The answer to our problems in the beef business was revealed to me by a truck-stop waitress in Ontario, Oregon, who turned the tables and gave me a big tip.
As she poured a cup of coffee to the guy next to me at the counter I poured over the menu. “What’s your best dish?” I asked.
“She’s not working today.”
“Ha, ha. Good one,” I said.
“As the owner of the place,” she said, “I’d say most everything is good but DO NOT order the chicken.”
It turned out she couldn’t stand chicken any more than I could. “As a rancher I’m curious as to why you hate chicken so much?”
“It’s because of my nickname,” she said. “In these parts I’m known as Plymouth Rock.”
“Why on earth would anyone call you that?”
“Just in case you haven’t noticed I’ve got a body like a Plymouth and a head like a rock,” the owner cackled.
On the contrary, I found Ms. Rock to he highly intelligent, bordering on intellectual. As fellow chicken haters we had a lot to talk about. It’s not every day I find someone who hates chicken as much as I do.
“All your problems in the cow business,” said Plymouth, “are because of this cholesterol thing.”
“I know it scared some people away from red meat.”
“No, no, that’s not the problem at all. It’s because people have stopped eating eggs. I’ll spell it out for you.,” she said. “In my line of work I wait on breakfast customers every day and I find that not nearly as many folks order eggs as much as they used to. When they stopped eating eggs all those eggs hatched and we had a chicken population explosion to eat our way out of. They don’t even have enough hens to sit on all the eggs. They raise ’em all in incubators now.”
“How do you know that,” I asked.
“Do you really think any chicken with a mother could be this tough?” she asked as she threw the chicken special in front of a quiche-eating trucker.
“I couldn’t agree more, I said. “But what can we do?”
“We either have to start eating more eggs or get some kind of birth control for roosters. If we don’t there will be a chicken in every pot in America.”
There was nothing hen-pecked or soft boiled about Ms. Rock. “Friend,” she continued, “I know which came first… the egg came before the chicken and the only way to keep these suckers from crowing is to eat them before they’re born. There’s no pulling on a pullet’s wishbone if you eat it while it’s still just an egg.”
I left Ms. Rock a big tip and hit the highway. As I drove along I thought about what Plymouth had said. I never admitted this before in print but the only time I ever got in any trouble as a kid it was for throwing one egg at the freshman girls when I was a senior in high school. Throwing eggs was practically required for graduation back then but I was the first to score a direct hit on the daughter of the school’s vice-president in charge of vengeance. He kicked me out of school for three days and my old man gave me a shellacking when I got home. (It was the only known time when a student got kicked out of school for such a trivial misdemeanor.)
My mother always tried to cover up the incident fearing it would ruin my chance of becoming President one day. I realize now that I was only doing what had to be done, destroying future chickens. And if a girl’s dress had to be soiled in the process, well then, so be it.
But until the day I met Plymouth Rock I had a bad taste in my mouth for eggs. I hated eggs. But now I realize she was not lying (or is it laying?) If we would all just eat more eggs there wouldn’t be as many chickens for people to eat. I’ve even started to gag down the rare egg if it’s disguised in a batch of my wife’s brownies.
So the next time a server asks you how you want your chicken, just reply… “Scrambled and then thrown over-easy out the back door.”