The Cast: Matt (caretaker of Stretch), Myself (keeper of the secret), Stretch (The Chicken).
And as he looked into the box, both to his surprise and horror, he beheld the severed head of his beloved chicken, Stretch.
If you have ever worked at a summer camp for youth you know it is a different world. It takes a special kind of attitude to work there. It takes a different kind of person to enjoy doing that kind of work. It can be very exhausting. You put all of yourself into making the lives of young people better. And with that, if you are fortunate, you make friends for life. I have been fortunate to have made some great friends over the years due to my time working at Thunder Ridge Scout Camp.
During one of those summers, I had the privilege of working with a funny and energetic follow named Matt. And for the summer, Matt had brought with him something very personal: Stretch the Chicken.
While working week after week with the same staff but new camp attendees, life can become a bit repetitive, and odd. As a result, you find ways to ease the building tensions. Because, you still like each other, but everyone also begins to get your nerves as well.
So, as I had mentioned already, Matt had brought with him something personal. It was meant to be part of his ‘personality’. What I mean by that is that he would use Stretch to help gain the attention of the Scouts that came to camp. Some of the best staff were those that had a gimmick. I had one, I’m Batman. Stretch was Matt’s gimmick. He would stuff the head and neck of Stretch the Chicken under his belt and walk around camp. The Scouts loved to see Stretch and talk with Matt. Stretch was a great ice-breaker.
Well as the weeks wore on, Stretch took damage. The Scouts wanted—for reasons unknown—to get Stretch from Matt. They tried all types of grab-and-run tactics. The most common was the walk right up to Matt, grab Stretch by the leg, pull down hard, and then run away. Sometimes, Stretch would be freed and sometimes his leg would just stretch a little bit and Matt could stop them. Well, this took a toll on Stretch and his legs. Eventually, one snapped off. Right at the hip.
Don’t worry. Matt got over it. The Scout that broke off Stretch’s leg carved a wooden prosthetic leg to replace it. Hold on. I’m sensing unrest. Wa-ait. Did you think Stretch was a live chicken? No-o. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No-o-o. Stretch was a rubber chicken. You know, the kind you get at a joke shop or some place like that. Yeah, not a real chicken. Eww. That would have been awful, and maybe a little funny come to think about it. Image it, an adult man walking around with a live chicken attached to his belt. There’s something quite humorous about that whole visual. Like a real-life cartoon.
Now we’re off-topic. Okay, so Stretch took some battle-damage. Eventually, his other leg was also pulled off. So, now Stretch had two prosthetic wooden legs. It was a little sad.
Well, when you’re in the woods and walking about, you find things. And one day, my staff and I found a bit of wood that looked exactly like a chicken head. No joke. The comb, the beak, the neck, eye placement, everything. And, as I have mentioned before, I enjoy the occasional practical joke. And just as a chicken is born, a plan was hatched. We were going to give Stretch a prosthetic wooden head.
Due to the damage Stretch had incurred, Matt had become very protective of him, and kept the chicken close at hand. So, late one evening, when we knew Matt would be busy and distracted, I had a staff member kidnap Stretch the Chicken.
Under the cover of darkness—literally, we (my cohorts and I) were under one of the camp buildings and there were no lights. We were covered in darkness. So, yeah, under the cover of darkness we cut off the head of Stretch and attached the wooden prosthetic one. We tied the head head on with the kind of knots any reasonable staff member might use, but not so good that they would think it was me (I was the knot instructor—and I am very good at it). Then we suspended Stretch—a noose about his wooden neck—in a location where Matt would see him. And he did. Then he almost lost it. The joke went over well. But that was not going to be all.
Part of the original plan was to mail the liberated rubber chicken head of Stretch the Chicken back to Matt a couple of weeks after camp ended. Just as a follow-up joke (it’s always about presentation). Well, the head got packed away, stored, and I forgot all about it. Fast forward 20 years—to just a few years ago—as I was doing some Spring Cleaning and clearing out some boxes, I came across the head of Stretch the Chicken.
Well, on that very day, my brother just happen to stop by my home. As he and Matt were friends from college, worked together at camp, and coworkers—of a sort—I figured he would get a laugh out of the severed head. He did. And as we talked about it, a plan was formed.
See, I had no idea what Matt’s current address was, but my brother did. So, he gladly provided me with the new one. He did this because—and this is just the best part—he had plans to meet with Matt the following week for lunch.
This was going to be too perfect.
Now, Matt never learned who had freed the head of Stretch from its body. My brother had not known either. I had created an alibi for myself. So, I was in the clear. In addition to that, somethings just get forgotten.
I stuffed the severed head of Stretch the Chicken into a padded envelope and mailed it off—timing the delivery so that it should arrive on the day Matt and my brother were to have lunch together. I purposely neglected to put my return address on the envelope (to help cover my tracks) because in my state, all the mail for the Southern half, gets processed through one office. So, it all gets a stamp from that city. The same city that Matt just happened to lived in. He would have no idea who sent him the head.
Well, as my brother returned home from that next week’s lunch he once again stopped by my home, this time to inform me of what took place. Apparently, that morning the mail had come by. And apparently, Matt had been home to collect it. And he opened the unexpected package addressed to him. And both to his horror and surprise, he pulled out the severed head of Stretch the Chicken. An item he had forgotten all about until just the day before when he—in his own Spring Cleaning spree—had uncovered the broken and distorted body of his beloved Stretch the Chicken.