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Sun, Jun 25th, 2000
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Monday, June 19, 2000

The vice-president of the United States was on television last week. That is not unusual, but the strange thing is that I was listening to what he had to say. He was looking rather sheepish and telling of his younger days when he used to hypnotize chickens. Here was political talk that lit a fire in my imagination.

Mr. Vice-president did not go into details about how he performed his chicken act, nor was he specific on what the chicken would do when it was hypnotized. I have seen acts where, when people are hypnotized, they can be induced to cluck like a chicken, but I cannot imagine that a chicken could be made to talk like a human. It was clear to me very early in the process that, if I was going to hypnotize a chicken, I was on my own.

However, before I got the chance to try it out, one of my sons came home and told me that our neighbor, Jim, knew all about hypnotizing chickens. First hand experience and hands-on training were just up the road and around the corner. All three of my sons had caught the "chicken-fever" and wanted to take the training with me. We grabbed one of our young White Leghorn roosters, a fine heavy-bodied bird with a huge red comb. He was a feisty one, but he settled down when we dropped him in the bottom of a paper feed sack. We all piled into my sonís car and headed for Jimís.

I suddenly became somewhat concerned over the picture we would have made to anyone who might have come across us or maybe even stopped us on the road. Our transportation, a twenty-one year old Chrysler, also known as "The Rolling Dumpster" because of the abundance of empty chip bags, candy bar wrappers and pop cans, is not the type of vehicle to travel our township roads inconspicuously. Itís three-tone paint job of maroon, black, and primer gray makes it look like it received a bad job of camouflage. Yet, here we were, tooling up the gravel road, listening to Led Zeppelin on the eight-track turned up so we could hear it over the racket of the grossly ineffective muffler.

I imagine the discussion with the deputy would have gone something like this.

"Where are you guys headed?" heíd ask.

"Goiní to see Jim," weíd say.

"Think youíre going to make it in this vehicle?" heíd ask, doubtfully.

"Sure, no problem."

"Whatís that you boys got in the bag?

"A chicken. Weíre taking him to be hypnotized."

"Why donít you just step out of the car slowly and stand over here where I can see you?"

And the discussion would have gone downhill from there.

Well, we made it to Jimís without incident and found that he wasnít home. The next night we called and he made up some excuse about not actually knowing anything about hypnotizing chickens. Evidently, word got out that we had been driving around looking for him with our "chicken to go" the previous evening. I suspect he was trying to lie low until this "chicken thing" blew over, so to speak.

Not to be defeated, I went to the Internet to seek the information I needed. After a lengthy search, I found the Web site of a fellow who is a true chicken enthusiast. I e-mailed him and within twenty-four hours he responded with two methods that he said would humanely hypnotize a chicken. The boys and I went right to work.

The first method involved tucking the chickenís head under its wing and then spinning the chicken counter-clockwise. We soon found that the directions were not nearly specific enough. How many spins would be adequate? I spun the chicken twice before I realized that once was enough for me. I handed the befuddled fowl to fifteen-year-old Matt, who spun him about thirty times before falling to the ground with the world tumbling around him. Matt handed off to Ted who spun the rotating rooster another dozen times before he fell to the grass. I placed the rooster flat on the ground and expected him to be in a hypnotic trance, ready to answer my commands to fetch the newspaper or bark like a dog. Instead, the defiant poultry got to his feet and tried to run away. Method one was a failure.

Method two involved putting the chicken on a flat surface and stretching out its neck as flat and long as possible. The directions said that once the chicken is in this position you needed to draw a line straight out ahead of its beak. Once this was done the chicken would lie motionless and in a hypnotic trance. Well, we tried drawing the line straight out from the chickenís beak, but then we realized that with the chickenís eyes on the side of its head, it could not see the line anyway. We changed our tactics and drew two lines, each perpendicular to the chickenís beak. Incredibly, this seemed to work. Of course, by this time the chicken was quite tired and ready to be still for a while anyway. Just to be sure, we got another chicken and tried it again. It worked again. We tried it without drawing the lines and it worked anyway.

We came to the conclusion that it is possible to get a chicken to lie still on the ground, but it is more a test of human patience than a chickenís capacity to be hypnotized. When all is said and done, we are still not sure if chicken hypnosis is not another one of those things like snipe-hunting or cow-tipping.

I donít know whether or not to believe the vice-president on this chicken hypnosis issue. What is the world coming to when you canít trust a politician?

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