Friday, May 20, 2011
Roosters can be a real Cogburn
Memories. Some are good, some not so good. Most of us focus on the good ones. I know I do. As in the song now playing, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, some memories bring you back to that tender time in your life where memories are really all mixed up – The good ones, the bad ones, and how you choose to remember them.
I love stories like Babe or Charlotte’s Web. I can identify with those who champion the little pig, or any runt. When I was a little girl, we had a small farm. Nothing big, you understand. Just for our personal sustenance. Two particular instances stand out in my memory . . . besides growing our own veggies, we had a flock of chickens with the necessary nasty rooster and a pig that rivaled Wilbur.
I love chickens. If you have ever had chickens you can understand the story of Henny Penny and the sky is falling. They actually do run around at times as if the sky is literally is falling on them. Now as for that nasty rooster. Hmmm. What shall I say about him? Well, have you ever seen the movie True Grit with John Wayne? His name was Rooster Cogburn. I am assuming he was nicknamed that because he was not always in good humor, could be quite surly and meant business. While I loved the hens and biddies, I always disliked gathering eggs because that Cogburn of a Rooster would try to flog me. As I recall he was a bantie rooster of unknown origin. Wellsir, even at my tender age I knew his origin was really from somewhere south of Heaven. He was a devil to be certain. He would keep one eye on the ground, pretending to be foraging, the other on me, lulling me into a safe place in my mind, all the while timing his attack.
My solice during this particular period was taking care of Red, our pig. My Daddy always told me to never name livestock. But I couldn’t help but name that pig Red. He was a creamy color piglet and as he grew, he developed big red splotches like giant freckles, eventually becoming soft red.
I loved that piglet. I fed him, well actually back then we called it slopping, and I would rub his belly with a stick. When I would go out back, Red would come running. Once in the proximity of me, he would then roll over and wait for the belly scratching to commence. I would rub his soft ears and tell him all my woes with the rooster. Red, always the good listener would snort in agreement. I knew a gal in algebra who, when she laughed, sounded just like Red’s snort. Wonder where is she today and if she still snorts?
Oops, back to that rooster. One day, as I was first feeding the chicks so that I could gather their eggs, that rooster was doing his foraging as mentioned earlier. I was a much wiser little girl by then. I knew I needed to be fleet of foot and quick with the gathering.
When I was almost out of the gate, thinking I was safe, here came that rooster. He pummeled me on my legs like a bowling ball. I dropped the eggs and tried to cover my face and hair. Daddy happened to be out back and witnessed that episode. He calmly went in the house, gathered his shotgun and came outside. He let the air out of that rooster. That is one reason why my Daddy has always been my Hero. He picked the carcass up and disposed of it. Like I said, my hero. Daddy, always the stoic said,
“That rooster outlived his usefulness. I can get another not so mean.” However, after all these years and many other chickens, I have never found one that was anything but, well . . . rooster-ish!
Daddy was not the only one to observe my last shellacking of that fowl bird. So did Red.
My pig did more than snort. He screamed. Have you ever heard a pig scream? I was Red’s friend and number one belly scratcher. He really didn’t care what I smelled like after wallowing in all that chicken mess. He loved me even more I liked to think.
We had Red for almost two years. He grew so large that he almost outgrew his own pen.
When you lived on a farm, you realize that livestock is often sold or traded. I came home from school and my Granny told me that Red was gone, so I didn’t need to slop him.
I cried for my friend. A few nights later, we had pork chops for dinner. Daddy and I couldn’t eat once we discovered that our meal was Red. Mom was the only one who enjoyed her dinner that night. I realized that was why you should never name your livestock.
I really don’t know how I got started on this essay, or really how to end it. But like I said, some memories are good, some are bad and some just meld together, like those halcyon summer days, gathering eggs, fighting that ornery rooster and making friends with a pig. I recently saw an ad on Craig’s List for a small pot bellied pig. Free to a good home. Likes his belly rubbed. Aw, Red. I can’t convince Luscious that I need a pig. Maybe one day.