Our first batch of baby chicks grew into a fine flock of eight laying hens and one strutting Rhode Island Red rooster. The rooster was beautiful with his long iridescent tail feathers and bright red comb, he was also full of personality. We named him Randy. There were a couple of reasons for this name choice; the first was simply that I like alliterations, Randy the Rooster, sounds nice doesn’t it? The second was for the meaning. Without going into too much detail, he was an only rooster with eight hens worth of eggs to fertilize. He was a busy boy.
I didn’t know much about poultry at the time, I’m sure I still don’t compared to many farmers. I assumed Randy was representative of all roosters. He was good to his hens, kept a close watch while they scratched in the yard, and was fiercely protective. He would attack anyone who came within three feet of him or one of his flock, and I mean attack. He did not feint, he did not give fair warning. When he moved it was with intent to harm. He approached his prey in a head down, head-long charge that ended in a great leap of unfurled wings, spread claws, and spurs seeking out any piece of exposed flesh that they could find. I questioned his instincts. He attacked people, in particular the people that fed and watered him and his flock, but never attacked the dog. I guess he had some sense. I guess he was a good rooster. I did not like him.
I could usually fend him off with a booted foot, and though I did not particularly enjoy being repeatedly mauled by our crazed chicken, it wasn’t really my skin that I was most worried about. I had a son. My first child, who was just finding his balance, and was, of course, fascinated by the chickens. When we would play outside my son would toddle off in pursuit of one of the harmless hens. Then I would spot Randy, head down, one beady little eye locked on my baby. My son never got hurt. I was always close enough that I could scoop up my child and move to another part of the yard where we could play safely, for a while. That is until one of the hens came running after us, hoping for some food scraps, and then the cycle would repeat itself. We began frequenting the nearby park.
Then, one sunny spring day, my whole relationship with Randy changed. Our house at the time was set back on a heavily treed five acre lot which could be accessed by a single dead-end dirt road. It was quiet, peaceful, and we did not get a lot of traffic.
I was naturally a little uneasy when an unmarked van pulled into our long driveway, and then stopped in front of our house. A man stepped out and walked to the door, wearing what could have passed for a uniform. He knocked. I considered not opening the door, but since I had been watching from the front window, and our in-the-midst-of-being-remodeled house did not have blinds, or curtains, I kind of assumed he knew I was home.
I answered the door.
Our dog began barking and jumping on the child gate, straining to get at the stranger. While he’s actually quite harmless, and the worst he could do was lick the man to death, his bark sounds rather fierce. The man looked a little wary as he forged ahead in his attempt to sell me a vacuum. I half listened as I tried to hush the dog, whose barking was waking my napping child. While I concede that our house could have certainly benefited from his no doubt remarkable product, at that moment I would not have cared if it was made of solid gold. I wanted him to leave. I’m sure that he could sense this. When he finally came to the end of his pitch and I politely refused, he made a half-hearted attempt at sounding disappointed. His face was the picture of relief.
Just before he turned to go I saw Randy the Rooster walk along the front of the porch, behind the unwitting salesman. I saw his head down, his one beady eye locked on the stranger that dared encroach upon his territory. I said, and I quote, “Watch out for the rooster.”. The man looked at me as if I should be committed.
He turned to go, no doubt as eager to drive away as I was to see him go. As he stepped down off the porch and placed his foot on the driveway, Randy made his move. Our rooster took two running steps up the side of a small hillock and leaped. Iridescent red wings unfurled making him look two, no, three times as big. Sharp claws were pointed at the man’s chest, spurs extended; it was a thing of beauty.
The salesman jumped backwards, flailing with his hands as he tried to defend himself. Randy landed, and then leaped again. The man turned and ran. Randy went for the calves. A second man, who had wisely remained inside the vehicle, was doubled over in laughter. The salesman finally made it to the safety of his van, and as it pulled away I shut the door and picked up my child. I watched out the window as Randy calmly walked back to his hens, none of which had been anywhere near the porch, and began scratching through the dirt for bugs as if nothing untoward had happened.
That is the day I fell in love with Randy the Rooster.