*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
These days, if I want to buy a package of chicken legs, I can grab a prepackaged plastic-wrapped bundle at the grocery store without speaking to anyone. Back in the 1960s, it was a different story. If you wanted to buy chicken legs from a butcher, you had to be prepared for a little social interaction and a touch of humor.
When my mother was a newlywed, if she wanted to cook chicken legs for dinner, she had to ask the butcher, and the butcher had jokes for days. According to my mother, whenever she ordered chicken legs, the butcher made the same joke. “I’d like five chicken legs, please,” my mother would say. Then she would brace herself for the butcher’s response from her.
“Would you like all five chicken legs from the same chicken?” the butcher replied, every time, and then they would both laugh.
My mother said, “I knew he was joking, but I always played along. I would say ‘Of course not!’ and we would both have a good laugh.”
Now, my mother is a big fan of chicken legs, and she always buys them in bulk. But she still remembers the days when she had to go to the butcher and ask for five chicken legs “from the same chicken.” It was a simpler time, and the people were friendlier. We could all learn a lesson from the butchers of the past.
Now, we can just buy our chicken legs without having to worry about making conversation. We have the technology to package them perfectly, and we don’t have to talk to anyone if we don’t want to. But sometimes, I think we’ve lost something in the process. We’ve lost the chance to interact with our fellow human beings, even if it’s just to exchange a few words and have a good laugh at the expense of a fictional five-legged chicken.
These days, buying chicken legs is a lot less entertaining. I can’t help but wonder what the butcher would say if my mother walked into the store today and asked for five chicken legs. Would he still make the same joke? Probably not. But it’s a nice memory of a simpler time.
Times may have changed, but I’m sure the butcher misses my mother’s visits. She always laughed at his jokes about him, especially the one about the chicken with five legs.
Every time I see chicken legs for sale, I think of my mother and the butcher, and I can’t help but smile. Ironically, I don’t have a taste for chicken legs. I can’t stand them, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating a good joke about a five-legged chicken or a good story about an amiable butcher with a great attitude and an equally great sense of humor.