I had Rooster for about five years when the neighbors’ dog killed him.
He was a good little rooster. The best, in fact, for anyone who’s ever owned chickens knows it’s rare to find a male bird that isn’t ornery, that won’t come after you will talons arched, ready to pluck eyes out, intent on doing all non-chickens harm and nearly always successful in terrorizing small children and adults alike.
Not my Rooster. He was a rare treasure, the most wonderful thing about raising chickens on this farm. He was one of two boys who came out of their shells right here and grew, until, well, until the question of Alpha was settled. You know, survival of the fittest and all that.
With such bravado, Rooster may have turned out differently had he not gotten himself stuck upside down on fencing inside the barn, needing rescue, early on. The fact that I had cradled him upright and talked sweetly to him while my husband worked to free him, ensured we were friends for life.
And we were. Friends for life. Friends until today, when we pulled in the gate after church to find our lawn strewn with feathers, the yard full of carnage, my beloved Rooster dead at the front next to his coop, the neighbors' dog sitting proudly on a hale bale. Rooster had given his life for his hens, even those he’d already lost. He had stood his ground until the very end.
Oh, how I cried over my Rooster!
Oh, how I wished I had been here to save him! And for the hundred millionth time, I felt as though I had betrayed animals I had the power to save. One in particular who surely believed I would come to the rescue before things got out of hand. One who fought valiantly to the end while waiting on me.
That’s just the way it feels on a farm full of animals. In a place where the repetitiveness of death is like a quicksand we can’t climb out of. Where to struggle with non-productive thoughts of love of beast and agony over suffering means a sinking into despair, deeper and deeper each time, over and over again.
Here reality stands inside the gale. Here, life and death means death in crashing waves on a constantly eroding shore. Where it seems unmitigated and unchallenged, time after time after time.
Where everything looks so beautiful and rosy on the outside and people think, “How wonderful a place to live!” Where most often the blood isn’t seen. The regular burials aren’t known.
The constant tears aren’t felt.
I’m going to miss that Rooster, especially when the owls appear on the hay bales and the chicken hawk shows up to chase the few chickens left here under the holly hedge. I’m going to miss him when I’m sitting on the porch and the clear, fall sun is out and I remember the way his royal feathers, deeply jeweled in tone, glimmered and shone in low light. When the last rays parted to the horizon and his swagger took up twilight patrol, the way he led all his girls, waddling, back home and into the coop, like a French dragoon, tail feathers high.
Okay, so maybe I won’t miss the way he always seemed to know when I wanted to sleep in, the way he belted out a staccato greeting right underneath my bedroom window on Saturday mornings and the way my pillow felt on top of my head, hot and stuffy as I tried to escape his incessant racket. Or the uncanny way he appeared to sense a phone call, the way he made about as much noise as my kids did when they were little and I was trying to talk to a friend, when he was strident and annoyingly disruptive, and yelling at him to stop as if he was one of my kids was of no use, just like he was one of my kids.
Maybe I won’t miss some of those things about Rooster. But I don’t think so.