In the heat of the afternoon I cleaned the chicken coop and its surrounding grounds – it is one of the methods to keep down the fly population, and it is a labor of love. The chickens did their thing as I did mine. Occasionally I’ll see a chase when a rooster haunts after his favorite gal. Sometimes all of the roosters will gang up on one hen. I haven’t gotten used to this behavior, and instinctively I want to interfere, but refrain from it. I really don’t understand their chicken-logic. I think it’s a territorial thing when the dominant rooster will not accept being cuckold by a lesser chicken in the order of chickendom.
This afternoon, “Henri” was the energetic one and reigned terror in the roost. I always watch my back when I’m working in the garden. In the past, he’s attempted attacking me with his dance and jumps that aim his talons at me. I meet him straight on. If I back down then I’m sunk forever. Despite my bravado, it still scares the heck out of me. Lucky for me, I have an ally in “Number One” (that is his real name), the main rooster who keeps order in his domain. He’s smart enough to know not to bite the hands that feed him. “Number One” will peck and chase away “Henri” as soon as he sniffs “Henri’s” evil thoughts. But, even with “Number One” nearby, I still keep something at hand to fend off “Henri” should he have it in his cuckoo-brain to go-for-it.
As I raked and raked the ground while keeping an eye out for “Henri”, I wondered how pleasant it would be without him around. I’ve threatened him numerous times that he would make a tasty pot of Coq-au-vin if he keeps up with his nasty behavior. After 3 years of living in the near-terror of having this nasty rooster around, today I finally asked myself more than once if it would be nicer without him around.
The action of raking and raking, then dumping the manure mixed with dirt into the garbage can, and sweating in my farmer’s uniform of coat and boots under the blistering sun, I started to melt.
“Wouldn’t it be nice?” I pondered. “Wouldn’t it?”
I questioned my own thoughts. The little urban farm looked cleaner as I moved from one side of it to the other. My thoughts became less clouded as my body drenched in sweat was refreshingly fatigued. As I gathered my garden tools and walked out of the little farm I felt less inclined to be rid of “Henri”. I came to the conclusion that without characters like “Henri” life would be less interesting, if not only less hazardous. Another day, and again, “Henri” and I have come to a truce. I went inside, peeled off my wet clothes and showered away the dirt and salty sweat.
Without the “Henris” and “Number Ones” vying for the top roost and the best girls, then my chickens would just be hollow zombies. There wouldn’t be that tension and heat that sizzles the mystery of what it is that we do.