Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rudy The Rooster

My first pet came from the Baptist church on Easter Sunday. At the end of the Sunday School we were all surprised when the "helpers" brought in trays of chirping little brown bags each with several "vent" holes. Each one of us was given one of the chirping bags and a bag of food. We were told that they were baby chicks. The girls got pink ones and, of course, the boys got a blue chick. I immediately fell in love with the soft baby chick. On the ride home we discussed how unfair it would to raise it all by itself.

The following day we took a ride into town to the feed and grain store. The smell of hay, feed and grain was like perfume. Uncle walked me over to a large area that I thought contained at least a "million" baby chicks. Some were busy pecking the floor, some just simply mad, and some were dipping their tiny heads into the water feeders. I was told that I could pick out twenty of them to take home. It was exciting as I pointed to certain ones that for some reason had struck the fancy of a five-year-old. So we loaded our precious cargo and headed home. In no time Uncle had cleared a place and installed long lights from the ceiling above an area that was now fenced in the old building. This garage, of sorts, contained Uncle’s workshop, and the Hudson on the days we had no business in town. There was even a small room in the back for Uncle’s brother when he came to visit in the summer. A portion of the building was now home to twenty-one chirping baby chicks. Even with the make shift pen the building was still not crowded. The lights came on and we began placing the chicks in their new home while Uncle explained that baby chicks needed to be kept warm until all of their feathers came in. When the last of the peeps were placed in the pen, Uncle announced that he was giving me a position of authority. I had been chosen to "feed" the chicks twice a day. Their little lives were in my hands. It would be a chore that I took very seriously and enjoyed.

When the chicks saw me coming their chirping intensified and they would come running in my direction. I would take the metal grain bucket, and step over the small fence being careful not to step on the chicks. I would dip my hand and grab a handful of grain and send it sprawling to the floor, all the while yelling: "hear chick . . . chick . . . chick . . . !" Just like Uncle had taught me. The chicks would scramble in the direction of the grain. I dipped my hand, once more, and sent the grain sprawling to the floor in another direction. Some of the chicks would leave the first location for the second. This ritual continued until the grain was gone.

I have no idea what length of time it took for the metamorphous to be complete but gradually my beautiful pink chick turned into a rooster. He was a brilliant white with a deep red comb on top of his head. It seemed, compared to my size, that he was a least two feet tall. Instead of being grateful that he resided in a pen of brown chicks, he developed a "nasty" personality. Without reason instead of being happy to see me, because I brought food, he enjoyed chasing and pecking at my feet and ankles. Even with long pants I could still feel the peck of his beak. "Rudy" the rooster would force his temperament on Uncle or anyone who was brave enough to cross his boundary. The chicks had long since been moved out of the old building into an area beside the barn which allowed the "ladies" to roost within the barn. On most mornings I would accompany Uncle on his daily "egg gathering" chore. Most times Rudy paid us no mind and was content to stay outside but there were times that he had to shut Rudy in/out of the barn. He was just very unpredictable.

Uncle, Aunt and my sister had just finished an early dinner one perfect summer evening. I slipped into my long pants and tennis shoe attire that I had reserved for the "feedings" just in case. Once I reached the coup I quickly crossed the area and shut the door to the barn. Rudy was no where to be seen. "Good . . . " I was glad that I did not have to deal with him. I still liked watching all the chickens enjoying their meal. Once the grain bucket was emptied, I opened the door to the barn and ran for the gate as I had done many times. Once safe, outside the fence, I waited. I was sure that Rudy would make his usual appearance. As seconds ticked by I began to wonder if something was wrong. No Rudy. I waited a few more moments, still no Rudy. Armed with a broom that I now carried for protection, I swung open the front door of the barn. I quickly surveyed the area. I heard no squawks nor saw Rudy. I went out the door into the coup wary and sure that Rudy was laying in wait, waiting to attack. I quickly surveyed the area. Rudy was gone. Suddenly from around the corner of the barn there appeared a transformed Rudy. He was so white that he had changed into many colors, blue, green, red feathers all intermixed. I ran for the gate barely remembering to shut it. "Uncle." I yelled as my feet pounded the path that carried me from the barn to the house. "Come quick . . . ," I yelled. "Rudy’s changed colors!" I was breathless with excitement or fear I didn’t know which. "What are you saying?" Asked Uncle who was now standing. In between breaths I repeated what I had said. "Rudy was so white that he changed colors!" Uncle had a perplexed look. He quickly crossed the patio and went into the house and returned with a gun in his hand. "Show me.." He said as we walked toward the barn. About ten feet from the coup Uncle begin to laugh. "There ..." I said, pointing in the direction of the transformed Rudy. "That’s not Rudy ..." said Uncle, "that’s a Chinese Peasant ...and good eating if I remember!" He raised the gun "No!" I screamed, "you’ll hurt him..!" The bird suddenly turned away from us and took flight. Uncle and I both watched in awe. "That was not Rudy." Uncle said softly. I felt hot wet tears fill my eyes and overflow. I did not know that Rudy could fly. "Look ...!" Uncle said, pointing to the huge oak tree. There came the arrogant Rudy squawking and strutting like he had no worries in the world. So Rudy and the Chinese Pheasant had been spared another day.

In the days that followed Rudy’s attacks became so violent that I was unable to "sweep" him hard enough, with the broom to do any good other than to make him more angry. His pecks at my ankles more often then not, drew blood. One day I decided that I had had enough. I asked Aunt if I could borrow the metal tube from the old vacuum. Armed with this "metal bat" I felt fearless. I grabbed the bucket of grain with one hand and my new weapon in the other. I no sooner had begun feeding when Rudy appeared. I watched as he screeched his usual warning. I sat the pail down, grabbed the metal tube with my other hand not taking my eyes off of him. I stood my ground this time not letting Rudy intimidate me as he usually did. He came closer. He was within range. I drew the tube back. My swing was a cross between a batter and golfer’s swing. Rudy came closer. I swung the tube with everything I had. It caught him on his side. He rolled several times and all was quiet. I was sure that I had killed him. I wasn’t sure whether I was glad or sad. I walked over to where he lay. I bent over. I saw no blood but I knew that I had landed a hard blow. All of a sudden Rudy sprung to life madder than I had ever seen him...I ran for the gate in the fence. Rudy was following closing the distance. I barely made it through the gate. Rudy squawked and scratched creating a dust cloud.

From that day forward I would not venture into the coup unless Rudy was busy in the barn. It became a race between the two of us. Could I open the gate cross the small area and shut the door before Rudy realized I was there? I told myself, that I did not care that Rudy was not allowed to join the others in the breakfast and dinner buffet. There was enough grain left that he could eat the scraps of what the others had left after I had left the area.

It was a sad Saturday when Uncle announced that Rudy had simply "stepped over the line" and something had to be done. I knew, without words, that Uncle meant that Rudy should join us for Sunday dinner. Not really "join" us but rather "was" to be our Sunday dinner. While some of me was sad, I quickly reasoned that I was more scared of him and that I would not miss him. I nodded in agreement. The deed would be done. So before we began our Sunday dinner, our prayer not only thanked God but Rudy as well for the food that we were about to receive. Within moments we realized that Rudy was so "tough" that we could hardly chew. Uncle placed Rudy’s leg back on his plate and announced with a twinge of sadness in his voice: "Rudy’s had last laugh and won the last race after all!"

ROOSTER & chicken kitchen decor SALT AND PEPPER SHAKERSCERAMIC ROOSTER CANDLEChaney Instruments Acu-Rite 01733 12.5-inch Rooster Thermometer

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