Editor’s Note: I saved a chicken once. Back in 2009. See yesterday’s post. This is a story about how I tried to save another one but failed. As it turns out, not every chicken seeks salvation. Some will turn tail and run from it.
I can’t tell you why these things happen to me. Honestly. There I was just minding my own beeswax, driving back from Kennewick, Washington, taking the same exit I always take, the one there as you cross over Big River, that same river Lewis and Clark made famous.
Like many people I have come to loathe the exit because panhandlers sit curbside all hours of the day and night looking all forlorn and beat down. I think if I were a panhandler, I’d get me a silly outfit and a Dolly Parton wig, crank up the tunes and dance on the street corner. That way if I had to panhandle I’d at least have a good time at it and maybe cheer somebody in the process. If I could make people smile or laugh I might not feel so worthless about taking their money. I might feel like I earned it. But I’m not a panhandler so I probably shouldn’t write the “How To” book on that.
I was surprised, actually, to come down off that exit ramp and to find that there weren’t any panhandlers on the corner. Not a single one. And it was a nice day out, too. Great sunny weather. Not too hot. Not too cold. And the wind wasn’t ripping anyone’s ears off. That happens around here sometimes.
Instead there was a chicken.
A rooster to be exact.
What is the likelihood that a woman, or a man for that matter, would happen on a fowl gone awry twice in one lifetime, 2,700 miles and years apart?
First North Carolina.
That’s what I was thinking when I pulled my car off the roadway, for the second time in my lifetime, trying to figure out what to do about the chicken.
I mean rooster.
You should know that I am not one of those crazy animal lovers. I have a love-hate relationship with Poe, the beagle who bit off my nose, and Portia, the lab who splayed me out on the walking path, bruising my ribs for a week.
You will not find cute animal postings on my Facebook feed or my Instagram account or Twitter. I kill ants and spiders with random abandon. I would run over a snake without any pangs of guilt whatsoever. And neighbors will attest that they often hear me yell at barking dogs to Hush it!
But when it comes to chickens, well, I don’t know what to say. Maybe it is in my DNA.
After all, as you can clearly see, my great-aunt Lucille Shropshire Christian had a thing for chickens, too.
People who have read Mother of Rain may wonder about my fixation with chickens. I know that opening scene creeped book reviewer Jackie Cooper out.
Fair warning to Jackie and all others: There are chickens featured in the forthcoming Burdy, too.
I wish I could explain to you the guilt I feel when I happen upon a feathered friend who has lost their way. It’s like I’ve put baby Moses in the basket and sent him downstream at midnight.
Chickens gone prodigal worry me something fierce.
I mean rooster.
So there we sat, me and the rooster, staring at one another. Neither one of us very trusting of the other.
I called Tim, first, of course. I knew he wouldn’t likely answer his phone. Tim keeps his phone on vibrate and in his coat pocket. So he never hears it ring and never feels the vibration. He only knows I’ve called when he takes his phone out of his pocket, which is infrequently. The kids and I get after him all the time about his dumb phone and his never answering his dumb phone but, truthfully, I think Tim does that just so he doesn’t have to be bothered by us.
He didn’t answer.
I called my son next.
He’s like his dad.
He didn’t answer.
So I tried to think of a person I knew who might be able to help me figure out what to do about the chicken.
I mean rooster.
I called my friend Angela Pursel.
Angela has a farm, of sorts. Her husband Cody built the Taj Mahal of chicken coops. Or at least that’s what Angela is always claiming. Their daughter Mel raises chickens and sells the eggs. If you want some farm fresh eggs get a hold of Angela.
Me? I just wanted Cody to come help me rescue the chicken.
I mean rooster.
Angela actually did answer the phone, but when I told her why I was calling, she burst out laughing at me.
The loudest laugh of all. And last night when she came to a meeting at my house, she brought a drumstick.
One drumstick. She bought it especially for me.
So she could laugh at me some more.
Everybody is a comic these days.
Angela told me in no uncertain terms that Cody would not help me save a chicken.
Especially if that chicken was a rooster.
She claimed a demon-possessed rooster tried to turn her into Linda Blair. Cody had to call out The Exorcist to save Angela.
“Roosters are mean,” Angela insisted. “Stay in the car. Roll up the windows. And under no circumstances should you get out of your car and try and save a rooster. He will kill you.”
Angela has a theater background. She can be a little dramatic sometimes.
I didn’t believe her. Still, for her peace of mind, I got back on the road and drove on home.
Stephan was sitting on the back porch.
“Get a towel and come with me,” I said.
“Okay,” Stephan replied. I told you he’s like his father. He’s learned it is best not to ask questions when I am on a mission from God.
He got in the car. “Where are we going?”
“To save a chicken,” I said. “I mean a rooster.”
I filled him in on how the rooster was in that same spot where the panhandlers usually sit. I told him it wasn’t safe, that the rooster was going to get run over and I just couldn’t let that happen and he had to help me save the rooster.
He gently explained that it isn’t all that easy to round-up a rooster. It’s not like the dogs. You can’t just open the car door and expect the rooster to hop in. In fact, he warned me, the rooster is going to run away from you.
Into traffic? I asked.
Maybe, he said.
Well, we have to save him, I replied. You have to help.
There was a line of cars at the exit ramp. Most people in the cars thought I was crazier than the rooster.
“He’ll be okay,” said one woman called out as I tried corralling the chicken, I mean rooster, toward Stephan. “Look at his feet. See how sharp those are? He can take care of himself.”
“You think so?” I asked.
“I know so,” she said.
I didn’t believe her. She was just thinking I was one of those freaky animal-loving people, which I am clearly not.
“Is that your rooster?” another motorist asked.
“No,” I replied. Did he really think I looked like the kind of woman who would abandon a rooster on the roadway? Geeish.
It was obvious this rooster didn’t want to be saved. Sometimes those who need saving the most, avoid it at all costs. This was one of those times.
That rooster got one look at Stephan and he took off running across the road. Stephan, the good boy that he is, did his darndest to catch that rooster.
Well, they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go.
They ran so fast the hounds couldn’t catch ’em
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
Last we seen ’em the runaway rooster was headed east on that old lonesome highway. You might want to keep an eye out for him, just in case he decides he wants to hitch a ride.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain and the forthcoming sequel Burdy. (Mercer University Press).