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Plucky: 1936

Plucky: 1936

December 1936. "Wife of owner-operator and wife of hired hand cleaning chickens in cellar preparatory to canning them. Chickens at this time of year are bringing six cents per pound. These are for roasting. Harry Madsen farm, near Dickens, Iowa. 360 acres, owner operated." Medium format nitrate negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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This could be grandma and me!

Looking at this picture brings back memories of my youth. When I was about 14 I was spending the summer with my grandparents on a farm in Nebraska. One day my grandmother told me that we were going to dress chickens for dinner. When I told her I didn't know how, she was shocked that my mother had not taught me. She said, "well by the end of today you will be very good at it." I was, and very proud of myself, I might add!


I'm surprised at how many of the housewives from this period look like my mother and other relatives. It must be the clothing they wore and maybe their body language.


I've never plucked a chicken, but I've certainly eaten many over my lifetime. Like most folks, I'd bet I'd eat a LOT less if I had to do what it took to get the chicken into the pot.

(Maybe that's why my grandmother and great-aunt were only sent to the yard to wring necks once a week...and why she could work wonders in the kitchen with very little meat...a hambone in the pot of pinto beans, a little bacon grease in her potato salad, etc.!)

Thanks for the reminder that chicken doesn't come from cellophane packages in the grocery store! (Oh, and if you haven't read Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," named one of the Ten Best Science Books of the Year by the NYTimes, you're missing something. His experiences on Polyface Farm were enlightening!)


It's been less than 100 years and most of us no longer know how to live this way. The march of progress, I guess...

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