Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Like a Chicken with my Head Cut Off

“Running Men” on display at the Neuberger Museum, at Pace University in Purchase, New York is the perfect illustration of why I haven’t posted a photo blog since Alphabet (K) Wednesday.

I’ve been running around like the proverbial chicken without a head, which, as it turns out, is not so proverbial!

Mike, the Headless Chicken, a five-and-one-half pound Wyandotte rooster, lived for 18 months after his owner, Lloyd Olsen, not-so-carefully chopped off his head on September 10, 1945, with a goal of presenting a generous neck bone to his visiting mother-in-law for dinner. After the beheading, the rooster literally shook the whole thing off and continued to “act like a chicken” … pecking for food, scratching and grooming himself. The next morning, Olsen found the bird asleep with his “head” tucked under his feathers, and was so impressed with the its determination to live, that he began feeding him, by eyedropper, a mixture of milk and water and occasionally a small grain of corn. When Mike began choking on mucus, his handlers would clear it with the eyedropper.

An over-night sensation, Mike was written up in Life and Time Magazine and recorded in Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and the Guinness Book of World Records. His movie “Chick Flick” is available on Amazon, and, yes, he even has his own MySpace page. Mike spent his last months touring side shows with manager, Hope Wade. At the peak of his popularity, and with an admission charge of only .25, he was earning $4,500 per month, (approximately $50,000 in 2005 dollars). Despite public out-cries of cruelty, examinations by officers of several humane societies declared him to be free from suffering.

Ultimately, Mike reportedly choked on a piece of corn in an Arizona hotel room, on his way home from a trip. His handlers had forgotten his eyedropper at the sideshow and were unable to resuscitate him. The bird had lived because Olsen’s chop missed the bird’s jugular, and most of the bird’s brain stem, which largely controls a chicken’s reflex actions. A clot had also formed and prevented Mike from bleeding to death.

In 1999, inspired by the resiliency of their native “son,” the town of Fruita, Colorado began honoring Mike during Colorado Heritage Week. This year, the two-day festival, is May 17 and 18. It includes activities such as: the Chicken Dance Contest; the Run Like a Chicken with your Head Cut Off 5K; the Chicken Olympics, and the Hike for Mike at McInnis Canyons.

In 2000, Fruita installed a four-foot, 300-pound sculpture of Mike. The artist, Lyle Nichols, grew up in Fruita and was a friend of Mr. Olsen. Fittingly, the sculpture consists of ax heads, hay-rake teeth, sickle blades and other cutting objects. “I made him proud and cocky,” Nichols said in an Associated Press interview.


Jilly said...

Lordy, what a story. Not good to read at breakfast time! Especially if you are eating an egg, which I wasn't. Nice sculpture.

smilnsigh said...

Oh my!!!