Chicken is the focus of Sunday dinners, jokes and even directions in the South. Some Southern Baptists call it the “gospel bird.” If you are traveling down U.S. 41 in Marietta, Georgia and get lost, you will almost always have a reference to to the “Big Chicken,” that sits atop a KFC when being told how to get where you are going. I didn’t feel like I had truly lived until I ate a two-piece all white with mashed potatoes in its shadow.
An early childhood memory involves my parents cutting up chickens at my uncle’s house. Somehow, I didn’t make the connection between the flying feathers and what ended up on my plate a few days later and I happily enjoyed my dinner.
Ten years ago, I married the chicken-eating champion of the South. If you have not seen my husband clean a piece of chicken to the bone, invite us for dinner. His deboning skills are a sight to see. Just look at how happy he is to have this fried chicken plate at the Applewood Barn Restaurant in Pigeon Forge!
Since we are talking Pigeon Forge, I have to mention the ultimate chicken restaurant-Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Café. The chickens there will even sing to you. Or stare at you funny like “Henry Chesney” did me as I walked by him.
It seems I can’t escape these beautiful birds as we travel throughout the South. I find references in the most unusual places. Did you know that Major George Chicken led the first English military expedition against the Cherokee in North Carolina? I didn’t either until I read this sign in Murphy, North Carolina.
We saw live chickens walking around Ybor City, Florida, a cool place to visit just outside of Tampa. Apparently, they just roam the streets there.
These birds show up in the oddest places
Even before we started traveling, I was known as the “chicken reporter.” One of my first freelance assignments was doing an article for Tyson Foods in Heflin, Alabama in the 90s. I toured the plant with the manager and I watched the process from the time the birds arrived clucking and with feathers until they left again sans feathers and not making any noise. I didn’t eat meat for a couple of months after that. A side note about Heflin—chicken trucks were always wrecking there and I think I covered more of those as the paper’s editor than I did of county commissioners squabbling. It happened so often I ran out of headlines and resorted to “Chicken Dumpings” the last time our feathered friends ended up on U.S. 78.
Once when I was covering a fire in Dalton, Ga., while working as a crime reporter, I visited a burned office. In the middle of the charred remains was a live chicken. I think he was laughing at us because he was not cooked in the fire.
Cluckers Bessie and Gus used to grace the lawn of the Murray County Courthouse in the late 2000s. You can read my story on their chickennapping here but I don’t remember if they ever caught their abductors.
Chicken is even popular up north-way north
A few years ago I was researching RV parks for an article and I discovered Chicken Gold Camp and Outpost. I loved the name right off but I then learned the campground was in Chicken, Alaska. The town is about as remote as you can get but people love to visit for the amazing scenery. The camp’s owner sent me some pictures and one of them was of this beauty.
I felt obliged to send him a picture of our “Big Chicken” which is paltry (or should that be poultry) compared to this beauty. Mike Busby told me it was named “Eggee” and it was created as a gift to Chicken Gold Camp by a high school shop teacher and his classes. “Eggee” is made out of recycled high school lockers and hauled 600 miles on a trailer from Homer, Alaska to Chicken. The delivery was made just before the Chickenstock MusicFest in 2009.
My bucket of chicken list
A lot of people have a bucket list. I have developed a “Bucket of Chicken” list of places I want to visit. I will start with Fitzgerald’s Wild Chicken Festival that’s held every March. The city is famous for its wild Burmese birds. They have the basic festival fare but I am most interested in the crowing contest. I wonder what the rules are?
Chicken Gizzard Ridge is in southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. It’s not a place but an actual ridge that is over 1,000 feet. I need a picture of it.
Closer to home, Gainesville, Georgia has an annual Chicken Festival every year in October. And I have already added the Lighting of the Chicken on the downtown square to my list of things to do this holiday season.
Do you have an unusual chicken story? I would love to hear about it in the comments.