I Miss My Mind The Most: Mike the Headless Chicken Gets Chopped

Mike the Headless Chicken

Miracle Mike. The pride of Fruita, Colorado. The world record holder for headless longevity. Folks praise the chicken for his determination to live. Then again, he didn’t have a head, so he might not have known any better.

Mike was always intended to be headless – he just wasn’t intended to stick around after the fact. On September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen did another round of “off with their heads.” And I suspect he wasn’t surprised to see the rest of the rooster moving without the head – as we all know from Roman Polanski’s film adaptation of “Macbeth,” even your head carries on for a bit, though that’s mostly just so Malcolm’s army can laugh at your misfortune.

But Miracle Mike didn’t wind down in a flurry of creepy music, medieval blood and filth and end credits. No, his body kept on going – Lloyd Olsen had inexplicably lopped off Mike’s head but left the brain stem intact. No one knows quite how a chicken farmer could’ve messed this up, though it’s rumored he was texting while butchering.

Mike seemed unaware anything had changed – he even tried to preen and crow. Farmer Olsen, on the other hand, had a big problem: the now dinnerless farmer with poor chopping accuracy needed a plan B. Luckily it didn’t involve logging or delicate microsurgery. He took Mike out on tour, charging a quarter a head to see the Miracle Chicken of Fruita eat a corn and water mixture with an eyedropper hooked into his esophagus.

Soon Mike and Lloyd were living large, traveling to Atlantic City, Chicago, Los Angeles – they headlined Coachella one year when the Pixies had to back out, and Mike pecked his own version of the band’s hit “Where is My Mind?” to much amusement. Actually no, but Mike was featured in the news magazines of the day and was reportedly valued at ten thousand bucks. Not bad, given that, when he had a head he was valued at a thousand calories or so.

But the high life took its toll – pre-chop Mike weighed two and a half pounds, but he ballooned to just over eight pounds on the road. Lloyd also quadrupled his weight, hitting about 900 pounds at an all you can eat steakhouse in Omaha. (Just kidding.) And then, one night, tragedy: Mike’s esophagus got clogged and he started choking. Lloyd was used to this, and looked for the eyedropper he used to suction Mike out, but it was nowhere to be found, and he could only watch in horror as his meal-turned-meal ticket suffocated. True story: when rock stars began choking on their own vomit in the 60’s, a cynical New Musical Express columnist wrote, unimpressed, “these now-dead rockers now remind one of nothing so much as Mike, the headless chicken from the States, only without a smidge of his accomplishments.”

And no, Lloyd did not then bring Mike home and cook him for supper. But years later, the residents of Fruita, Colorado decided to celebrate the town’s top chicken with an annual festival. Since 1999, Mike’s Festival has been a big draw in west central Colorado, featuring a “run like a headless chicken” 5K, a “good egg award” for citizens who make a difference, eating contests, egg tosses and so on. There is plenty of chicken to go around, if you’re hungry; though I don’t know if Lloyd Olsen’s people prep the birds or not.

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