Sunday, October 9, 2011
Tyson the Cowardly Chicken
White Oxley had purchased the rooster at a discount. "Well, there is one I can let go for half price," the salesman said.
He'd made the trip to Siloam Springs to find a replacement for his main rooster who'd fallen victim to a coyote. White hadn't been surprised after it happened. The old boy was past twelve and apparently didn't see very well. He'd guessed the cock mistook the coyote for one of his dogs. Most likely, Stumpy, who had somewhat of a coyote appearance, and liked to wander around the chicken yard looking for misplaced eggs. There was a young cockerel in the flock, but he wasn't quite up to speed for taking on the responsibilities of Head Rooster, so White made the buying trip to Arkansas.
Unfortunately, King George – that was the departed rooster's name – had come to tolerate Stumpy, probably because his repeated floggings of the dog didn't seem to deter the mutt's trespassing; and with the rooster's advancing years, keeping up the chicken yard policing activity came to be more trouble than it was worth. Funny, though, that old George couldn't tell the difference between a coyote and Stumpy, as the dog had only three and a half legs – losing the lower half of his left front one after stepping in a rat trap as a pup – and moved about with a pronounced hop. On the other hand, chickens weren't known for their intelligence.
Oxley eyed the chicken man suspiciously. He'd told him coming in he didn't want no dang high dollar rooster, and had turned down the first two prospects. "Why half price?" White asked.
The fowl in question didn't look like a half-price rooster. He sported a high comb and long bright red wattles. Head and neck feathers shined a reddish-golden; his body and leg feathers glinted in mottled blue and rust and green; those off his back flowed burgundy to red to orange; his tail feathers sprung high in black and blue-green arches. He was sure enough a handsome bird, and seemed to know it; strutting about the large cage, his head high, his beak slightly opened, his red eyes wide and fierce.
"He ain't much of a crower," the chicken man said. "Sounds sorta like a tornado siren with laryngitis."
White nodded. "What else?" he asked.
The man sighed and crossed his arms on his chest trying to decide the best way to say it. "There's some signs that this feller ain't very aggressive, you know, with the ladies."
"Whadda you mean?"
"I mean he has a tendency to get henpecked."
White took off his ball cap and scratched the top of his head. He studied the rooster in silence. "Well…" he said presently. "For the price I reckon I can live with that."
"Great!" the man said. "I'll go write him up." And hurried off toward the office.
After the fella got out of earshot, White turned to the caged rooster and muttered, "Henpecked, huh? Guess I know what that feels like."
Back at his farm, White was about to release the new rooster into the chicken yard when his grandson came running up. The boy was smart like his momma and ornery like his gramp. That made him White's favorite.
"Hey, Gramp," the boy said excitedly. "Who's this?" He jumped up onto the pickup's lowered tailgate peering into the cage.
"Ain't give him a name yet. Thought you might have one."
"Let's call him Tyson."
"Like the fighter?" White asked.
"The boxer," White answered. The boy gave his gramp a puzzled look. "Before your time, I guess," said White.
"No, I meant like the chicken mom buys at the store."
White grinned and nodded. "Seems about right." He opened the cage door and prodded the rooster out. "Welcome to your new harem, Tyson."
The rooster alit with some squawking, gathered himself, ruffled his feathers out some, did a little preening, then looked about. The group of hens gathered across the yard looking back at Tyson, muttering amongst themselves. The rooster raised his head high, puffed out his chest and strutted toward them. A fat old hen, white with brown neck feathers who they called Maybelline, walked out from the group and stopped in front of Tyson, cocking her head left, then right. The rooster threw back his head to crow, but only a scratchy screech came out. He stuck out his left wing, lowered his head and started waltzing in a circle in front of the hen, then put the right wing out and circled back, describing a figure eight. The big hen watched him for several seconds making several clucking comments during the dance. In the middle of Tyson's third circuit, Maybelline walked over and pecked him soundly on top of his head. Tyson squawked moving back a step or two, then turned and fled to a far corner of the yard, flapping atop a fence post.
"How much you pay for that rooster, Gramp?" the boy asked.
White would later reflect that, though tasty, Tyson was the most expensive fried chicken he'd ever et, even at half price.
You can read more about White Oxley in my novel Legends of Tsalagee.
My name is Phil Truman and I write novels.
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Legends of Tsalagee