Petit Fours » A group blog of authors writing in different genres

Masthead header

Granddaddy Strangled Chickens

Chicken Cartoon Animal

During spring break last week, we took a trip to North Carolina to visit my parents. A cousin from the Maryland area happened to be in town while we there, so it was a good chance to catch up.

At some point during this mini-family reunion, we got to talking about relatives long passed. My mother brought up her childhood visits to her paternal grandparents. She called them Grandbubba and Granddaddy. I was blessed to know them myself for a while. They died when I was in middle school. While my great-grandparents were alive, my family made the trip from our home in North Carolina to theirs in Alabama every summer to spend a few days with them.

One of the memories I have of my Grandbubba is that she was a wonderful cook. Her family “suppers” were the best part of the visit.  (For Grandbubba, the evening meal was “supper.” The word “dinner” referred to “lunch.”) Apparently, my mother also thought highly of Grandbubba’s cooking, particularly the fried chicken. “Back then,” she said, “they kept chickens at the house. Granddaddy would go out back and strangle a chicken. Then, Grandbubba cooked it for dinner.”

I stared at her. “Granddaddy did what?”

“He’d kill the chicken, removing the head and skin. Grandbubba would then boil the chicken to get rid of any extra feathers before frying it.”

I sat there in disbelief, but then thought about it. This was years ago. (No, Mom. I’m not telling your age.) My great-grandparents lived in a small town in Alabama. Their actions were likely a common practice. Yet, it provided me with a new image of the sweet old couple I remembered from my childhood. An image that will be with me for awhile.

How about you? What stories have you heard about your grandparents and great-grandparents that totally shocked you?

Chicken picture from

New Casual_Resized

Walt Mussell primaily writes historical fiction with inspirational and romantic elements. His favorite setting is medieval Japan and he refers to his  writing as “Like ‘Shogun,’ but the heroine survives.” He also writes Biblical fiction and is working on a manuscript with a 19th century American setting. He has one published novella in the Christmas anthology, Hot Cocoa for the Heart.

Connie Gillam - April 17, 2014 - 9:08 am


My grandparents lived in Mississippi. During the summers, my brothers, sister and I spent several weeks with my Big Mama and PawPaw.

Big Mama would chase down a chicken, wring its neck faster than I could blink, dunk it in hot water, pluck the feathers and fry it up for supper.
As an adult I remembered the chickens following the hound dogs around the yard, eating their poop. Yuck!

Pam Asberry - April 17, 2014 - 9:20 am

My great grandfather was a great baseball player. I am told he had major league potential. But then he fell in love with my great-grandmother; after they married and started having children, he gave up his dream. But on his 100th birthday, the St. Louis Cardinals invited him to come to Busch Stadium and be their guest. His health prevented him making the trip, but they gave him a shout-out which he heard on the radio. That story is shocking in a GOOD way!

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 9:21 am

And chickens are a staple of the American diet. :-)

Piper - April 17, 2014 - 9:22 am

I love these family stories, Walt. Shows the contrast between those who were hands on with their food and those of us who are used to getting it in wrappings and plastic. I remember when my father’s mother came to our new house where we had a fire place. My sister and I were fascinated by it and wanted my parents to light fires all the time in it. She looked at the fireplace and turned up her nose saying. “That’s fun for you. Looks like work to me.” It wasn’t until years later that I realized where her comment came from.

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 9:22 am

Connie, the “staple of American diet” comment was intended for you. :-)

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 9:23 am

Pam, that is a wonderful story. He gave up the baseball for the woman he loved. It was great of the Cardinals to give him a shout out.

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 9:25 am

Piper, I caqn understand that comment, though I’ve never thought about that saying before.

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 9:26 am

I cannot type today. Should be “can,” not “caqn.”

Maxine Davis - April 17, 2014 - 9:51 am

Walt, Thanks for the walk down memory lane. My grandmother followed the same steps as Connie’s, but also, after the first frost, my granddaddy would kill a hog. Some of it went in the “salt box” in the “smoke house”, some hung to smoke and grandmother made sausage. She also made wonderful Brunswick stew. I was told she scraped the inside of the head for that – never went to the trouble to know for sure. Ugh.

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 10:07 am

Maxine, that reminds me of a line from Charlotte’s Web. When it was discovered that one of the pigs was a runt, the famer picked up an ax and headed to the barn. The line I remember is about the little girl character being “about to learn where bacon comes from.”

Susan Carlisle - April 17, 2014 - 7:21 pm

My grandmother used to whisper that we had a horse thief in the family tree out west. I don’t know if it was true or not but by the time I knew about it people drove cars! I thought the idea was cool.

sandra Elzie - April 17, 2014 - 7:48 pm

When we lived in California, we were out in the country on 40 acres. We had horses, cows, rabbits…and chickens. I’m telling the honest truth when I say that my husband used to chop off the chicken’s head and throw the body in a new-unused garbage can to allow the bird to flop around. (gross to the max) Then he’d do all that other lovely stuff and deliver the ready-to-cook bird to me. Yes, I work as a medic on an ambulance, but I do draw the line at some things.

Loved the article…great job.

sandra Elzie - April 17, 2014 - 7:49 pm

Oh, and stories that shocked me? My father, when he was a kid, killed alligators and brought the hind quarters home for his mother to cook and serve. Yuck, yuck, yuck!

Marilyn Baron - April 17, 2014 - 9:22 pm

My father always told me that his grandmother “Granny,” who would be my great grandmother, a woman I’ve never met, was a chicken plucker. Not sure what that was.

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 10:57 pm

Susan, I agree it’s cool, but only if he didn’t get hanged. They used to do that to horse thieves back then.

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 10:59 pm

Sandy, I’m not sure I could handle either of those. However, I have occassionally watched Swamp People, so I know there are people out there who view gators as a delicacy.

Walt Mussell - April 17, 2014 - 11:00 pm

Marilyn, I think the title is pretty self-descriptive. I’ll go with that. :-)

Carol Burnside - April 18, 2014 - 11:52 pm

Walt, I used to help chase the chickens down before my Granny wrung their necks. We never called it strangling, but she’d grab them by the head and whirl them around in a circle until their neck snapped. Then came the flopping around the yard bit. Then we’d dip them in boiling water and pluck the feathers off. Smelly, messy business!

F O L L O W   U S
R E C E N T   T W E E T S