categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside / Movies
Click above [>] to hear Mighty crow, and to see him strut his stuff.
Our beloved rooster, Mighty, a handsome barred rock, has died. He started life as a chick among chicks, but slipped on newspaper bedding (we didn’t realize that newspaper is too slick for chicks), damaging his feet early on. And then, we noticed, he was far smaller than the other birds. We babied him, thought him a girl. Elysia named him Carmen, as he sang a lot more than the others. About the time the pullets began laying their first eggs, we noticed that Carmen was growing. Soon, he was the biggest bird in the yard, half again as large as everyone else. He grew a magnificent plume of a tail. And he grew spurs at his ankles. And with those sharp thorns he came after us when we went to tend the coop. With them, he held the dog, Baila, at bay. He mated with the pullets, frequently, a process that looked like a stomping and a squashing, but which is known in ornithology circles as a cloacal kiss. His carriage was erect. His wattles were elegant, but froze some in winter. The feathers of his neck were subtly layered in black and white. He was a one-man op-art painting. Elysia renamed him Mighty Waddles: that foot injury. Soon, however, he was merely Mighty. First to the food! Last out the door! Irritable as my mother on a bad day, 1967. He’d peck at the ground threateningly to let you know he saw you. Don’t fuck with Mighty! Under his feathers he had tattoos. One was an anchor, another was a handgun. BORN TO CROW across his chest. The dog thought the protection was a game and played with the cocky bastard for hours on end. Matter of only a few months, Mighty just stood by while Baila sniffed his butt. They began to share the dog yard peaceably, the kind of barnyard friends you see in cartoons. (Once I looked and saw Baila sleeping in the grass, Mighty standing watch.) If I didn’t deviate from the normal
coop tending, he left me to my chores. But if I so much as hesitated, he’d come after me. Occasionally he’d sneak up behind. He bit my hand twice. He ripped my blue jeans with his spurs.
But only once. Because, well, I kicked him clear across across the pen I’d built. He came back after me and darn if I didn’t kick him across the pen again. That was enough. Pecking order established.
I started carrying a broom to remind him who was head rooster, patted him with it friendly, but also patted him where I wanted him to go, steered him this way, steered him that, kinda fun. He was remarkably strong.
Like the rest of us, Mighty mellowed in his late months. If he heard talking, he flapped his wings and crowed. Any commotion at all, he crowed. He crowed the dawn. He crowed the dog barking. He crowed the mailman. He crowed all comers. He crowed when I put the barn light on,
middle of the night. But it wasn’t a very loud crow, and never annoying, not like I worried when we first figured out who he was.
The other morning, a cold one, I found him dead. Just like that. Not the first bird we’ve lost, and not the last. But the first rooster. The invincible rooster. He crows for thee. The Mighty protector, always between his hens and danger. No idea what got him. Illness? Apoplexy? There may have been an encounter with a fox, some private injury. We’ll never know.
And we’ll never forget! Goodbye Mighty, goodbye. You weren’t even three years old. Mighty, we hardly knew ye.
The newest chicks come April 26, just six of them, and with luck, one will be a cockerel. We may increase the odds by adding one un-sexed chick to the order. Once, we thought we didn’t want a rooster. But a rooster is a great friend to have.