Many historical figures called Colorado home—Molly Brown, Buffalo Bill, Horace Tabor—but perhaps none has a more bizarre story than Mike, a headless chicken who put the small Western Slope town of Fruita on the map.
In September 1945, Lloyd Olsen went to his hen house thinking he would simply come back with dinner. But, after chopping off the head of an unassuming chicken, the bird went back to doing what it did best—pecking for food and preening his feathers.
When the chicken was still alive the next day, Olsen began to hand feed and water it with an eyedropper. A week later, Olsen brought the chicken, now named Mike, to doctors at the University of Utah, who said he survived his decapitation because the ax blade had missed his jugular vein and a clot had prevented him from bleeding to death. Additionally, he was able to go on “being a chicken” because most of his brain stem was left on his body.
Mike lived as the “Headless Wonder” for eighteen months, during which he went on national tour, appearing in sideshows and earning a value of $10,000. Unfortunately, it was on the road that he choked on a piece of food, ultimately ending his very bizarre life.
Today, Fruita celebrates Mike’s legacy with the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival. 2017 marks the festival’s 34th year, which will take place on June 2nd and June 3rd. Weekend events include a golf tournament, poultry show, live music, pancake breakfast, car show, disc golf tournament, 5k, Peep and wing eating contest, rooster calling contest, games, delicious food, and artisan booths.
Though his story is strange, Mike the Headless Chicken is a Colorado legend. Join in celebrating his amazing life in Fruit this June. For more information, visit www.MikeTheHeadlessChicken.org.
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About our extraordinary writer: Lindsay Diamond is a novelist and freelance writer living in the mountains of central Colorado. Visit Lindsay-Diamond.com to learn more.