“This is a story that is absolutely true and happened right here in New York. It is about a rooster that had his head cut off and continued to crow for days afterwards.
A brother-in law of mine living in the upper Bronx occupied a five-room, one-family house. At the rear of his garden, he had erected a chicken coop and a long runway for the chickens to exercise. He had 40 chickens, including a magnificent specimen of a rooster which stood nearly two feet in height. And how that boy could crow!
This brother-in-law of mine was a taxicab driver. He arose every morning at 4 a.m. and left the house at 5:00 to be at work by 6:00. He retired to bed every night at 9:00 p.m. The only trouble was that he could not secure a night’s unbroken sleep due to the crowing of the rooster. He complained to his wife, saying ‘That rooster’s got to go!’
A few days afterwards, upon his return from a hard day’s work, my brother-in-law took an axe, grabbed the rooster, and severed its head! The rooster ran around headless for a while and then collapsed. ‘Chicken Fricassee’ didn’t taste bad that evening for supper.
The next night, my brother-in-law was awakened in the early hours by a crowing sound. He was not sure, so he listened again. There it was, the rooster was still crowing. He knew that he was not dreaming because the crowing repeated while he lay in his bed.
Not wishing to alarm his wife, he told her nothing about his experience in the night. He went to sleep again the next night and, sure enough, the rooster woke him up again. He wanted to tell his wife, but, knowing how Irish and superstitious she was, he kept the knowledge to himself.
However, the third night was too much for him. He was beginning to got nervous. All he knew, and was sure of, was THAT HE HAD KILLED THAT DARNED ROOSTER! And being over 21, he had sense enough to know that dead roosters CAN’T crow. He had had only one rooster at the time. He now had one. So where was the crowing coming from?
He hit upon a plan. He got up and dressed and, taking a flashlight and an axe with him, went out into the light and down to the chicken coop. He placed his hand on the wire mesh enclosing the runway and waited. He wasn’t disappointed. Sure enough, there it was, and right inside the coop: ‘COCK-A-DOODLE-DO’!
He almost dropped the axe, but gathering his courage (or what was left of it), he rushed to the coop, tore open the door, and looked in. There were the chickens all asleep, huddled up close to each other, but no rooster. He closed the door quickly and bolted for the house. When he was safely inside he woke his wife up and told her the story.
His wife looked at him to see if he had been drinking and said, ‘Are ye losin’ ye’re senses? Ye know that ye killed that rooster three days ago and that we ate him. Now hold ye’re whisht and get back into bed. Waking a body up with such a fool tale as that, G’wan, go back to sleep.’
He tried to convince her, but it was no use. Suddenly the rooster crowed again and she sat up in bed.
‘There ye are, There ye are,” said the brother-in-law. “See, am I lyin’? Ye hear it ye’re-self, dont ye?’
He wife crossed herself and said, ‘Glory be to God’. He’s come back to haunt us. Oh, what’ll we do, what’ll we do’?
‘I’m goin’ to go right down again, and if I have to kill every one of them damned fowl I’ll get to the bottom av this’, my brother-in-law said. And away he went.
He went straight to the coop once more, opened the door, and going inside, closed the door after him. He put his flashlight out and waited.
Suddenly the ‘Cock-a-doodle-do’ came again, and he put the light on. What did he see? He couldn’t believe his eyes. ONE OF THE CHICKENS was crowing.
‘Oh’ said he. ‘That’s it, is it?’ He took his handkerchief out of his back pocket and, tying it around the legs of the culprit, slammed the door. When he reached his wife, he told her that he had solved the situation and explained what he had discovered.
He killed the chicken the next evening when he came home from work. And the peculiar thing about it was, that when be cleaned the chicken, he discovered a three-inch long nail right through the gizzard. Figure it out for yourself. However, he got his sleep after that and that ends the story.”
Told by James McGuinness, December 12, 1938.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project.
Library of Congress.