GUIZERIX: The time my Momma caught Elvis

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, January 25, 2023

With the passing of Lisa Marie Presley last week, Elvis has been on my mind.

Having grown up a devout fan of The King, and knowing that Lisa Marie and my mother shared the same birthday, her death brought about a solemn realization that we never, really, know when God will call us home.

It seems as though Elvis, and the mystery surrounding his life, has always been a part of my own. I went through a “phase” listening exclusively to his music in about the second grade. As an adult living in Tupelo for my first job out of college, my apartment was a block from his high school.

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I have fond memories of traveling to his birthplace in Tupelo and to Graceland in its gilded splendor — and as many an Ole Miss graduate can attest, it’s always Moody Blue at Graceland Too.

But perhaps my fondest Elvis memory isn’t about Elvis the man at all.

Instead, it’s about a yardbird.

Growing up in the country, it wasn’t uncommon to have a few chickens. As a child, we had a couple of sets, beginning with a brood of what our neighbor called “BBs” — smaller than a Bantam and glossy black in plumage.

And the king of them all, the glossiest, struttingest little two-pound rooster you ever saw was our dear Elvis.

To this day, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a prettier chicken.

Because the chickens were so terribly small and didn’t require much surface area, we kept them in a chicken tractor in the backyard. When one spot of grass was pecked clean, we’d just pull the tractor to a new patch, toss out some corn and let them go to town.

All was fine and good, until one day when Elvis broke free. He slipped past my brother while he was refilling their water dish and hi-tailed it to freedom.

Oh, the weeping. The fretting — it was like a death. We couldn’t have been more upset than if someone shot our dog.

“Elvis left the building,” we said through tears.

It seemed like he was gone for good, having retreated to one of the corn fields that flanked each side of our property. Surely, if a snake didn’t get him, a hawk — or worse, a fox — made quick work of the little fellow.

For about two weeks, we hadn’t seen hide nor hair of our fine feathered friend.

That all changed one day, when the King returned.

My mother was speaking to my Granny on the house phone while washing dishes — you know the scene, up to her elbows in suds and the phone precariously perched on her shoulder, balanced only by her left ear and sheer force of will.

I was seated at the kitchen island, doing math homework and enjoying a cold Coke (and probably a Little Debbie cake) when out of nowhere, my mother let out an audible gasp.

“Sorry Granny, Elvis is in the backyard!” she said, but I doubt my grandmother heard her — by this point the phone was already mid-air on its way to floating to the bottom of the sink.

She then ran outside, grabbed a toy dip net my brother used when fishing and ran, barefoot, through the yard trying to snare Elvis.

After a brief struggle, she lept across the ground belly-flop-style and snagged the rooster right as he attempted to retreat back into the cornfield.

He was unceremoniously dumped back in the chicken tractor — and for the rest of my Granny’s life, my mother tried to explain to her that, yes, Elvis really was in the backyard at one point.