Feathers and Fuss

Faceoff with a feisty rooster.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY TIM FOLEY

One evening after supper, I grabbed an empty quart jar, slipped on my flip-flops, and drove down to my sister’s house to harvest some coreopsis seeds. Her car was not in the driveway, and the porch light told me they would be away until after dark. I knew she wouldn’t mind, so I began plucking the long, dry seeds and plopping them into my jar. The sun was sinking behind the pines, bringing relief to the hot day. I took my time, enjoying the playfulness of the two cats beside the flowerbed and the soft clucks of the chickens as they feasted on insects around the yard. It was the picture of peacefulness—until I noticed Roostie eyeing me.

He was a tall, proud Buff Orpington who had the air of a ruler, and his confidence was a little unnerving. He kept his hens close with muffled clucks and subtle struts, never taking his eye off me for long. We watched each other while we worked. Eventually I sensed that we had both come to an unspoken agreement to stay on our own sides of the flowerbed.

My jar was about a quarter of the way full when I got into some ants. I looked down and they were all over my feet. Naturally I tried to stomp them off. As I leaned over to brush them with my hand, my apron flapped like the cape of a matador and ignited fury in the hot-blooded bird.

I snatched a gladiolus out of the ground to defend myself. It went limp.

He crowed full volume and charged me like a bull.

I jerked upright and, not knowing what else to do, screamed. It didn’t faze him. He kept coming full throttle.

In a brief moment of indignation, I remembered my seeds. I held my Mason jar tight, puffed up my (imagined) feathers, and stomped toward Roostie. He had some nerve!

All of that happened in about two seconds, and then he was upon me. He grabbed the back of my leg, which means I must have turned to run at the last second. I screamed again. He let go only because he hadn’t been able to dig in good. In the split second it took him to regain his footing, I snatched a gladiolus out of the ground to defend myself. It gave him pause. I thought he was backing down, but he was only calculating the effectiveness of my weapon. I swooshed it at him in a threatening way. It went limp. His beady little eyes went from my listless sword up to my own eyes. He saw fear. There was only one thing for me to do. I threw it at him and ran to the shed.

Once inside I looked for a weapon that would knock that smirk off his beak. I grabbed the rake and paused, trembling with a mixture of fear and rage much like a soldier about to charge out of the trenches. I kicked open the door. Roostie was there with his hens. I showed him my rake and was satisfied to see what I thought was a new respect gleaming in his eye. I confidently walked back to my position at the coreopsis plants, determined not to let this little skirmish derail my ambition.

In a few minutes I had my jar filled about halfway. Unfortunately I was not enjoying myself as much. My ant bites were burning like fire, and I was still mad. The rake lay near enough for me to retrieve if Roostie came back.

Roostie must have been brooding, too, because he did return, demanding satisfaction. He rushed at me, sparking a fresh terror that triggered the instinct to flee. I resisted. My heart raced as I stood my ground. I put down my Mason jar, picked up the rake, and waited for him to get close enough so that my weapon would have optimum impact. It was like a scene from Braveheart.

There was a narrow window of opportunity to carry out my plan. I held back until Roostie was almost at my feet. If I swung too soon, I’d miss my one chance. If I waited a moment too long, he would overtake me. But the timing of my swing was perfect. The rake scooped Roostie up and flung him backwards about six feet before he tucked and rolled like a trained professional. He was back on his feet in seconds. I knew I must take advantage of the momentum I had gained. Yelling, I charged him with my rake raised, ready to strike again. I had murder in my heart. I would have killed him, but stopped abruptly when I noticed Roostie had taken one step back.

I could hardly believe it. I lowered the rake a little, and we stood facing each other for a moment. I would show him mercy if he would walk away. We were speaking with our eyes again. His internal struggle must have been enormous, but wisdom prevailed. He stepped away and called his hens to follow.

I breathed a sigh of relief and returned the rake to the shed. I cautiously peeked out of the shed before I slipped out, picked up my jar of seeds, and headed back to my car, wondering if a jar of flower seeds was really worth all the feathers and fuss.


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