One Big Free Bird

For many years Pringle’s had a chicken that’s somewhat of a free bird in the area. It loves a good time and is especially drawn to crowds.
Back in the nineties, a nine foot chicken was given to the Pringle Volunteer Fire Department. For a long time it hung out in the back of the fire hall but was always dressed up and ready for excitement; wearing a black top hat and a polka dot bowtie. 

When the free bird arrived I’m sure he had high hopes of partaking in the Pringle Chicken Strut put on by the Pringle Volunteer Fire Department, but due to the lack of much needed new volunteers, the Chicken Strut didn’t continue beyond 1994. For almost twenty years, the annual summer fundraiser festivities included a parade, a chicken costume contest, various competitions and games, a mud bog, kid’s activities, a big feed, and an evening dance—an ideal place for big chickens and free birds. 

The same year that the Chicken Strut ended, my husband and I held our wedding reception and dance at the Pringle Fire Hall, but nobody paid any attention to the big bird out back in the tall grass until some of our guests were looking for a wedding day practical joke. During the dance, mischievous friends and relatives set the big chicken free to join the wedding hoopla. After all, the free bird was already dressed up for the occasion.  

Relatives dragged my groom and me away from the dance outside. There, roosting gaily upon the roof of my car was the big chicken. A handful of guys had lifted the hundred pound fiberglass chicken onto my car’s roof. The freed bird looked as though he was having a grand time and chuckling…er clucking over his new roost. His eyes were always open—mostly to adventure and fun, and he had a smile on his beak.  

Thankfully, my husband and I weren’t expected to drive my car home with the big bird on top but only because the pranksters had a better idea. Once the perpetrators were satisfied with our reaction, they removed the oversized chicken from my car and coerced my groom into riding the party-loving free bird like a bronc and told him to “mark ‘im out,” with some spur action. Knowing that there was no way he was going to get out of it, my husband relented and put on a show for the spectators. Someone had also taken advantage of the big chicken’s chalk board sides and wrote, “Kirk Chicken Company on it;” mocking our KCC brand which stood for Kirk Cattle Company.  

Years later, the big chicken held a day job for a while greeting patrons as they pulled up to what was the Pringle Trading Post at the time, until the free bird got a job making public appearances. The class of 2010 set the big chicken on their class float in the homecoming parade their sophomore year and it has been part of their class float every year since. The big chicken is currently hanging out in someone’s shop in Custer with the numbers “2010” painted on its sides. After the class graduates, it’s hard to say where the big chicken will be seen next but wherever the free bird ends up, he’s sure to rule the roost. 

Column originally published December 13-19, 2009

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