When I was a kid, it wasn’t a cowboy who wore the spurs around our farm. That honour went to a big, white rooster.
That bird earned my respect — or at least my fear. When he ruffled his neck feathers and flashed his amber eye, smart people like me headed for the nearest door.
He had once been a fluffy little chick, a benign source of pleasure for me to hold and admire. But then he started to grow and grow, and as he did, he began to exhibit a feisty nature my mother found appealing — so appealing she began to tease him just to see his reaction. They would engage in a little sparring match every morning when she went out to the woodpile, but once his adrenalin kicked in, anyone in the vicinity was fair game.
Every so often he would spy me on my swing down in the front yard and I would quickly stand up on the seat to avoid his onslaught.
When riled, he had a habit of picking up pebbles, then dropping them, as if reviewing his imaginary victories one by one. Deathly afraid that I might be the next casualty, I would yell for help.
One day, I was engaged in a competitive game of scrub baseball in our big front yard, and failed to notice the approach of my arch enemy.
Panic welled up within me and I let fly with the baseball bat. The rooster keeled over on the ground and we gathered around his body while deciding what to do. My playmates insisted there was but one course of action.
I would have to go in and confess my “fowl” deed.
In fear and trembling, I approached the back step only to hear my mother sharpening the butcher knife. She had observed the episode from the kitchen window and decided that now was as good a time as any for a pot of rooster noodle soup.
Much relieved, I went out to gather up the main ingredient.
That rooster was tougher than we thought. He not only survived the seemingly fatal blow but was back on his feet and ready for round two.
It came a few months later when a bad hail storm swept through, catching the rooster unaware. As he made a last-minute dash to safety, a hailstone caught him just below the comb and he collapsed, spurs up.
My mother started grumbling about it being too hot and muggy to make soup, but ever dutiful to her “waste not, want not” philosophy, she grudgingly conceded it would have to be done.
In the meantime, we all huddled together away from the windows for fear of breaking glass from the hail.
When the storm blew over we looked outside just in time to see the rooster regain his senses and wobble off to the barn.
We didn’t hear from him again until the next morning when he stepped forth as usual at the snap of sunrise to usher in the day. With feathers dried, and composure restored, he crowed loud and long and I was not surprised.
Destined to be the barnyard martyr, he had just escaped death twice in one summer, once by hail stoning and once by the barrel of a bat.