...gonna kick the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight... musings of a hungarian in texas

©2003 by Annamaria Kovacs. All contents of this blog are the property of the author. Use with written permission only.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Georges

Over at Sciolist Salmagundi (link on the blogroll to the right) my friend Sal reminisced very creatively about a certain cockerel's demise which resulted in me in the Comments section recalling my grandparents' row of roosters, each called George, numbered for children's sake. I thought those comments were worth a larger blogpost here, if for nothing than to commemorate a little sliver of my childhood, the golden summers spent at my grandparent's house in the little village of Sonkad (pop:1200) in Eastern Hungary, where my grandfather was the only man of the cloth, being the Calvinist minister of the community.

So: my Calvinist minister Grandpa went after George XXVI, their roo with the twig broom after he jumped his Sunday trousered legs one afternoon. You see, Grandpa would not tolerate that. He was already grumpy after finishing counting up all the pennies that the villagers tossed into the donation box, loudly commenting to my grandma so us kids could hear it clear and loud as we played in the living room: "But look, my Erzsike, they toss 20 fillers to the Lord and then complain that the roof of the church is leaking!'(20 fillers is about a single cent or thereabouts and yes, there were people in the parish who would do that). So Granddad was rather moody when he stepped into the chicken enclosure anyway, for whatever reason he had to stroll in that day. On Sunday afternoons, he did not change out of his black suit pants and white shirt with shiny black shoes he worn under his ministerial garb, just pulled on a faded dark blue lab coat and a beret (this way if he had to do some menial labor he could but if someone arrived from the parish on official business, he could toss it of on his way back to the house and be The Minister again in a pinch). But George XXVI, that year's rooster, was moody too, and I belileve he did not like the way my Grandpa was intent on gathering some eggs for next day's breakfast from the chicken coop. Therefore, he sprang on him, for all intents and purposes to take a bite out of my grandpa's calves.
You really should have heard my highly educated and usually very sophisticated-mannered grandfather uttering curses that were totally in-line with some sailors’ phrases in shadier enterprises dockside, accentuated by loud 'thwamp' sounds of the twig broom thudding on the ground barely missing George XXVI, who was running for his life. He escaped, barely, because my grandma run to the scene and her explanation, that the grandkids (my sister and I) were watching and this might not be the best education in Christian virtues to us, finally got through the red haze of righteous anger to Granddad. George was numbered because all their roos were named George, so you had to distinguish somehow. This one was an absolutely magnificent golden-white one...I gathered quite a number of feathers from the chicken yard after this memorable day.

And now, on to the tale of George XXII who died as a consequence of drunkenness, thus exemplifying one of my Grandpa's favorite sermons about excess being a great sin in God's eyes...:-)
He met his end when my grandma came out at a summer afternoon from the house to check on the chicken and found King G sauntering more than usual. Actually, he was decidedly stumbling, as in barely able to walk, omitting some kind of feeble crowing. Grandma, being absolutely frightened that this was a first symptom of a widespread chicken illness ready to slay all of our fried-chicken allotment for the summer, boxed the King and took him to our village chicken-slayer.
My grandma for a while, being a gentle and noble-born Mrs. Reverend, took her chicken to a certain Auntie Juliska in the village to be slaughtered, until the illness of said old lady (insert fond memories of her amazing walnut cake here) forced my sweet blue-veined grandmother to start cutting chicken necks herself...Anyway, I digress.
She boxed George XXII and took him to Auntie Juliska, paying no heed of me and my sister being at once frightened and totally curious pounding her with our questions. Now, when later that afternoon we went to pick up the George bits, neatly cleaned and packaged in a blue enamelware bowl, Auntie Juliska made us sit at her kitchen table in her packed-earth-floored kitchen, looked at my grandma gravely and asked: "Weell, Mrs. Reverend, do you know what was wrong with the roo?"
"Was he sick?" Grandma asked steeling herself for wholesale destruction of poultrydom.
"Not exactly...He was drunk."
A stunned silence for a second, while Grandma digested this, and while my sister and I consumed one more slice of the walnut cake, since none of the adults watched (It was really a rather good cake).
"You see..."Auntie Juliska said after a while, "his gizzard was full of pieces of wet bread and mulberry."
My grandma slightly blushed at this point and nodded."That would do it."
We ended the visit very shortly after and left with the George parts...but only later it became clear to me what the reasons of George's drunkenness and eventual demise were.
My grandma never wasted anything. The household was an almost complete recycling faculty as far as organic waste was concerned. Table scraps were scooped into two bowls under the kitchen table and were given to the dog and the cat every afternoon as their meal. Thus yes, their cat, Mr. Tabby, ate cabbage, squash and green beans as well. Bread, too dry to eat, was placed in a bowl, soaked in water and given to the chickens once a week as a treat. (You should have seen them scampering with the pieces!) In the summer, however, there was mulberry season, and the mulberry tree in the chicken yard was very productive. And the summers in Eastern Hungary are rather hot...
Do I need to mention the unfortunate custom of George liking to nosh on slightly fermented mulberries before nibbling on wet yeasty bread to give you the whole nasty picture of overindulgent, gluttonous roos getting their just punishment for the Lord?


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