I think I grew up in a fairly normal way in a family that lived a pretty normal life. I lived in the neighborhood, I called mine, until I was about 18. It was located right on the east side of Wichita and just up the street from Beech Aircraft Plant number one. During the workweek, the parking lot behind our house was filled with the cars of Beech employees. During the weekends and after about 3:30 each day it was almost empty. Lord forbids that you were out on the streets of my neighborhood about 3:30 to 3:45 each day. More old dogs dies during that time period than any other as the Beechcrafters rushed out to get away from their workplace.
In this more rural neighborhood than city, we had neighbors that had chickens and for some reason we seemed to have a lot of live chickens that my dad killed. The first animal I saw die was a chicken. Dad swung that chicken by the neck and jerked the head off. That chicken flopped around the yard much to the laughter and delight of the kids over to watch.
When my sisters were in High School at South East High, a carload of kids raced around a corner in Forrest Hills and smacked a tree in what became known as dead man's curve. I heard about it and curiosity got the best of me. I knew exactly where they hit the tree and it was about a half mile from my house. I got one of my friends to come and we rode over there on our bikes. By the time we got there the only signs of the accident was the broken glass and different fluids on the ground. There wasn’t any EPA in the 50’s and no one much gave a damn about fluids from an accident leaking into the ditch. At the base of the tree there was a pool of dark, almost black fluid. I couldn’t tell if it had leaked out of a person or one of the cars. I put my finger in it and saw that it was a dark red. In those days most of the old cars didn’t have automatic transmissions so if it was red it was probably blood. I later heard that one of the kids that were killed was trapped in the car up against the tree so it probably was blood. I sat down and tried to imagine what it must have been like there in that scene as life left that poor guy.
I continued to be exposed to blood and guts because my Grandfather loved to hunt pheasants up in north central Kansas. We also killed our fair share of rabbits and least one skunk that dad shot after it sprayed him. My grandfather Curly Fruits would clean the birds in the most curious manner I had ever seen. He would cut the birds head off and split the skin from the throat to the rear end of the bird. He would then basically pull the skin and feathers off in one complete piece. He would then take his knife and gut the bird. The birds were taken into the house where my Grandmother played her magic and made the most wonderful tasting fried pheasant you ever ate. I think she would soak the carcasses in salt water for a while and then cut them up. After a slow baking in the oven for a while she would then coat them in flour and fry the pieces.
I’m sure that during my childhood I saw about every animal in Kansas and some in Arkansas get cut up and eaten. Squirrels, birds, frog legs, turtles, fish and all the normal farm animals were cleaned, cooked and eaten. I watched most of the cleaning and had a large curiosity about the process of death and cleaning. I had a real talent in eating then and it did not slow me down one bit to see something killed and then eat it. I thought that was a normal way for most people to be. I know my grandfather and my dad sure ate what they killed and cleaned.
On one trip to Arkansas, we went over to Table Rock Lake to fish. When we returned home, we took the fish down to the spring to clean them and get them ready for Grandma. I was sitting there on the ground and had a stringer of fish in the pool of water in front of me. I was scaling one of the fish I heard my dad and grandpa Curly giggling like a couple of kids. I looked at them and asked them what was so damn funny. Dad pointed to the stringer of fish. Right there in the water within a couple of feet of my feet was a damn water moccasin trying to eat one of the fish. Those darned fools didn’t tell me anything about the snake. Much later on I saw a nature program about snakes and they said that the cottonmouth or water moccasin was generally one of the least likely to bite you if it had something else to do. I did, I jumped to my feet in one fell swoop and threw the fish scaler at the snake. It wasn’t funny to me but the men had a real laugh at that one.
End of Part 1, 4292