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Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

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March 31, 2008 | 2 Comments

Hi -
did Garrison actually own a pet chicken as a child? He sounded so sincere on Saturday's show, and Francine seemed so delightful, I'm curious. Thanks for any info.

Patsey M.

I'm glad I was able to convince you, Patsey, and now that you're writing in for confirmation, I feel that I ought to lie to you and say, yes, Francine was a real chicken and she saved my life once in a blizzard, but for some reason I am in a truthful mood, it being Holy Week and all, and so the answer is: no. We ate chickens in our family. My father cut their heads off with a hatchet, chickens that I personally caught with a coat hangar, chased them and hooked them by their ankles and brought them flapping to the chopping block where he dispatched them and handed them off to my mother who dipped them in boiling water and stripped their feathers and then performed the autopsy. I'm sure there were children who had pet chickens, delightful ones, but I was never so delighted by animals. They are very good to make up stories about, though, and so we do. Often. We can say whatever we like about chickens and they will never write us fussy letters or call up their lawyers. Chickens are cool with fiction.


I was such a boy with pet chickens. Though we lived not on a farm, as a youngster I built my own incubator and hatched and raised a couple of chickens at a time. All were roosters and hence I had to deal with them turning mean and awnry once they reached a certain age- certainly an experience to emotionally scar me for life. Alas, I suspect the intent my parents had was to spare themselves at least a few discussions about B&Bs. Like Garrison's chickens, they never wrote me back after our times together. Unlike Garrison however, mine never served as dinner- at least not ours- I released them to the only farm then in our vicinity - Knott's Berry.

Humans have turned wonderful, sentient birds into 45 day old freaks of nature at the time the baby birds are sent to the assembly line final solution. I call it that because to the animals reduced to "food" we might as well all be Nazi's, as Issac Beshevis Singer writes in the book, Eternal Trebinka Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust,
His examination into human domestication and eugenics with animals, and how it opened the path to follow with human subjects, explains why humanity remains in this constant cycle of repeating wars, violence, cruelty, and oppressive domination. Children who are told that slaughter is "just part of life," grow up with callous , numb, partially functioning hearts. It allows us to drop bombs instead of nourishing food, build military might instead of sustainable agricultural systems, and continues the haunting and skyrocketing cycles of violence to animals, transcending back to humans.
Tolstoy was right it seems when he said, "For it is only a small step from the murder of animals, to the murder of humans."
Schweitzer too, insightfully said, "It is man's sympathy with ALL living creatures that first makes him truly a man. Until he extends his circle of compassion and pity to ALL living beings, man himself will not find peace."
It is the vegan philosophy that offers our sorry species the only way out of a tragedy of errors of our own design.
Bird Flu anyone?

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