By Seb Kemp
Outside the Aspen Street Café, on Fruita's main street, stands a large, metal cock. A rusty chicken sculpture made from old refuse that is. Composed of hundreds of pieces of scrap metal, including a trumpet, a leaf spring, and innumerable nuts and bolts, the only thing missing is the statue's head.
That is because the headless, oxidized fowl is an effigy of one of Fruita's most interesting celebrities – Miracle Mike, the headless chicken.
The legend of Miracle Mike started in Fruita, Colorado, on the morning of September 10, 1945, when Clara Olsen instructed husband Lloyd Olsen to prepare a chicken for the pan. He went out back with his axe and selected a tasty looking five and half-month old Wyandotte rooster. Down came the blade and off came the chicken's head, but when the deed was done somehow the chicken shrugged off the blow and carried on its poultry lifestyle pecking at grains and preening his feathers.
At first Lloyd didn't think much of the episode and expected Mike (obviously the name came later) to expire shortly after but the chook wouldn't check out. Lloyd started to invite neighbors, friends and family over to take a gander. It was 18 days before the story hit the local newspaper the Fruita Times, but when it did everything for Mike and the Olsen's changed forever.
Reporters from all over the state began to swarm in to see for themselves and relay the peculiar story of the plucky character. Not everyone believed the hype and Lloyd, wishing to disprove the skeptics who had already dismissed the reports of Mike as "small town rumor without proof", took Mike to University of Utah scientists in Salt Lake City. The boffins were baffled as to how this could happen, but Lloyd Olsen himself theorized that his mother-in-law's penchant for fried chicken had prompted Mike's predicament. Aiming the axe high in order to harvest as much of the neck as possible, the axe clipped off most of the skull but left one ear, the jugular vein and the base of the brain (which controls motor function) intact.
Mike's financial value was soon recognized and he began touring extensively. He featured in one exhibition alongside a two-headed calf, a man from Borneo who ate live chickens, a legless man who performed motorcycle tricks, and an elderly woman who kept hundreds of snakes. He also appeared in a Time magazine article, and eventually earned a spot in the Guinness Book Of Records. He became a widely known and hugely recognizable character the world over.
Some say Mike's fame (and lifespan) lasted for another 18 months, others more generously put Mike's age closer to four years before he was sent to "the Great Chicken Coop in the Sky".
Fruita has taken on Mike's story as an example that you can live a normal life even after you have lost your head. More so, that being so headstrong you can survive anything. Absolutely anything. All it takes is the same sort of resilience and determination that Mike demonstrated for his whole long and colorful life.
The assembled bike testers, multimedia champions, photographers, and Bike Magazine staffers who have congregated in Fruita, CO. have taken Miracle Mike as their inspiration and have been hustling to ride a whole slew of 2013's bikes so that we can bring to you another incarnation of The Bible Of Bike Tests.
Trying to marshal such a band of solo-taskers is no simle task; it requires gathering more than 30 of next year's best bikes—many of which aren't officially available yet—assembling them, dialing in the components, corralling the right people to be in the right place at the right time, and then feeding and fueling them (Makers Mark, boxed wine, and Belgium Brewing are all part of this year's high-octane mix).
All of the above takes a huge group effort and with so much going on, there is also an amazing potential for disaster and misadventure. It's not as if we run around like headless chickens with one finger in our nose's and a thumb up our arse's, but with this many mountain bikers thrown together, you can never really expect things to run smoothly. To date, we are one broken bike and one destroyed laptop into Murphy's Law.
Today, however, the planets aligned and we managed to make it out of the Bible house exactly on schedule—6:30 AM on the nose. This might not sound like a match-winning performance worthy of self-congratulatory back-slapping, but after being involved with all the previous Bible of Bike Tests issues, I can tell you that dragging 12 sleep-deprived riders out of their warm beds and into a cold F-150 before the sun has even thought about rising is nothing shy of a miracle. Thank you, Mike, for your inspiration. If even we can do this one simple thing then anything is possible.
The Bible of Bike Tests hits newsstands early in 2013, but before that happens we need to run a train on the selected bikes, write the reviews, lay out the magazine and send it off to the printer. Stay tuned to get a tease of the bikes and process that go into making the 2013 Bible Of Bike Tests a reality.
By the way, to prove that anything is possible, Miracle Mike has announced he is running for President.