Ode to an ole rooster

Published 2:00 am Saturday, July 18, 2015

Waking at the crack of dawn to the crowing of a rooster gave me a strong sense of place and a real feeling of belonging.

My grandmother’s chicken yard was just down the hill from our house, and it provided us with eggs for breakfast and just-wrung fried chicken for Sunday dinner. It also provided us with a playground with many possibilities.

The limbs of the pecan tree hung over the chicken house and were a ready-made ladder to the tin roof.

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My grandmother had a small peach orchard so my friend Betty Kay and I decided to pick some of the peaches and dry them on the tin top of the chicken house. We peeled the knotty peaches with our pocketknives, laid them on the roof and covered them with a flour sack. A few days later, we went back and our peaches were gone. The old rooster and hens were the thieves, and they had to be punished.

We got our BB guns and climbed the tree to the tin roof and unloaded on the chickens and the ole rooster. We caused quite a commotion in the chicken yard.

A few days later, I heard my grandmother tell Dora, the dear, sweet lady who worked for her, that she had found her rooster dead that morning.

She didn’t say “shot dead” but I knew. We’d killed the rooster.

Back then children could kill things in a lot of different ways. Mama was always saying, “You could kill your little brother pushing him off the porch like that.” “You could kill somebody holding them under the water like that.” “You can’t put a rope around anybody’s neck. You can kill them like that.”

But, the rooster was already killed, and I was so scared that my tongue was tied up. That was my first knowledge of the unknown tongue. I didn’t know what I was saying. I was just praying up a storm and in the unknown tongue –“Gee whah ah whah” or something like that.

I was scared of what God was going to do to me for killing the rooster. God didn’t put up with stuff. He could make sores come all over you and send grasshoppers to eat up everything in the garden, and then you’d starve to death and die. Our Sunday school teacher told us about that.

Every time I thought about that ole dead rooster my stomach would knot up and my mouth would go dry. I might just up and die myself.

Late one afternoon, I walked with Dora up to the barn to milk the cow. While she milked, I got up enough courage to ask her. “If somebody shot a rooster with a BB gun, do you think the rooster would die?”

Dora laughed. “No, honey. You can’t kill a mean ol’ rooster with one a-them play guns. Roosters get too mean to go on living or too old. They don’t live hardly no time no way.”

Well, I’d done all that worrying and praying for nothing.

A short time later, my grandmother got a new rooster, and part of its job was to wake everybody up in the morning. Life was back to normal.