaughter down the road?" All chickeny rationality aside, this specimen's last ride was akin to the Thelma and Louise of poultry production. There he/she was in the open air, feathers ruffled, gazing out on unknown fields chock full of worms and hoppers and beetles of deep, nether-tasted flavors. For as flavorless as its meat or eggs likely were, that 'James Dean' chicken may as well have scooched its floppy body, albeit completely lacking in muscle tone due to lifelong confinement, and tumbled on up to the chicken-God on high, issuing forth a glorious plume of feathers with a final liberating squak -- all at highway velocity and not a tap of the airbrakes from the trucker.
I reckon, here ends this comment'ry on the self-determination of captive 'Merican poultry. Amen.