Friday, May. 14, 2010

Mike the Headless Chicken Festival (Fruita, Colo.)

Mike was a special chicken. So special that each year the residents of Fruita, Colo., come together to remember him. They memorialize him with a car show, a chicken-dance contest, games (like "Pin the head on the chicken"), a 5-km race ("Run like a headless chicken") and, of course, many delicious chicken dishes. So what made this clucker worthy of such a celebration? He lived for 18 months without a head.

On Sept. 10, 1945, Lloyd Olsen, a Fruita farmer, went out to prepare a chicken for the family dinner. He spied a plump 5½-month-old rooster named Mike and chopped off his head. But Mike didn't seem to mind. In fact, he went back to his normal chicken responsibilities, attempting to preen his feathers and peck for food. When Olsen found Mike still alive the next morning, with his "head" (er, stump) tucked under his wing, he decided it was a miracle and began to feed Mike grain and water with an eyedropper to keep him alive. After all, if Mike had that much will to live, who was Olsen to stop him? A week later, Olsen drove his newly headless friend to the University of Utah to figure out what the heck happened. Turns out Olsen's ax had missed the jugular vein, and a blood clot prevented the bird from bleeding to death. Most of his brain stem was intact, which allowed him to live a relatively normal — albeit headless — life.