Chickens a fishy way to cure mountain ills

Contributing ColumnistAugust 3, 2014 

Larry Webster

The federal government has declared war on the prime industry in the mountains — chicken fighting. It was thought that letting two roosters fight each other is immoral, but that morality doesn't extend to the slaughter of militant children playing on the beaches of Gaza, which is scriptural.

So it came as a relief that Alltech, a company from somewhere around Lexington that makes something but nobody is quite sure what it is, is going to replace the cruelty of chicken combat as a source of mountain employment with the more humane concept of letting a hen live in a breadbox-size cage all her life and lay us eggs.

Our coal miners will shed their hard hats and steel-toed boots to carry baskets and gather eggs. Our new Alltech egg ranch will employ 15 people, about the same number that the colonel hires for each store, to sell chickens who never even got the chance to fight their way into staying alive.

When I was a boy and we had an old chicken die, my job was to sail the stiff body off a bluff and see if I could hit the Kentucky River with it. I developed a short funeral for departed hens whose ovulation had sustained us. So I hope to get the job of throwing Alltech's newly departed hens into the Big Sandy. We have put everything else into the river to send down to the lowlands, so don't complain about a few feathers.

I reckon that Alltech founder Pearse Lyons will order his chickens in boxes of a hundred from Red Top, to be delivered by the mailman. You don't get that many squawking packages these days. And the plan is to take what in childhood we called politely, "chicken doo," and put it into valley fills to make golf courses.

On the same industrial site they are going to have fish farms, which they call aquaculture, which sounds like something Attorney General Jack Conway would accuse Sen. Rand Paul of. So I guess there will be fish doo, too. I really don't know how that smells, but am looking forward to it.

Pikeville will become a fishing village where wives of fishermen worriedly await the return of their men, who will wear orange slickers and rain hats to work and instead of coming home with coal dust, will bring to the house the smell all miners have dreaded — the smell of tilapia.

I would rather eat a mud streak from a carp than a farm-raised catfish, which to me is just like watching soft porn, and is merely an excuse to eat hushpuppies.

Buying fish to eat came to a halt in the mountains after drunk old ballad singers sang of a mountain man who bought a sea crab at a market, brought it home and for want of a place to put it, put it in the chamber pot. Later that night he got up to answer a certain natural call, and forgot about the sea crab and while so engaged the sea crab bit him on the most unfortunate place and wouldn't let go. The old man's family rose to see what he was screaming about and proceeded to take the poker and ladle and try to dislodge the sea crab, but their aim was off and the result was most disheartening.

So Alltech is bringing eggs, fish and liquor back to the uplands. Good idea. We are chicken and liquor experts and will soon learn to take cane poles and worms and catch fish from those tanks.

Reach Larry Webster at websterlawrencer@bellsouth.nett.

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