December 2016

by Marshall Chapman

My contact with live chickens has been limited, to say the least.

While growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, I lived across the street from a family who raised chickens in their back yard. Their last name was Pickens, and it amused me how Pickens rhymes with chickens. Like the Pickenses were somehow predestined to raise chickens based solely on their name.

My next contact with chickens—or I should say a chicken—occurred twenty years later. It was Easter Sunday 1973. I was two years out of Vanderbilt, living in a condemned neighborhood near the campus. That morning, I had awakened to an unusual “peeping” sound in my one-room loft apartment. Peep … peep … peep-peep … it went. As I peered over the edge of my bed, I spied the source of this peeping running frantically along the baseboard of one of my walls. It was a baby Easter chicken dyed aquamarine blue.

I later learned that my next-door neighbor, Bubba Crigler, had dropped this baby chicken through my open window during the night. And that its name was Kilgore Trout.

Three months later, another neighbor ran over Kilgore Trout thus ending his life.

The entire neighborhood rallied around this tragedy and a funeral was held in my front yard. A steady rain began to fall as we all gathered around the deep burial hole someone had dug. After a moment of silence, Slick Lawson (the late, great Nashville photographer), dressed in a dark suit and tie, began the service with ”Let us now bow our heads.”

In a reverential and solemn voice, Slick then read the entire recipe for “Chicken Ambassadeur” from the Junior League of Nashville Cookbook. He attributed the recipe to Mrs. Guilford Dudley, Jr., which seemed appropriate, as her husband was Ambassador to Denmark at the time. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the recipe was not submitted by Mrs. Guilford Dudley, Jr., but by Mrs. H.R. Flintoff, Jr. I mean, if you can’t trust the stand-in preacher at your Easter chicken’s funeral, who can you trust?

So what got me thinking about chickens?

Well, last week while standing in line at the Berry Hill post office, I noticed a man carrying a red-and-white box with diamond-shaped perforations on either end. WARNING! LIVE BIRDS the box said.

“What’s in the box?” I asked. A chicken, the man replied. “Really?” I exclaimed. “Where are you sending it?” L.A., he replied. “Is it for eating or laying eggs?” Neither, he said. It’s a show chicken. “Is this your first time mailing a live chicken?” Nah. I mailed one last week.

How could I have lived sixty-seven years and not known this? That you can actually mail a live chicken in a “Bio-Source Container” made for just this purpose by the U.S. Postal Service?

Wonders never cease.

Marshall Chapman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, author, and actress. For more information, visit



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