Don’t choke on your chicken.

Don’t try this at home.

I’ve long been a fast eater, prone to taking rather large bites—particularly when it comes to carnivorous feeding. And chicken has always been akin to dessert for me. As a matter of fact my dad used to call me a ‘chicken hawk’ because I loved the bird more than cookies or candy. From a very young age I could strip a chicken drumstick clean to the bone, knuckles and all, before quickly moving on to the next appendage. I stopped shy of eating the bones themselves only because I was told they can splinter and become dangerous. Admittedly it is was hard for me to think of chicken as being dangerous. Outrageous! Chicken has always been nothing but pure goodness, and each time chicken was served in our house there ensued a veritable feeding frenzy. And that never changed as I became an adult. I am not inclined toward violence, but do NOT get between me and a cooked chicken.

I’m a chicken hawk.

And so it was on New Year’s Eve day, when I happened upon a roasted poultry carcass in the kitchen, that my eyes lit up and my salivary glands began to do their thing. A low growl emanated from deep within as I enthusiastically commenced to hoark down large hunks of dark meat like it was going out of style. Before the first bite had passed through the pipe into my stomach it was followed immediately by another chunk. Having not eaten much all day in my haste to strip the house of Christmas lights and perform other assorted outdoor chores, I was ravenous. Chicken. Grrrr…Don’t get between the UA and his chicken (I may be repeating myself).

Nom nom nom.

As the sensation of pain/pressure built in my esophagus I realized, Houston, there may have been a slight problem. I didn’t feel as though I was choking, per se—certainly I wasn’t panicked or I’d have gestured to Mrs. UA to commence with the Heimlich Maneuver. Of course she’d have thought I was being inappropriate, again, and would have dismissed my antics. I remained calm, likening the situation to a sweeper blocking a river channel. I reasoned that flood waters tend to remove woody debris, so I reached for a glass of water to help clear the blockage. I tipped the glass to my mouth and…

Imagine this river is my throat and that tree is made of chicken.

The next thing I knew I was seated in the family room recliner, being instructed by Mrs. UA not to get up, “The EMT’s are here.”

Thanks to Duvall Fire for their rapid response.

I had no idea why I was sitting in the chair, how I got there, or why a very tall, handsome man dressed in a firefighter’s uniform was seated before me, asking questions as Mrs. UA swooned in the background. I answered the inquisitions as best I could, apparently repeating myself several times. It should also be noted that my head seemed to hurt and as I reached to remove my hat I felt a growing bump on the back of my head. When I pulled my hand away, there was a small amount of blood and hair, attached to a small chunk of scalp. Slowly it came back to me…

I have a new bald spot.

Up to this point Mrs. UA had no idea what had happened—all she knew was that she had heard a loud crash as the water glass hit the table. Turning to see what the commotion was all about, she observed me falling backward at a 45 degree angle, headed toward the floor. I didn’t crumple into a heap, nor did my knees buckle. No, I toppled straight over like a short tree, my head luckily breaking my fall as I hit the hardwoods.

Series of events.

Mrs. UA had initially feared the worst, that I’d suffered a stroke. I was conscious but not alert as the 911 dispatcher calmly had my wife conduct a couple of simple tests that ruled out a stroke. Perhaps I’d had a heart attack? Mrs. UA had no idea until I told the EMT what had happened: I had passed out trying to flood my blocked craw. Apparently I repeated myself several times when the EMT’s first arrived, but I have no recollection of having done any such thing. Apparently I repeated myself several times when…oh, wait.

I was still feeling rather fuzzy as a series of questions came my way, one of which was whether or not I had recently taken any medications. To that I responded affirmatively, “I took a couple of Tylenol earlier today.”

“Why did you take Tylenol?” asked the EMT.

“Yesterday I drove 12 hours round trip to Oregon. My neck and back are just a little road weary,” was my response.

“What were you doing in Oregon?” questioned the EMT.

“I had to drive to LaGrande to pick up a new boat…are you a fisherman, by chance?” I inquired, still a bit loopy.

Turns out both he and his partner were, so I insisted that they open the door to the garage to see my new toy. They instantly became my new best friends, as this is what they saw…

My new toy: Stream Tech Salmonfly

After a quick ride to the ER where the doctor checked my blood sugar levels, hooked me up to an EKG and ultimately did a CT scan, it was determined that other than a mild concussion, I was medically normal. Mrs. UA took me home where we enjoyed a rather low-key New Year’s Eve. The next morning I awoke with a headache, which isn’t terribly uncommon on New Year’s Day. But instead of alcohol, it was chicken I had to blame for the way I was feeling. Since then Mrs. UA has had me a on a short leash come mealtime, watching over me carefully to make sure that I take small bites and chew my food 20 times. Chicken still excites me and I’ll have to exercise caution and dig deep for self discipline whenever confronted by the tempting bird.

But really this isn’t about me—it’s about my new boat.

UA in ER after EKG and CT scan. I’m OK, FYI.


  1. Steve Z

    Death by chicken. That’d be a hell of way to go. Especially after having obtained such a new shiny boat. Do you have a will? Is your boat provided for? I would be willing to adopt her if you were to shed your mortal coil (or if you leave the garage door unlocked).

    Glad to hear things worked out okay. Stop scaring Mrs. UA.

    • Kirk Werner

      Death by chicken would make for a good story. Glad that story cannot be written just yet because I haven’t even had my new boat in the water. Why don’t you come out West, young man, and fish with me? But don’t hop on a plane—drive a car with a trailer hitch. We’ll have chicken for lunch and you can take the boat home with you afterwards.

  2. Patrick

    Kirk, first, glad that you’re okay. EMT response time must be pretty good in such a small town. Now, with that out of the way; seriously, unaccomplished eating?

    • Kirk Werner

      I gotta tip my UA hat to the guys from Duvall Fire—they got here faster than I can clean a chicken carcass. Of course, the new me eats much more slowly.

  3. Chuck Atkins

    Household accidents! Personally my greatest fear is ladders…..I never eat on a ladder! Just think if ya choked and fell from a ladder! Well, Mrs. A always tells me I eat too fast!

    Thank God steelheaders have hard heads!

    Be well!

    • Kirk Werner

      You bring up a good point, Chuck. Just minutes before the chicken choking incident I was standing atop a ladder. Talk about flirting with disaster! I hope that my harrowing tale can be an inspiration to you and others: Slow down when strapping on the feed bag. Live to fish another day.

  4. Tim McWhorter

    Just imagine how horrific the head trauma could have been without the trusty ol’ UA hat on top of that noggin. Glad to hear you’re okay – nice boat – I like chicken too. I will always remember to thoroughly chew my chicken…lesson learned at your expense. Thank you.

    • Kirk Werner

      I agree, Tim. What began as a simple fashion accessory may well have saved me from permanent brain damage. Good to know that you’re also brother of the bird. Chicken is one of life’s treasures. Eat well, and with caution.

  5. Leslie

    Holy moly. And to think I picked on you on the 1st… :/ SO sorry and very glad to know you are okay. Please don’t choke again. The world needs your humor.

    • Kirk Werner

      Hey, I’m not looking for preferential treatment, nor would I know what to think if you didn’t pick on me. In fact this show of compassion has me, ahem, all choked up.

  6. Bjorn

    I will avenge you by devouring some chicken. I may even cook it first.

    • Kirk Werner

      THanks, Bjorn. Good to know you have my back. And cooked chicken is overrated. Raw bird slides down the pipe with less friction.

  7. Brett Colvin

    I’m glad to hear you’re OK Kirk. On the upside, this may help repress a few memories of fish size on the Yakima. Years ago, I choked on a piece of chicken while seated at a table with a bunch of “friends.” I use the term “friends” to loosely describe various clothed primates of indeterminate species who became so concerned for my welfare that they nearly stopped eating. I had to self-Heimlich, which in all reality may have been preferable to the memory of getting back-hugged by one of those louts. May your esophagus remain open in 2014.

  8. The River Damsel

    I’m glad that I came by to find out what you were up to… Ya know, there are other ways, safer ways, to find out that you have a bald spot. = ) Great illustration btw…

    • Kirk Werner

      Well, thanks first of all for taking time out of your busy fishing schedule to stop by! And yes, I realize it didn’t need to be so difficult, but nothing I do is easy. But hey, I got a story out of it!

  9. becky(alias Links better half)

    Hey Kirk,
    Glad to hear you’ll be jumping back on the slow road to chicken enjoyment, I would hate to hear that your humor would be lost from Links life! I truly enjoy the banter from you and your many fans. Always makes my day! Being a superbly fast eater(Link is always nervous, but impressed.), and an excellent wine spiller, toppler,( ok, spell check didn’t like either of those but s#%*@ spell check!) and general bull in the ole china shop, I appreciate your mature handling of the disease. I sport many scars and a good sense of humor after initial tears.
    And speaking of wills and Olive Green Boats…I was really suprised at what a lovely color it was! 🙂
    I will also be sending my Sacramento Fire Captain your story and tell him to order your books for my Great Neices.

    Tite line and always rope up before any ladder attempts…safety first!
    Take care,

    • Kirk Werner

      Becky, thanks for taking the time to stop by the BRUA (Back Room of the Unaccomplished Angler). To me this is akin to a visit from royalty because Link is King: the Great Enabler. He mentioned that you took a liking to the Olive boat but wouldn’t let you have one. Well, you can ride in mine any time. But first, I have to actually get it out of the garage. Thanks for the words of support and safety concerns. And for spreading the word of Olive far and wide. Come on back now, y’hear?

      • Becky B

        Just wanted you to know the Sacramento Chief had a good laugh at your expense!
        We need to come and fish with you so I can row the new “Lady Olive”.
        “King”….huh….why am I doing dishes and not some smarmy wench???
        Take care,

        • Kirk Werner

          Deal! Hopefully I’ll get the Olive boat out of the garage once before then…never before have I been more eager for Spring than this year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *