Feb

28

 After visiting the folks in Ft. Worth once in the 80s, I boarded an eastbound boxcar & napped, woke up in a mystery town & saw a billboard that read Texarkana. I climbed the little hill out the yard and hitched a ride along the highway. A uhaul rental truck picked me up for one of the strangest
experiences of my life, and that's saying something. The lady driver, a fat bitch to this day that owes me for a day's work, opened the roll-down back
to the rental truck and said, "hop in."  It was dim in there with scratchy light filtering through the cross-hatch 1'x2' window into the cab, but my eyes adjusted to discern six people lolling about the floor and on crates.  They stared at me with better adjusted eyes, but I could see something the matter in the way their faces twisted and unkempt hair.  'Howaryamorn, mister?’ garbled one. A couple others jerked chins in agreement, and one girl giggled. I was in a locked dark van with a half-dozen retards.  It wasn't that bad, and I don't intend to use the term derogatorily, but they crowded the new stranger stinking of the rails to dig his story. I did some magic tricks like swallowing my thumb, and pulled a paper wad from the girl's ear– that gave me room to ask, "we're we goin?" "chicken ketchin'!' one said,  and the other's nodded eagerly. We took the smooth road an hour, then rutted dirt lanes for two more, until the truck bumped to a halt and the door slid up with a bang.

What followed was the longest, hardest work day of my life, and you know that’s saying something. The teens, girl and I herded about 1000 chickens from one end of a huge red barn to the other, the lady kept them at bay with a flapping sheet and the rest of us dipped knees and grabbed chicken legs, two in one hand and three in the other per the quota.  We carried them twenty yards outside to a semi-truck parked with wire chicken crates where one fellow perched as each grabber shouted ‘birds! Three and two!’ and hefted his five up to this cager to stuff into rows and stacks of little crates for the trip to KFC.  Imagine dipping, catching, clutching, lifting and yelling ‘birds!’ a hundred times for 10 hours w/ a 30 minute break for salami sandwiches and water. It got hot toward noon, freezing after sunset, I was dizzy, covered w/ feathers when the last chicken was scooped and stuffed, and the lady herded us into the back of the truck. "Where do u want off?" she demanded, and I wearily replied, "highhway".  There’s nothing like sitting with peers after a long day in reminisce,  they explained the whole way, that nobody but a dummy would shout ‘three and two’ and actually hand over that many birds!  the lady turned onto the highway shoulder, I gave her my address for the paycheck, pulled my thumb out my mouth for the crew, and hitched to the next adventure.


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