A headless chicken? That’s a joke, right? A cliche?
Well, yes and no. It turns out there really was a famous headless chicken. His name was Mike and he lived in Fruita, Colorado in 1945. He wasn’t supposed to be famous. He was supposed to be dinner. But fate was on his side that day when the ax came down on his neck, missing his jugular vein. Next thing you know, he was touring the country on the sideshow circuit!
Mike survived about 18 months without his head until he choked to death one night. His fame gradually faded but was renewed in 1999 when the residents of Fruita, Colorado decided to tell his story as part of Colorado History Week. Now there is an annual festival every May celebrating Mike as well as a statue in Fruita that you can visit anytime (we haven’t made it to the festival yet but we’ve stopped to see the statue twice on our Big Trips!)
A quick intro to Mike’s Story and the Annual Festival in Fruita
See pictures of Mike the Headless Chicken in this biographical video
My family’s introduction to Mike
I remember when my son Ryan told me all about Mike the Headless Chicken. Of course, I didn’t believe him. There’s no way a chicken could live without its head for over a year! We looked it up online and found out all about Mike. Not long after, we passed through Fruita on one of our Big Trips and of course had to stop.
I’m not the only one who didn’t believe him at first. Here’s a story that Ryan wrote about a little incident in Library Class involving Mike the Headless Chicken.
Lessons in Information Literacy
When I was a kid, in elementary school we would have “library class” every once in a while. A brief hour or so meant to teach us how to use the Dewey Decimal System, how to research (as much as 3rd graders can research), and basic information literacy. One period in particular the librarian wanted to teach us about how we shouldn’t trust everything we read online. In order to do so, she brought up a webpage telling a wild tale about a chicken that had had its head cut off and yet supposedly lived for 18 months afterward. Completely ridiculous, she indicated, this is clearly a fabrication, isn’t that right kids?
Unfortunately for Ms. Forbes, I was in that class and I had read “The Big Book of Boy Stuff” from cover to cover multiple times, and held within that book was a corroborating story about Mike the Headless Chicken, and I, beaming and bright-eyed, vigorously raised my hand, crying out that this was true, and I knew it! She tried to recover control of the class, telling me that it couldn’t be, but I was not cowed. I had been to the hometown of the chicken I said, they throw a festival every year. There’s a picture of me with the statue they have for the chicken! Still, she insisted I was wrong, and I remember my peers telling me off and teasing me over the case. I was wrong, stupid. Chickens can’t live with their head cut off. Very frustrating for a young kid.
But the very next year, when she taught the same lesson, she used a different website than the one about Mike the Headless Chicken, something about frogs. So, who really won?
Where it all started… Read about Mike the Headless Chicken and many other fun stuff in the Big Book of Boy Stuff.
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