That Old Rooster

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
An old rooster always chased me when I gather eggs. Although I was only four, I still remember the day when the battle for king of the farmyard did not go his way.

Submitted: April 04, 2019

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Submitted: April 04, 2019

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That old rooster always chased me when I collected eggs, and I hated him for it. Since throwing stones and poking sticks at him were my only defenses, I guess he hated me as well. Maybe he viewed my actions as challenges to his throne and his claim to king of the farmyard. I doubted he understood all I wanted were the eggs--he could keep his old throne! Sometimes, I thought he attacked me for the pure fun of it.

After my next birthday, I would be five, and maybe old enough and brave enough to stand up to that old rooster. But until then, I had to face that old rooster each morning when I fed the hens and collected their eggs.  To a boy of four growing up on a farm in central Pennsylvania, this summer day of 1948 would be long, hot, and quite memorable.

~ ~ ~

“Jackie. Jackie, it’s time to get up. The days can be hot in July, so do your chores while it’s cool.” 

“Ah Mommy, do I have to? I’m still sleepy.”

“Hustle along. The chickens are hungry and don’t forget to gather eggs, too. I’ll have breakfast ready when you’re finished.”

“Oh, okay.” 

I dragged myself out of bed. Feeding those chickens and gathering eggs were not my favorite chores. The truth was, the hens were okay, I just did not like that old rooster. I knew he was going to chase me like before, and I did not look forward to that.

“Here chick, chick; here chick, chick,” I yelled, scattering seed and cracked-corn on the ground. Each hen ran to find her share. Glancing around the pen, I could not see that old rooster. I knew he was there, lurking where I least expected. Yesterday, he waited until I was not watching, and then, out of hiding, he charged and chased me. I did not trust that old rooster, but the hens were hungry, and I had to gather their eggs.

After scattering the remaining feed on the ground, I picked up my basket and entered the chicken coop. The hens had been busy laying eggs. There was an egg in the first nest, an egg in the second nest, and another, and another.

When I gathered up the last egg, I heard his clucking. I spun around toward the sound. Standing at the chicken-coop’s door, that old rooster blocked my retreat.

I was trapped.

For several moments, we faced each other. His head bobbed and jerked from side to side. He clucked, ready for a fight. Sweat beaded on my brow, and my legs grew weak.

That old rooster advanced with his wings spread wide, and I countered with my basket in hand. I gripped its handle so tightly my forearm ached. He moved right; I circled left. He stopped and looked at me, head cocked. I stopped and watched what he would do next.

Reminiscent of the OK Corral, chicken-coop style, we eyed each other’s every movement: both jockeying for the best face-off position. Without warning, he attacked with flapping wings and loud squawking. My heart leaped in my chest, and I hopped backward.

I whirled my basket and hit him square on the left side of his head. He rolled on the floor and got up for another round. Again, and again, he came at me. With each new attack, I wildly swung my basket at him but missed: that old rooster had learned the clout of my basket and avoided it.

Yet he kept charging, and I kept swinging my basket. At last, a lucky blow struck him with a full-body wallop, and he went down. I had knocked the wind out of him. He got up, slowly shuffled through the chicken-coop’s door, and staggered into the pen.

He had enough; there was no fight left in him. I had won the great chicken-coop standoff. My feelings of victory were short lived; however, for in the scuffle, I nearly lost all the eggs.

~ ~ ~

Later, that old rooster escaped from the chicken pen. How he got out was a mystery to me, but there would be another showdown with him. I wanted to corral that old rooster before Daddy came home, yet try as I could, that old rooster always escaped. Each time I cornered him, I did not know how to catch him, so he ducked and ran. In frustration, I threw stones at him, which surely made that old rooster madder and madder. We did not like each other, but now, he must have truly hated me. This afternoon, I feared, was going to be long, hot, and exasperating.

It was not long before I heard Daddy’s car coming down the road, and that old rooster was still loose. I was hot and exhausted from chasing him.

Daddy parked the car. “Hi, Jackie, how was your day?”  

I was about to answer him, when Annie, my baby sister, came half-walking, half-running across the lawn to greet him.

“Hi, Annie, let me see my little girl.”  

“Daddy, Daddy,” she squealed in delight.

That old rooster spied her: revenge at last. He charged her with wings flapping and loud squawking. Annie screamed, started crying, and ran all the faster to Daddy. But that old rooster was hot in pursuit and was about to reach her.

“I’ll teach him a lesson,” said Daddy, and he picked up a broom and swung it at the charging rooster. That old rooster was not deterred. He dodged the broom and kept charging. Daddy swung and missed again, and again. Each time, that old rooster sidestepped the broom and continued his attack.

A major battle for king of the farmyard was unfolding before my eyes. That old rooster versus my Daddy: winner takes all. Daddy hit him with a glancing blow, but that old rooster got up and kept attacking.

Annie screamed, and Mommy came out of the house to see what the commotion was. She gathered Annie in her arms as the battle raged in front of us.

Back and forth they went. Daddy was getting angry: he swung the broom harder and faster. His neck and face flushed red with blood. Sweat dripped from his brow. Soon, broom bristles and rooster feathers filled the air. It was almost comical, but at the same time, deadly serious.

That old rooster lunged again, and Daddy swung the broom, striking that old rooster alongside his head with its shaft. I heard a loud crack! To my amazement, like an accomplished acrobat, that old rooster flipped over once in midair and landed flat on his back, wings spread outward, head turned to one side, and claws toward the sky.

I never again had to worry about that old rooster. He was quite dead.

~ ~ ~

Annie and I cried when Mommy served that old rooster for an evening meal. As much as I disliked that old rooster and considering all the grief he had caused me, I could not bring myself to the point of eating him. To me, dinner’s main course did not seem like a proper ending to that old rooster’s life.

On the other hand, Daddy enjoyed every morsel. “No use letting good meat go to waste,” he said, all the while chomping on a tasty, southern-fried drumstick.


© Copyright 2019 D Ray Van. All rights reserved.

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