Bert's Rooster

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
It was my job to look after Bert's animals while he was away.

Submitted: September 04, 2016

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Submitted: September 04, 2016

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Bert had this big, red rooster. He was a big, cocky bugger, as roosters can be and he had huge, dangerous-looking spurs on his legs, like pig-stickers they were! According to Bert the big red bugger was mad as a snake because he would attack anyone for no reason at all, squawking with wings spread out, and neck arched! The only reason he put up with him was that he liked to hear a rooster crow in the morning and chicks running around the yard!

Bert asked me around one winters day to help him with a with a big old Kanuka tree that had blown over. He wasn’t keen on cutting up firewood into small blocks for the fire, he just took long lengths inside and gradually fed them into the fireplace. At the time he only used a bow saw or an axe, which is why he made as few cuts as possible.

The old Kanuka tree had been dead for a few years, so it was nice and dry, but he wanted me to cut it with my chainsaw, into manageable lengths for him. The butt-end though was short and stout, so he also wanted me to help him manhandle the lump inside. He said he intended to lever it into the fire using a crowbar! Bert was never elegant!

When I pulled up, the big, red rooster was out scratching among sheep tollies, looking for worms. His beady orange eyes focused on my truck as he assessed what action he would take when I got out. My theory is that you never show fear, so I hopped out, picked up my chainsaw, and walked around the back of the truck. The rooster was there to meet me and he flew at my legs! My kick missed him only because he quickly ducked out of the way. He spread his wings for another charge, but Bert grabbed him roughly from behind, which disabled him.

Without a word, Bert turned and carried the big bugger to the nearby creek where he held his head underwater until the bubbles stopped! But he must have been holding his breath because when Bert let him go, bedraggled and scrawny looking, he scurried off towards a group of hens!

‘That’ll teach the bastard!’ Bert mumbled, teeth still stubbornly gripping his pipe.

Bert and I worked in together whenever one of us was away from our respective farms. Both of us had animals to feed and water troughs that needed topped up. When he and Edna decided to take their daughter to the West Coast to scratch around for gold, I was deputised to do the odd jobs around their place.

The pony needed a bucketful of chaff, and a couple of carrots from the garden; the stallion - so skinny that there was opaque light between his ribs when the sun was behind him – needed a bucket of chaff and a slice of lucerne hay; the cats (four of them), ‘all good rabbiters’, needed  a supplement of milk and biscuit-things; the ram needed sheep-nuts – you had to watch that bugger too, he would bunt if your back was turned to him; the hens and rooster needed wheat and water. Usually they were free range but while he was away, Bert shut them inside because he had seen a ferret stalking a rabbit! And there was Bess the bitch, a lovely huntaway who hated being tied up and would want a run more than chew on the dog biscuits.

All went mostly well, the bloody ram got me a couple of times! I watered and fed the chooks (and the big, red rooster) without actually going into the henhouse. The cats were never away hunting rabbits, they were always waiting, meowing and wanting to rub the sleep from their eyes on my trouser leg. One day I thought the stallion was dead on his feet, so I gave him a nudge, but he was just asleep, I swear that his bones rattled when he walked off! It was always a mission to catch Bess after her run, she just stood there, only just out of my reach!

All fairly standard for Bert’s animals.

On the Friday I was later than usual because of work commitments. I first let Bess off who kept her distance, as always just out of my reach. The old ram hassled me, bunting at the bucket of nuts, spilling them and he eyed my butt. I think he understood harsh language!

In the henhouse, the water dish had been tipped over and had been scratched over to the far side. I considered letting the chooks and the big, red rooster go thirsty, but bravely stepped into the house. The big, red rooster, armed with his spurs, growled like when a hawk flies overhead, so I told him to shut up and behave. He didn’t understand harsh language! I think it was as I bent to pick up the dish that he flew at me from behind, and as I straightened, he became trapped under my Swandri! A Swandri is a loose-fitting coat, a bit like an over-long shirt. He was trying to flap to free himself, I was turkey-dancing trying to see where the hell he was! He was squawking, I was yelling and trying to get him out, turning in circles like a pup trying to catch it’s tail! I could feel those spurs digging in through my clothes!

The flapping, turkey-dancing and racket upset the hens and they flapped too kicking up dust, which coated my specks, half-pie blinding me! Finally I grabbed one of his legs and dragged him free! He was a hot potato and I dropped him behind me as I skipped out of there before slamming the door! I found another dish to put their water in!

 

When I told him, for once, Bert took his pipe from his mouth to laugh! Tears ran down his cheeks!


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