Appalachia

Chicken Wobble

Chicken wobble party
Nesta the hen

The other night Chatter and Chitter came home telling me they learned how to wobble. I said “Please tell me that’s something good.” Turns out ‘wobbling’ is a dance. If you’ve ever seen the electric slide-its similar to that-only worse.

After all the wobbling talk was over-I kept thinking I’d seen the word somewhere else. I finally figured it out-I read about it in my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English.

chicken wobble noun A party, usually of men, at which stolen chickens are cooked and there is drinking, music making, the telling of tales, and so on. 1971 Costner Song of Life 79-80 Few may have heard of a Chicken Wobble. It is a feast without the dance and is an outdoor affair, ladies barred. The chickens had to come from someone represented there, and they made the rounds choosing them from the different roosts. No one knew just when he was eating his own chicken, as they were stolen very quietly early in the evening…It was shortly after crops and fodder pulling time and we had had very little fun that summer, and some of the men working hard in the lumber camp. This was our first big get-together in many weeks. When I arrived at the place most of the fellows were there. They had a great fire going, the kettle boiling, and three fat hens stretched out on a log, two of them were already unfeathered…Squire Joe, Bill and Hoopie Roe were thrumming and sawing on their instruments, tuning up they said. And Milem Butters, who could sing and dance as well without music as with, was getting in tune also. 1973 GSMNP-4:1:37-38 About evey Saturday night we would have a square dance and a chicken wobble…Most of the times they’d be a bunch of the boys, you know, would go out and steal a chicken or something and bring it in and cook it. 2001 Montgomery Coll. = When I was a child (in the ’30s) the men (and sometimes women) thought it was great fun on a Saturday night to steal a chicken or two, go to someones house, cook the bird, and have a party. Any alcohol was consumed out of the presence of the women, however. It was great fun to steal a man’s chicken and feed it to him without his knowledge! (Ledford)
[wobble perh from stirring the chicken]

While I ain’t into stealing chickens-I think I like the old timey chicken wobble much more than I like the modern day wobble the girls learned.

The dictionary excerpt reminds me of a story one of my friends, Trevis, told me.

Trevis said when he was just a small boy his Granny was his babysitter. After his Papaw left for work in the mornings, he’d walk to the barn with his Granny to feed the chickens and do her other morning chores. Many mornings Papaw’s favorite rooster harassed them as they made their way around the barnyard. One morning Granny had enough-when the rooster came harassing she reached down and grabbed his neck and in one swift movement she took him out of this old world. Never one to waste anything-Granny cooked up the rooster for supper. Trevis said it was sometime after supper that his Papaw started missing his rooster-and finally asked his wife if she’d seen him that day. Trevis said he can still see the look on his Papaw’s face when his Granny said “Yes I’ve seen him and so have you. You ate him for supper.”

Ever heard of a chicken wobble?

Tipper

*Source: “Southern Appalachian English.” Home | Arts & Sciences | University of South Carolina. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2013. <http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/engl/dictionary

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    October 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I’ve seen chickens wobble, and I’ve heard of the Chicken Dance, but have never heard of a chicken wobble party or of wobble dancing. Is it like this twerking dancing that’s going around? LOL
    My favorite rooster lost his life about the same way. I raised him from a little yellow chick into a big white rooster that became the “cock of the walk” so to speak; in other words, he ruled the roost. One day when our brother Tim was still a bottle-drinking pacifier-using toddler, he got too close to the rooster, and the bird knocked him face down and began pecking at the back of his head with Tim screaming bloody murder. Our Grandmother came running, I can still see her apron flapping in the wind, grabbed that bird, and with one flick of her wrist like whipping a snake, broke its neck and left it running around the yard squawking like a chicken with its head cut off until it dropped dead. She made soup out of that bird; I wouldn’t eat it. Every time I tried, a picture of that fluffy little yellow chick it had been ran through my head – and I just couldn’t swallow.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    September 18, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Great stories here today, Tipper. I have never heard of a chicken wobble and didn’t know it was a new dance.
    I always learn important things here at the Blind Pig.

  • Reply
    Becky
    September 16, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I have heard of and seen the “wobble”. It’s popular around here among the teens.
    But I have not heard of a “chicken wobble” until now.
    I’ll bet it would have been a hoot to watch from the darkness. Where the fellers couldn’t see ya watchin’.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    September 16, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    lol.. never heard of the chicken Wobble before. Sure would love to see those girls do the modern day version..

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    September 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    lol tipper i laughed when i read the post.. those girls must look so cute doing that dance.. ohh to be young again.. i think i already do the wobble.. (just trying to walk ) lol
    glad all is well in your corner of the world.. sure turning fall like here in swpa… as always i love the blind pig place.. and all the comments.. thank you for being here for all of us… and to learn all the things you tell us about.
    big ladybug hugs
    lynn
    xoxo

  • Reply
    Sue Simmons
    September 16, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    I’ve seen a chicken wobble. I tried to wring a chickens head off so we could cook it ,after ten minutes of wringing I thought it was dead but it got up and wobbled away. It was so funny.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    September 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Dotte-you know Nesta has a name similar to yours : ) Silver Laced Wyandotte. I think you really need to buy some chickens like Nesta-that way you can have a chicken named after you LOL : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Jack Daniels
    September 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I have heard of people feeding sour mash to chickens after it has served its purpose. They reportedly become calm and mild mannered. It seems to do no harm unless the occasional bird falls asleep before she makes it to roost and has to be hand carried and tucked in.

  • Reply
    dolores
    September 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Never heard of the chicken wobble, but have seen and tried the chicken dance. I’m a bit clumbsy, so I’ll pass on any more comments. Maybe you can film the girls demonstrating the dance; that would be fun to watch.

  • Reply
    Dotte Wyan
    September 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    What kind of chicken is Nesta anyway?

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Tipper,
    I’ll bet that ‘chicken wobble’ the
    girls learned is cute.
    Way back yonder before I was ever
    married, my girlfriend did a dance
    called the “Wobble”. Almost every-
    one had chickens in my area when I
    was young. We had about 50 or so
    and every Sunday our neighbor stole a couple for their Sunday dinner.
    Daddy didn’t seem to mind tho.
    …Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 16, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Tipper,
    I’ve heard my Dad speak of a “chicken Wobble”…being a kid back then and barely overhearin’ the grown folks conversation and then shoo, shooed off the porch for listenin’ in, I never got to hear the rest of the story.
    I always thought that they were worrying I would hear a gory story about killing chickens and them wobbling around til dead. After all we had just ate a big fryed chicken dinner at my aunts and of course the feathers had flown an hour or two before the spread. I always slipped and whatched the chicken killin’ though for some reason my Mom who was gettin’ citified didn’t want me to watch such stuff…LOL
    May be she was trying to protect me from what she had to do when she was a kid…she said she did most of the chicken killing as she was growing up the job was passed to her../Now then, I can understand a “chicken flop” but a “chicken wobble” sounds like something that ‘shine would induce to the point of goin’ sidegogglin’ down the porch steps!
    I won’t remember you of my story about hittin’ that crazy old rooster we had when I threw the axe at him when I chased him off the porch. He only “chicken wobbled” a few seconds and then did the “flop”….Not the “chicken wing” although he was’a holding one of his wings down. How I killed a rooster throwin’ a long double sided aze at him with the handle, I’ll never know. He didn’t know either fer his heid had a pumpknot the size of a aig….True story!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Love this post, I’ll have to investigate the “chicken wobble” more…I wonder if any “rooster fightin'” was going on before the thievin’ “chicken wobble” comenced!
    PS..#2 That sure is a purty rooster…or is it a high combed hen?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 16, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Tipper–This chicken wobble stuff reminds me of a truly different twist on chicken theft, and it is a tale Don can readily confirm.
    As a young man Daddy had a friend named Petie (or Petey)who was a rascal of the first order. One day he stole a bunch of his grandmother’s chickens and transported them across town to sell to Dent Ensley and Dent’s Cafe in Bryson City. Dent paid him and within half an hour Petie had stolen the chickens a second time and return them to their original home with his grandmother.
    Incidentally, his grandmother, Aunt Jennie, ran the boarding house where another man whom I consider a rascal albeit of a different sort, Horace Kephart, resided for many years.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    September 16, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Sheryl-no but I wish it was LOL : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Shirla
    September 16, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I’ve never heard of the chicken wobble dance. It just sounds ugly!I’m glad the girls learned the dance rather than the kind of wobble that’s described in your Smokey Mountain dictionary.

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    September 16, 2013 at 9:06 am

    MeMa pulled this trick on one old rooster that flogged me out by the granite stoop off the kitchen one frosty morn. I was a tiny thing. Apparently she hated bullies, too.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    September 16, 2013 at 8:37 am

    That’s a new one for me!
    We have “The Chicken Dance” which is played and participated in at a variety of biergartens and festivities in this part of the country. Based on a You Tube search, guess it’s a popular bit of giggle inspiring silliness in lots of places!
    Now Chitter and Chatter have to teach us their version of the Chicken Wobble – or were they out stealing chickens! If they’d ever do such a thing, bet they’d add them to your coop rather than eat them so the pilfered chickens could be returned to their rightful owner later!!

  • Reply
    Gina S
    September 16, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I’m still laughing at a comment (from the story shared by Travis) made by his Granny to her husband at the end of supper. Wonder if his Grandpa ever ate chicken again. Now I’m off to do a little research into what this wobble dance might be. I’ve not heard of it nor had I heard of a chicken wobble party.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 16, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Is it the same dance done at weddings called the chicken dance where you flap your wings??

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    September 16, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Tipper,
    I could write you a true story about what you call a chicken wobble. While growing up in the 1930s I attended every square dance around the area where I lived. We didn’t always steal and cook a chicken at the dance but did have special gatherings for stealing and cooking chickens. We boys stole the chickens and the girls did the cooking.
    Several funny, and some not so funny events took place. One was when by uncle stole his own chickens when he was to steal his brothers chickens.
    Another time my uncle and I were to supply the chickens. We chose a chicken coop that belonged to a family that was doffed and dumb. They would never hear us in their chicken house. My uncle went in the chicken house and handed me a big fat hen. I put her in my coat and he come out with his chicken. When we pulled out our chickens for the girls to get ready for the pot for cooking I find blood all over my clothes. My uncle had pulled off the chickens head so it would not make a noise. I found some clothes to borrow until the girls washed my clothes. I would never dare go home with bloody clothes for my mom to see. She didn’t believe in steeling and I would have been in big trouble. Maybe even grounded for the dances or other ‘Fun Times”.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 16, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Doesn’t Chitter have a dress that matches her chicken? Does she have it on in two pictures on this page. Did she get the chicken to match the dress or the dress to match the chicken?
    Tim Mc stated that one side of the family was barred. Does that mean the other side was a solid color? We are talk about the chickens??

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    September 16, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Oh my gosh! Of all the eggs I gathered from our hen house and all the Sunday Dinners we had during my childhood, I never heard of such a thing as Chicken Wobble.
    I’ll be stopping by the Festival at the Folk School and will wait patiently for Chitter and Chatter to demonstrate the “Chicken Wobble” for us.
    Regards,
    Eva Nell
    p.s. My book “Fiddler of the Mountains” will be available at the Folk School and Clay’s Corner!!!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 16, 2013 at 7:25 am

    I’ve never heard of a chicken wobble. Sounds like an old-time party for overworked men to let off steam. Probably a good idea. LOL!
    I’m trying to imagine the wobble dance the girls learned. I can’t get a fix on what that might look like. If it looks like Nesta, I think I’ll pass. Maybe the film it for us!

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    September 16, 2013 at 6:37 am

    I never heard of a Chicken Wobble, but stealing a man’s chicken I have heard of, it caused a family I grew up with to split and even start calling their last names different even tho they’re spelled the same. According to (my old school bus driver), J.W Kelso,, “pronounced” (Kel-soo),, someone got caught stealing the other families chicken years ago, I cannot remember the name of the one that got caught but that side of the family was forever barred, they’re names were pronounced from that day forward (Kel-see), there is a lot more to the story that I’ll not take up spaced to write but it was a question why some were (Kel-soo) and others (Kel-see).. but they spelled them the same “Kelso”..

  • Reply
    Tipper
    September 16, 2013 at 6:36 am

    Bob-LOL Im not sure the folk school is ready for the wobble : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Bob in Young Harris
    September 16, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Will Chitter and Chatter be demonstrating the Chicken Wobble at the Folk Festival? Maybe an impromptu class or two?

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