Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The rooster is growing on me




I confess that the rogue rooster who lives in the canyon my house overlooks and enters the urban landscape each morning to crow from sidewalks and fences has begun to grow on me.

This morning, I woke before the rooster to finish my income taxes. About 6 a.m., I realized I had yet to hear the rooster, who has returned to greeting the day in hours that begin with 4.

If I'm deep asleep, I don't hear his first calls, but by 5 a.m., my sleep is light enough to be awakened by this nature-provided alarm.

So, when I did not hear him at 6 a.m. this morning and realized I could not remember whether I heard him on Monday, my first thought was: O my gosh, some neighbor really did have coq au vin for Easter dinner!

I have come to realize that I like hearing the rooster in the morning as much as I enjoy the call of owls at night -- a much less frequent occurrence, but always a welcome lullaby.

My only previous experience with roosters came on daytime visits to Aunt Mary and Uncle Brother's place outside Jacksboro, Texas. They always had a rooster and some hens and, for a time, a longhorn steer.

I probably saw a rooster in my youth, too, because my great-grandmother's home had a hen house. I don't remember the rooster. I remember the hens. I didn't visit often, but I have a crisp memory of watching my great-grandmother scatter feed for the hens and then give me a handful to scatter to the wind. I remember waiting outside the hen house while she collected eggs.

These are memories from when I was five or six, because Mamie lived with her daughters for the last few years of her life after her husband died.

My memories of their place, though, are vivid still.

And the rooster takes me back there.
And the rooster makes me want some hens.

I wonder how long it would take for chicks to grow to hens and how long before there would be eggs to collect. And I wonder whether instinct or genetics or memories from age 5 would kick in to help me scatter and gather as Mamie did. My father wrote a short story about Mamie's lethal hands. His childhood memory is not of her gathering eggs but of her killing a chicken for Sunday dinner.
I think I'd just stick with the eggs.

I wonder all these things and then I wonder about practical matters. I wonder about zoning laws -- yet my friend Sharon just got two chicks and she lives in La Jolla. I wonder about cages -- what could I keep hens in that would keep them from becoming coyote food.

And that only increase my admiration for the rooster. How does HE survive the coyotes? For that matter, how does he survive the traffic on the streets he roams?

At 6:15 this morning, the rooster finally began to crow. I think the overcast sky may have caused him to sleep in. But during the silence, I realized that I will really miss him when he's gone.

He ties me to my past and he amuses me in my present and he helps me dream of a future that might include some fresh eggs. And if there are fresh eggs, perhaps there should be a garden to grow the scallions and tomatoes and peppers that would go so well in an omlette. And if there is garden, perhaps that means there is leisure time to tend it. And if there is leisure time, perhaps it won't matter when the rooster crows.

And so, in gratitude, I offer this ode to my rogue rooster...

Ode to a Rogue

He climbs up the canyon wall,
Squeezing through the iron fence,
And raises his voice to the day.

He calls me from sleep to wakefulness,
He calls me from present to past,
He calls me from current anxieties to past comforts.

He calls, and as he does,
I recall my great-grandmother,
Who fed her chickens and also killed them.

He calls relentlessly,
He calls insistently,
He calls boldly into the dawn.

4 comments:

Lea M. Booth said...

I was wondering when you were going to change your little bio.

And, I like your vision of hens and eggs and gardens and leisure time, and I pray all that for you.

molly said...

Three things about chickens:
-You don't need a rooster to get eggs.
-It takes less than a year to get from chick to laying hen. You can read about Sunset's adventures with backyard chickens at http://www.sunset.com/home/how-to-raise-chickens-backyard-00400000041247/
-Rumor is there's going to be a workshop about San Diego urban chicken-raising at the Food Not Lawns conference May 1-2. They haven't put workshop info online yet, but you can mark your calendar. :) http://www.sdfoodnotlawns.com/conference2009/index.php

karen said...

I'm not kidding about the Coop Co-op. You in, Molly?

Jeff reminds me that our cc&r's limit us to only two pets of the same species. But two hens is a good start...

That Sunset article was fun!
Wonder if the workshop on May 2 will cover how to build your own coop?

karen said...

The rooster appears to have flown the coop.

At least, that's my hopeful take on the fact that I have not heard or seen him for almost a week.

Others in my house believe he became dinner for a coyote.

I just hope he didn't really become coq au vin!