“Would you mind if I photographed your rooster?” A man in the process of setting up a tripod stood at the edge of the road with a very expensive-looking camera dangling from his neck.
“I don’t mind,” I said, “but you’ll have to ask Winston. And I would advise that you ask him from a distance and please use your zoom lens because I can’t guarantee your safety.”
I was trying to determine whether Winston was having a good day or a bad day. “I’ll supervise, just in case you need help,” I told the camera-man as I settled down on the front step.
Winston was a rooster. Not an ordinary rooster by any stretch of the means but more of an odd combination of stunning, regal looks coupled with an on-again, off-again personality of the infamous Cujo, subject of Stephen King’s novel about a rabid St. Bernard.
Winston patrolled the perimeter of our farmyard with the same dedication of a Nazi soldier bucking for a promotion – nothing escaped his eye and his harem of hens scratched and pecked about in the dirt with no fear from the skies above or the road running past the farm. They had complete faith in their man, Winston the magnificent.
I had a love-hate relationship with Winston. He respected me for the most part and left me alone whereas my poor husband had to use military tactics to get from the house to his shop. It was quite hilarious watching him do the “observe, grab weapon (usually rake or pitchfork), run, and if spotted by Winston, run faster and dive headfirst into the first building while slamming door.”
About once a week, I was reminded that I too, was a mere pawn in Winston’s game of domination. He had the courtesy of giving me advance warning if I made the mistake of turning my back – bunnies thump when there is danger and Winston thumped as well. Then he lowered his head, tucked his wings and became a chicken bullet as he broke the sound barrier, reaching speeds not normal for a bird on the run, arriving about mid-calf level and somehow managing to turn himself to make contact with feet and spurs first. If you were weapon-less, you might feel you had been hit by a train adorned with throwing stars.
Remember the Looney Tunes cartoon (Bully For Bugs) where Bugs Bunny is the unwilling matador forced to fight Toro the bull? The bull had his own sharpening wheel for his horns and I somehow had the feeling that our Winston the rooster, had one as well. Every morning just before light, I’m sure he would drag that wheel out from some hiding place in the barn and sharpen up his spurs until the points glistened like diamonds in the sun. Maybe I’m exaggerating but keep in mind folks that this was no normal farmyard fowl.
Winston was massive, he was beautiful and he had a most entertaining personality. He may have been a tad dangerous to an unsuspecting interloper on his territory but we never worried about our hens. We watched him pummel a huge raven into the ground for getting too close to one of his harem and there was never a question as to who was going to come out of that fight the worse for wear. That raven still flies over once in awhile, missing a large piece of his wing and always going to a higher elevation while picking up airspeed in case Winston should spot him.
But he has nothing to fear. Winston isn’t here anymore and we miss him. It took an irresponsible dog owner to bring to an end a life that was the source of many good conversations and a human/chicken relationship that can only be described as respectful and oddly loving, as he was family to us.
Winston did a wonderful job of protecting his ladies from the dog on two occasions but the third attack resulted in his death while the hens tried to make their escape. Apparently he put up a magnificent fight but a rooster, despite his size, strength and sharpened spurs, is no match for an out-of-control hunting dog. Hearing the owner say “It was just a chicken” was like a knife in our hearts.
Out of the carnage came a young chick – hiding in the barn in the topmost rafter was a little rooster whom, as it turns out, is the spitting image of his Dad, Winston. He survived and occasionally reminds us of his lineage, smaller than his pop but just as good-looking. He has a twinkle in his beady little chicken eye and I think I heard at 4 a.m. this morning the quiet purr of a sharpening wheel in the barn. That’s how to love a rooster.
“Winston” © Wanda Lambeth
Recent Wanda Lambeth Articles:
- Grieving Mothers On A Mission – My Personal Story
- Sharing The Warmth
- Other Worlds
- Who Shrank The Kayak?
- Six Days