Chapter 6: The Exciting Conclusion

DAY 27.

The reflective calm of Sunday gave way to apocalyptic dread as I stepped onto the patio at the break of dawn Monday.   The magic rooster had staked out his position beside the coop and was facing me defiantly. Taking in a deep breath and drawing back my shoulders, I met his gaze and we began a silent battle of chin raising and chest thrusting. It was clear that yesterday’s thoughts of peaceful coexistence were folly; there were political and metaphysical forces at work here that were clearly beyond our control.  Mutual admiration be damned; this was war, and war is hell.

Although The Silencer would likely be available at this early hour, I had already determined that The Bowfisher should be given a shot, metaphorically and literally.  I thumbed a message to his dad that Romeo was in the kill zone. My phone buzzed at precisely 3:20 that afternoon to let me know that high school was letting out, and the quiver was prepared. Alas, it was with a mixture of regret and relief that I had to respond that Romeo had once again vanished.  The chicken had honed his senses to a razor-like edge. This scene repeated itself for several days.  Romeo and I would do our dance until around 3:00 each afternoon, at which point he would disappear, slipping into a neighboring yard… or perhaps another dimension.

 

Day 30.

I’m not sure whether the rooster let his guard down or got his courage up, but the game changed that Thursday.  At 3:15, I spotted him entering the large hedge to the east of the chicken coop. How could I have been so stupid?  He hadn’t been leaving every afternoon! He was hiding in the shrubbery!  I quickly reached for the phone and sent the text.   Within 10 minutes, The Bowfisher arrived, weapon in hand, dad in tow. As promised, the bow was a serious device: camouflaged, compound, and equipped with a string line and retrieval reel.  Bow 1We developed a battle plan: the kid would hide behind the camellia bush, while his dad and I circled around and approached from both flanks in a classic pincer movement, flushing the enemy out of the shrubbery and across the path of the hidden bowman.  This sounded great on paper, but as it turns out we were in the real world, where things happen really fast.  On my way to the northeastern flank, I made the tactical error of trying to document the situation with my phone’s camera. The eagle-eyed chicken, who had of course spotted the camouflaged bow, took advantage of my miscalculation and high-tailed it in the opposite direction. Picture, if you will, two fifty-something men and one teen archer chasing a chicken across a large lawn, their battle plan dissolving to panicked chaos as the bird bobbed and weaved out of arrow range and towards Gray Street. Characteristically, he stopped at the road’s edge and did not cross.  Turning left, he headed north, around a tree line and into the neighbor’s driveway.  I followed and got a glimpse of him as he ducked behind a car, then vanished.  Somewhere on the other side of the tree line, the other two humans were engaged in all manner of shouting and frenzied running about.  I scanned the dense tree line for any movement.Bowfisher2

The escalation that followed is forever seared into my memory as a series of rapid-fire images. A sudden movement … a flash of red to my right … an open gate … a wooden fence … an empty yard… a thought: “What will my African-American neighbors will think if they see this old white guy running around in their back yard?” …  “Where is the chicken? WHERE?” … another neighbor’s disembodied voice shouting from next yard: “He’s up there!” … my foe perched proudly on the corner fencepost, poised to jump into his choice of four properties.

He calmly looked back over his left wing at me and, with a quick hop, disappeared.  He was headed west.  Shouting this to my team, I slipped through a gap in the fence and back into the tree line, hacking my way through the thick brush sans machete. I emerged into Mrs. Holmes’ back yard just in time to see him dart around her house, toward Spring Valley Road.  Rounding the corner into her front yard, I found myself facing two bloodthirsty hunters and a very nervous rooster.

Now I wouldn’t blame you for not believing this next part, but I have witnesses. The bird was surrounded on three sides, with me to the north, my team to the south, and Mrs. Holmes’ house to the east, with only Spring Valley Road between him and freedom to the west.  We slowly began fanning out to block his only escape route.  With measured steps, Romeo matched our pace.  Of course he stopped at the curb, looking both ways before stepping cautiously into the street.  Without warning, The Bowfisher broke into a full sprint in an effort to seal him off.  The chicken panicked and began uttering profane clucks and chirps as he darted back and forth looking for a way out.  Instinctively, my training kicked in.  All those junior high basketball drills came back to me in the form of lots of lateral shuffling as the two of us ducked and weaved for an embarrassing length of time in the middle of Spring Valley Road.  One might think it was the thirty-eight year gap in my training that put me at a disadvantage, but it was not.  It was my lack of ability to fly.  At first, I kept pace as we sprinted west, but then the magic chicken began furiously flapping his wings and one again lifted his scrawny body into the air.

Not a single arrow had been used. The Bowfisher hung his head in shame and his dad began making excuses as I tried to catch my breath.  We were pathetic.

 

Day 32.

It was Saturday before the rooster had the nerve to show his comb on my property again.  Surely he must have known the fate that awaited him if he returned, but I think he wanted to say goodbye to Lucy regardless of the risk. I had no choice. The time had come to call The Silencer.

Apparently, some hit men don’t fit the movie stereotype of Jean-Claude VanDamme-like self-discipline, preferring to sleep late on Saturdays. Nevertheless, the groggy voice seemed eager to pull out the big guns. What must have been three bowls of Fruit Loops later, The Silencer finally showed up (hypothetically, of course) with an AR-15, modified for subsonic .300 Blackout rounds and complete with silencing suppressor. Such a rifle would allow him to assault a chicken in a very violent manner without waking a single neighbor. Of course, the magic rooster had once again thwarted our plans and beamed himself up into chicken neverland. Chicken Map

 

Day 60.

In a shockingly anti-climactic twist, the rooster has not returned since that morning. More than a month has passed and the girls are once again laying at optimal capacity.  We can only guess what happened to Romeo.  Some speculate that he was beheaded by a hawk; others think he was eaten by a coyote.  One thing is certain: no human could have ever killed this bird.  Deep in my soul, a part of me believes he is still out there; that Lucy told him the story of the weapon she saw that day and begged him to never return.  Maybe one day we’ll meet again.  Until then, I salute the rooster who has gained my eternal respect.

Well played, Magic Chicken.  Well played.

 

Gun

Chapter 5: Inner Turmoil

Day 25:

I rose early on Saturday.  Romeo was out there, crowing softly at the break of dawn.  I reached for my phone to send a text to The Bowfisher’s dad… then stopped. It was too early on a Saturday; I didn’t want to wake him.  At least that’s what I told myself.  In my heart I knew father and son were both out of bed and anxious to spear a chicken, but something kept me from pressing the SEND button.

Yawning and stretching my arms, I watched through the window as the vaporous visitor strutted in front of the coop, the sun illuminating his brilliant reds against the bright greens of spring. The air was still. Lucy, clearly smitten, followed his every move with lustful infatuation. Laverne and Shirley seemed to have lost interest in the rooster and were busy concentrating on whatever it is that chickens think about in their spare time.

I sipped my coffee and began to reconsider.  Was it really so bad to have a rooster hanging out in our yard?  What was he hurting? These days he politely vacated the premises before evening rolled around, so letting the girls out for their evening constitutional was no longer a problem.  He and I had developed a sort of dance, like a choreographed gentleman’s agreement.  He could stand by the coop as long as he liked, but when I approached he would retreat step for step, and vice versa, a fifty foot moving demilitarized zone between us. I began to think I could live with this.

My wife, on the other hand, was still in mother hen mode.  She wanted that rooster dead.  And what of my pride?  My public image on Facebook? And then there were the two bloodthirsty hit men.  I felt a manliness crisis coming on.

Chicken Love

 

Day 26:

The rooster did not make an appearance that Sunday.  Lucy was probably sad, although I couldn’t tell for sure.  I was a little disappointed too, having become accustomed to our daily encounters.   Laverne and Shirley went about their normal routines – eating, drinking, laying eggs, and pooping in their nests.

As dusk settled and the weekend came to a close, my soul was in conflict.  I no longer wanted the rooster to die.  Lucy didn’t want the rooster to die.  Laverne and Shirley were addled, while my friends egged me on, pushing me into battle. Even as the sweet smell of holly blossoms wafted across the lawn, a spirit of violence loomed heavy.  All was calm that day, but a storm was brewing.

Next: The Conclusion.

Chapter 4: BONDING

DAY 24.

I’m now receiving daily text messages from two hit men:

Hit man #1 – now code named “Silencer”, is still looking for redemption after his first botched attempt, and offers to hypothetically bring larger caliber firearms.  I hesitate, still nervous about disturbing the neighbors and drawing the attention of local law enforcement.  He assures me that such weapons can also be fitted with noise suppressors.  He is on standby in the early mornings before work and in the evenings after six.

Hit man #2 – code named “Bowfisher” is, according to his dad, ready at a moment’s notice any time after the local high school lets out.

But alas, their communications are in vain. The rooster – code named “Romeo”, appears and disappears randomly and without warning.  As if sensing the bloodlust in the air, he somehow seems to vanish during hit man availability hours.

Shirley is not eating well.  Lucy has a little extra spring in her step.  Laverne is oblivious. Production is still at 2/3 capacity.

My life is beginning to revolve around the comings and goings of a feral bird. I find it difficult to focus on work, constantly looking out my office window or getting up and strolling through the yard to see if he is proximate.  Increasingly nervous, Romeo hides from sight, often just behind the coop.  He circles the other side of the coop when I walk past, the only evidence being an occasional glimpse of his trailing tail feathers.  On rare occasions our eyes meet as he peeks around the corner to see if I’m still watching. At these moments we we freeze, each motionlessly gazing into the other’s soul.

A bond begins to form between man and fowl. Is it shared hate, or could this be a form mutual respect?

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Chapter 3: A NEW WRINKLE

DAY 23.

Egg production was off 33% the previous day, no doubt due to the emotional tumult of the rooster’s recrudescent presence.  The girls were obviously in a state of mild hysteria as the visitor continued his pattern of harassment, twitching his tail feathers and waving his wings in a flurry of fluttering intended to titillate the ladies.  But rather than enflame their passions, his flamboyant neck plumage puffery only served to unnerve them and interfere with their daily work schedule.Rooster-Dance3

After the failed efforts of the first hired gun (see Day Four), I received a tip through social media.  A Facebook friend told me he had a connection that was offering his services as a “fixer”.  Still leery of arrest from shooting firearms inside the city (hypothetically, of course), I was attracted to this new prospect, a bow fisherman.  While my first attempt with this type of weapon system had been a failure, this archer showed more promise.   Not only was he experienced, his arsenal included an adult sized, camouflaged compound bow, equipped with a string line and retrieval reel.  Together with barbed arrow tips, the package was designed to spear and retrieve fish directly from the water.  Such a weapon eliminated the risk of having an impaled chicken running down West Main Street crowing bloody murder, so I told the Facebook friend I was interested and he promised to put the shooter on standby as soon as school was out at 3:30.

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As the day progressed, I began to notice a new development.  Lucy had begun standing closer to the wire mesh protective barrier, and with increasing frequency seemed to make eye contact with the free-ranging Don Juan.  Maybe it was just my imagination, but I could have sworn that her comb and wattle seemed a bit brighter red than usual.

Things had just become a bit more complicated.

Chapter 2: The Magic Rooster Returns

Prologue:

Seventeen days had passed since I last saw my arch nemesis.  You may recall that the rooster had taken wing to the west after hypothetically being shot in the neck with a .22 caliber handgun equipped with a suppressor.  In the face of such a lengthy absence, one might naturally assume that he was gone for good.  One would be wrong.

DAY TWENTY-TWO.

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April 9, 2014 began like most mornings.  My wife and I finished our breakfast together, and she left for work a few minutes early.  I can’t say what unknown force drew me to the back patio that morning; perhaps it was simply the fresh feeling of a spring sunrise. Perhaps it was the beauty of newly blooming azaleas. Or maybe I was lured subconsciously to the evil that awaited me a dozen yards away.   Peacefully surveying the colors of April, I sensed some small space-time disturbance behind the chicken coop.  There – through the mesh of the chicken wire – the familiar gesticulation of tail feathers indicated his presence.

The magic rooster had returned.

The Tale of the Magic Chicken – Chapter 1

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true.  It contains no exaggeration or embellishment.

IMG_1848b_filteredDAY ONE.

The magic rooster suddenly appeared on the last day of winter, a beautiful sunny Wednesday morning.  An exquisite and awe-inspiring creature, his presence was a curiosity begging to be photographed and shared with Facebook friends.  The entire day, this beautiful bird strutted in front of the hens’ coop, entertaining them with impressive dance steps, flamboyant neck puffery, and surprisingly masculine clucking sounds.  Lavern, Shirley and Lucy were enthralled and quite flustered, so egg production suffered a bit, but the real problem didn’t occur to us until the time approached for the ladies’ evening stroll.  My wife Heidi would not have her little virgins despoiled by this vagrant gallus; the door would have to remain locked.  Unlike our lap-sitting pet hens, this little banty was standoffish, never allowing us within ten feet of him.  Yet despite his skittishness, he resisted all efforts to chase him away. And so on this warm eve of spring, I lost five points on my wife’s manliness scale, as my first attempt at trapping a bird ended in disgrace.  At sunset, the intriguing fowl disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived, leaving us to ponder the odds of a repeat appearance.

Day one tactical recap:

  1. General chasing and amateurish cornering attempts.  Unsuccessful due to age and lack of quickness.
  2. Baiting a large dog carrier with chicken feed, then rushing the door upon rooster entry.  Unsuccessful due to the rooster turning and charging out of the carrier back at me.

 

DAY TWO.

On Thursday, our yard guest loudly announced his return at what can only described as an unholy hour, serving to remind us why it is illegal to keep the male of this species within the city limits.   As the sun rose on the first day of spring, I observed that the mysterious visitor was still colorful and majestic, but somehow less photogenic and slightly more ominous.  The girls were growing weary of him, having been cooped up now for more than forty-eight hours straight.  They just wanted to go outside and roll around in the dirt and eat from the compost pile, but the vagrant rooster constantly circled the coupe, leering lewdly and clucking what were no doubt rude comments.  The afternoon included two more capture attempts and ten more manliness points lost.  As I chased the rogue rooster around the house, he trotted into the carport, then behind my wife’s car, and then he was gone.  Vanished into thin air.  My nemesis had taken it to the next level, and I knew what had to be done.  I looked up a number and dialed the phone.  That night, in the shadows of a waning gibbous moon, a man handed me a weapon.  Not a gun, but a true hunter’s weapon: a compound bow and two arrows.

Day two tactical recap: 

  1. Repeat of dog carrier trap, modified with long rope to pull door shut from a distance.  Unsuccessful due to increasing wariness of chicken towards dog carriers.
  2. Throwing a blanket over the rooster.  Unsuccessful due to size 13 feet tripping over blanket.

 

DAY THREE.

Gray skies usher in the third morning.  The cock is crowing again and it’s no longer cute.  Now he taunts me at every turn, mockingly pooping in my yard as I watch helplessly.  In the daylight it becomes apparent that the man had brought me an archery set belonging to his ten year old daughter.  It’s a junior compound bow with two target practice arrows.  Second thoughts crept in about shooting the chicken and I decided to redouble my efforts at trapping.  I determined to make two more attempts that day, drawing on suggestions from Facebook friends and YouTube videos. Fortunately Heidi was not at home to witness the humiliation that followed.

And so it was that at approximately 11:30am on Friday, March 21, 2014, I decided to take up arms against a magic chicken.  Several practice shots at an empty Morton’s salt container convinced me that the bow had sufficient power to penetrate a standard chicken.   I drew back the bow and waited patiently for the petulant poultry to move into position.  Exhaling as I released the string, I saw the arrow fly straight and true, finding its target like a bull’s-eye!  But this was no standard chicken. The missile bounced off of him as though his wings were fashioned from Kevlar. In the words of the great Dave Barry, I’m not making this up.  The animal squawked curses upon me and ran, wings flapping at full speed across the lawn until he reached Spring Valley Road.  He stopped abruptly, LOOKED BOTH WAYS, waited on a car to pass, and then  the magic chicken crossed the road.  He then trotted west across the vacant lot until he was out of sight and did not return for the rest of the day.

Day three tactical recap: 

  1. Upside-down-tub-propped up-with-a-stick-with-a-rope-attached-and bait-underneath. Unsuccessful, due to the chicken looking at the bait, then at me, then clucking something that sounded like “how stupid do you think I am?”
  2. Segregating the girls into the henhouse and allowing the marauder to enter the pen, thereby trapping him.  Unsuccessful. A modicum of human dignity prevents me from elaborating, but I will say that when it was over there was chicken poop on my shirt.
  3. Bow and arrow. Unsuccessful due to improper equipment and armored magic bird wings. 

 

DAY FOUR.

The weekend arrived on day four, and with it came the villainous rooster.  We finished our breakfast, and with a calm reserve I again dialed the phone.   Keeping in mind that shooting firearms within the city limits is illegal, I’ll just say that hypothetically, if an unnamed man owned a hand gun with a suppressor on it, and if he were to come to my house and fire it in my yard, I would never admit it on Facebook.  But suppose, for the sake of discussion, this trained marksman were to hypothetically shoot this chicken in the neck from ten feet away.  Being a magic chicken, he would not die.  Feathers would fly, and so would he.  In fact he would flap his wings and fly like an overweight raven approximately 150 yards through and around the trees in my back yard, over Spring Valley Road, finally spreading his wings and soaring like an eagle to the west across the vacant lot.  He would then casually hop over a brick fence and disappear. Hypothetically, of course.

Day four tactical recap:

  1. Hypothetical silenced pistol.  Unsuccessful. Maybe.

 

EPILOGUE: DAY FIVE.

It is Sunday evening and the magic rooster has not appeared for some thirty-six hours. A peaceful calm has settled over the yard.  The hens are out taking their stroll, scratching up pebbles from the dirt and eating them.  Lucy lifts her head and looks to the west.  Is that a twinkle of sadness I see behind those black eyes?

Nah, there’s nothing in there.

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So Is So Trendy

What I would like to see:

Morning Show Host: Welcome, and thanks for preparing this nutritious beet casserole.  When did you first learn of the health benefits of chenopods?

Trendy Guest: So I started eating beets and chards after my…

Morning Show Host:   STOP.  Why did you begin your response with the word “so”?  It was completely unnecessary. And it seems rude, like you were continuing some previous thought and weren’t even listening to me.

Trendy Guest: Huh?

Morning Show Host:   It’s a coordinating conjunction, for Pete’s sake! It connects two complete, related thoughts, and therefore is not an appropriate way to begin a response.  Why did you do that?

Trendy Guest:   So I guess it’s just a bad habit.

Morning Show Host:   Stop that, or there may be violence.

Trendy Guest:   Okay.  So I…

Morning Show Host:  Get off my TV show.

A Contentious Christmas and a Vitriolic New Year

Happy Holidays!  Yes, I said Happy Holidays, and it felt good.  I also enjoy saying Merry Christmas, Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy New Year.  I’m told that saying Happy Hanukkah brings a smile to the lips of many good folks.  Then there’s the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, and yes, Chalica and Festivus.  And let’s not forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday, celebrations of appeasement to the lords of retail.

Many Christians are becoming increasingly frustrated that the true meaning of their holiday is being crowded out.  Indeed, some are saying – with ever increasing volume – that there is a veritable WAR on Christmas, a master plan coordinated by  a grand cabal of atheists, big box retailers, socialists, and, well, probably some other bad people.

It seems to me that Jesus’s main message was love.  It also seems to me that if we celebrate a holiday to honor Jesus, we don’t honor him by it by bickering with others about it.  Do we promote peace on Earth with talk of war? Do we show good will towards men by demanding that they greet us on our own terms?

GrinchNever mind that the Bible contains no instruction to set aside a special day celebrating the birth of Jesus.   Never mind that most of our beloved Christmas icons – the tree, the holly and the ivy, the mistletoe, the hanging of lights, even the December date – were co-opted from an amalgamation of Druid pagan solstice rituals, Roman sun festivals, and ancient Jewish observances.  Never mind that early Christians took existing celebrations and superimposed the birth of Christ onto them.  Forget all that.  December belongs to us Christians!

“Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” are not declarations of war. Non-Christians are regular people who like to give gifts and spread cheer as much as we do, and we accomplish nothing by boycotting businesses like Target for trying to attract shoppers of all faiths.  

I’ll say Merry Christmas, others can use their own greetings, and we can all enjoy the spirit of love and generosity that Jesus taught and lived out.  Or we can choose to be defensive and argumentative and speak of war.  Which is more Christ like?  Christians have legitimate battles to fight, but this is not one of them.

For you, Jesus may be the reason for the season.  But the winter holiday season was not ordained by God; it was created by men.  It has many roots and it has many reasons.   The common thread is that it is a time for merriment, for sharing love and happiness. So fellow Christians, let’s all say Merry Christmas.  But let’s not spoil it by taking the Merry out of it.

There’s a time for war, and a time for peace.  This is a time for peace.

Why I Couldn’t Quit Facebook (and neither should you)

The sabbatical ended early. The plan was to take a vacation from Facebook for the month of November. Why? Facebook guilt. I think it started when my daughter said she doesn’t read all my Facebook posts because I post too much. So I began to feel self-conscious. Didn’t want to be that guy. The over-poster. The poor guy who, having no life in the real world, spends all his time on Facebook, sharing his navel lint with hundreds of quasi-friends. I wouldn’t want people to think I’m a narcissistic loser.

I also told myself I was tired of the negativity. Political debates with my Facebook friends tend to get me all worked up and have me shouting at a laptop. Why subject myself to unnecessary stress? Then there’s the time I waste reading pointless comments from people I barely know, “liking” various internet memes, and clicking on links to cat videos. I should be more productive! Get out from behind that computer and get a real life! I can stop any time I want! Just watch me!

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So it’s been two weeks. I had expected to discover a newfound productivity. By now I should be enjoying fulfillment living in reality. Calm. Peace of mind. Freedom from the addiction of the all-consuming evil that is Facebook. But that’s not what I discovered. Instead, I discovered that I miss my friends.

Facebook is not separate from “the real world”. My Facebook friends are real people, living real lives. They have real feelings, real opinions, and real emotions to share. Just because our conversations are typed on a screen and not spoken face to face does not mean they are any less genuine. Some go overboard with the sharing, some are overly dramatic, some say mean things, and some display lack of judgment and/or basic intelligence. But you know what? That’s life. Go to work, or Walmart, or church, or wherever you go in “real” life, and you’ll find the same thing.

In primitive societies, people rarely came into contact with others beyond walking distance. As technology advanced, boats, automobiles, and airplanes shrunk the world and allowed cultures to mingle, and human knowledge and understanding grew as a result. Radio and television allowed us to experience the whole world without leaving home, and humanity advanced even further. Now the internet brings human interaction to a whole new level, one unimagined a generation ago. We now hang out with people based on common interests and values, no longer limited by geographic proximity. We connect with old friends, make new friends, share our values, and discuss important issues. We celebrate together and we mourn together. We keep up with family and get to see photos of our precious far-removed loved ones.

So today I asked myself why I needed a vacation from Facebook. Why arbitrarily remove myself from my friends as though they were a bad habit? I could think of no reason. Sure, we all need a little vacation from our regular surroundings once in a while. But two weeks was plenty, and I’m glad to be back.

So… what did I miss?