By: Clint Calhoun
In the last issue of the Mountain Breeze, I wrote about a very fond memory of mine pertaining to growing up out in the country. As I got to thinking about that particular article and the direction I could have taken it, it occurred to me that I have several memories related to barnyard chickens, some of which are quite funny to me. I find as I get older, and for the record I’m not old, some of my childhood memories are not quite as clear as they used to be and I find that when I do reflect on a particular memory, others tend to come flooding back as well.
One particular memory that came back was this one time when I was visiting my grandparents on the lower end of the county. My Papaw Allen always had cows and chickens and he had a great big ol’ cow pasture that my brothers and my many cousins would play in. It was not uncommon to strike up an impromptu baseball game in the cow pasture. We would use dried cowpies for bases, and it certainly made it extra challenging when you had big wet ones within the base line or in the outfield that you not only had to dodge but had to prevent the ball from getting stuck in as well, but I digress.
Anyway, on one particular Sunday afternoon, I followed my Papaw down to the chicken lot. He always kept about ten to fifteen chickens, mostly hens so that he always had plenty of fresh eggs. When the population would get a little unmanageable, he would start thinning the numbers. Sometimes he would give some away, others would go into the frying pan. He had previously given my brother and me two hens and a rooster which didn’t work out too well. One hen died within a week of getting her, a fox got the other one, and the poor rooster was all alone and got bullied when we tried to introduce him to my Papaw Calhoun’s chickens. Anyway, I helped Papaw Allen gather the eggs and spied a pretty white rooster with black wings and a dark green tail. Papaw saw me watching the rooster and told me if I could catch him, I could have him. Well, what eight-year old kid could pass up that kind of offer?
I spent the next ten minutes chasing that rooster all around the pasture while Papaw finished gathering eggs and feeding the other chickens who weren’t worried about some crazy kid chasing them. That rooster was quick to say the least. He would duck and dodge every time I got close to him and take off running in a flurry of cackling and clucking. He would run behind this big oak tree and then take off when I got close to him. Well as you can imagine, I finally got tired of chasing that stupid bird around. I didn’t say anything about that rooster being tired though.
I saw my mom coming down the hill from the house to get me so that we could go home and so I abandoned the chase and started up the hill. I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye and quickly realized that the chase was not over. Hot on my heels with fire in his eyes was that rooster, ready to give as good as he got. I took off, running as fast as I could go to get away from him. I would zig, he would zag. I would take ten steps, he would take twenty. I was of course pretty tired by this time, and pretty desperate. I started crying because I knew what that rooster was going to do to me if he caught me and it was not going to be good. So, I’m running towards my mom, bawling like a heifer in a hailstorm, when suddenly, out of nowhere there was my Papaw. The whole time, he’s yelling, “Turn on him Clint! Turn on him!” I’m thinking, “Yeah right!” as I’m about to be destroyed. I would have never known that anybody could move as fast as my Papaw did that day. He saw that I was in trouble and he headed the rooster off at the pass. Just about the time that rooster was about to jump on me, he reached out and kicked that rooster across the pasture as if it were a football. Once the rooster came back down to earth, he tore off across the pasture and disappeared into the chicken house.
By the time I reached the security of my mom’s arms, my Papaw was there. He pulled me over to him and put his arm around me and asked me if I was okay. I told him I was and he explained to me that when an old rooster chases you, you can’t turn your back on them or they will sneak up on you and get you. Lesson learned! Not only did I learn to never turn my back on a rooster, I learned that I probably didn’t need to be chasing roosters, or anything else for that matter. Of course, Papaw got a rich laugh out of it and I laugh about it now as I think about my childhood and the time I spent with my grandparents, knowing how much they loved their grandkids.
I guess there are probably some deeper lessons that could be learned from this story. Don’t bite off more than you can chew for one thing. Another lesson might be never turn your back on a problem, because the problem might sneak up on you and create a mess. That’s the great thing about life. It’s full of lessons that we have the opportunity to learn every day. I’m so thankful for a childhood that was ripe with adventure and character-shaping opportunities.
Until next time!
Clint Calhoun is a naturalist and biologist and has worked in Hickory Nut Gorge for over 20 years. He is currently the Environmental Management Officer for the Town of Lake Lure. Check out Clint’s blog at http://clintcalhounadventures.blogspot.com.