The Great Stony Hill Chicken Massacre of 1955

One afternoon in Jamaica, my five-year-old little self had been left to wander. The kitchen was a place of comfort for me, because it was there that I found the maids and nannies of my life, the women who greeted me with a great deal of patience and good humor, hugs and stolen treats.

The kitchen was empty and quiet, but the courtyard outside its back door was filled with a cacophony of raucous noise. I headed there just in time to find the entire household staff chasing a flock of terrified chickens, grabbing each squawking and flapping one to place its head under an upside down bucket, while the gardener whacked through its neck with a machete.

The headless goosestepping chickens careened blindly through the courtyard, crashing into walls and leaving a bloody spattered wake as I stood wide-eyed and breathless in the doorway, trying to make sense of the carnage.

Although shocked to my five-year-old core, I remember thinking that it might have been a better idea to put the chickens’ bodies under the buckets, leaving their inert heads outside them, but then I wasn’t the one who had to deal with the gory mess. Maybe the maids, as they set about their gruesome task, covered the chickens’ heads in an act of mercy, preventing the poor little things from seeing the descending blade.

Sometime after the chicken massacre, my family and I were invited to a friend’s plantation, where I was introduced to this big beautiful turkey. Judging by the look on my face, I’m pretty sure that the grown-ups around me were discussing Thanksgiving dinner and while I can’t be sure of the turkey’s fate, I think he was doomed.

Whatever his end may have been, I hope he didn’t see it coming.