The other day, Shirley Showalter had a guest writer on her blog, 100 Memoirs. Britt Kaufmann wrote a mini-memoir on raising chickens that triggered some memories of my own. I thought I would share my own rooster story with you.
On a Sunday afternoon we were eating popcorn and drinking grape juice, when we heard a loud racket. A big pickup truck came bumping in the lane. Mem looked out the window and said, “It’s Norm Beck.” I wonder what he wants. He has chicken crates on the back of his truck. Datt, why don’t you come out with me?”
My sisters, three-year-old Simon, and I followed Mem and Datt. Joe had gone for a walk into the north woods with our dog, Shep. Baby Katherine was sleeping.
Norm drove his pickup through the yard and stopped near the chicken coop by a white tub of geraniums. He switched off the engine and slid out of the driver’s seat, his cane in hand. He stood there and stuck his cane in the ground a few times, like he was trying to find the right place to plant it. Norm was short and stocky. As Mem and Datt approached him, he stood stiff and straight, giving the illusion of being taller than he was.
“Hello, what brings you here today?” Mem asked.
“I was wonderin’ if you would take care of my bantam roosters and hens for me,” Norm said. He emphasized this by thumping his cane on the ground.
“Does this have anything to do with gambling?” Datt asked.
“They are fighters. But, you wouldn’t have to do nothin’ for that. I’d come pick ‘em up when I need ‘em for a fight,” Norm said, thumping the ground with his cane for emphasis on the last words of his sentences.
“You know the Amish rule of not doing business on a Sunday,” Mem said.
“Welp…” Norm took off his engineer’s cap, scratched the top of his bald head, then replaced the cap. “Can’t you at least tell me if you’re interested or not, so I don’t have to come back for nothin’ if you decide not to?”
“Since it has to do with gambling, we are not interested,” Datt said.
Norm said in a loud voice, “Well, the way I (thump) see it, God put these roosters here on this earth to fight. I am providing them with the opportunity to do just that!” (Thump).
“We couldn’t take them today anyway, since it’s Sunday,” Mem said.
“But, I thought (thump) you folks could use the money.”
The smell of chicken manure burned my throat. Mem turned to me and said in Amish, “Go see if Baby is awake.” I knew Mem and Datt were strong in their beliefs and that they would send Norm away.
But when Norm drove his pickup out our lane, leaving Mem and Datt in a thick cloud of smoke and dust, his chicken crates were empty. Four pairs of bantam roosters and hens pecked in the grass by the chicken yard. The roosters eyed Mem and Datt sideways. Then one of them strutted over to the far end of the chicken coop and crowed, long and loud. Another rooster ran towards him with his wings out and the first one ducked underneath the chicken coop. Norm had demanded they be allowed to run around outside; otherwise the roosters would kill each other.
To be continued…