Charlie and Whitey, the Rooster

Charlie arrived home on a lovely late Summer Friday afternoon. There was a gentle breeze and it was not too hot. He decided it would be a perfect time for a pre-dinner nap in the hammock. It had been a long week and the kids would be arriving for the weekend early the next morning.

The hammock was hung lower to the ground than most, providing easy access for the grandchildren and various pets (and a shorter fall, just in case). The supporting trees were maples, as I recall. The sunlight filtering through the leaves, together with the gentle swishing sound they made as the breeze blew, combined to create a lullabye most conducive to sleep.

Charlie sat on the side of the hammock, and giving his familiar pet-related whistle, called out “C’mon Whitey. Nap time.” He settled back and waited for the usual prompt response from his pet rooster. After a bit he realized that the bird had not arrived, and was nowhere to be seen. He also remembered that Jenny would have selected a couple of chickens from the flock as the main course for a weekend meal.

He sat up and called out to his wife, trying to conceal his anxiety. Leaning out of the kitchen window in response to his query, Jenny replied, with annoyance, “Mr. Demar, every time you lose track of that silly white rooster of yours, you accuse me of taking the axe to him. Don’t be such a ninny. I certainly know the difference between a hen and a rooster. And furthermore, who would want to eat that tough old bird anyway? You’d make a better stew than he would. He’s probably off chasing after some cute little Hen. Just like a man.”

With a loud and overly-dramatic “Humpff,” She withdrew from the window.

Charlie chuckled. He admired his wife’s toughness – and her pragmatism. Most especially when it came to dispensing with the chickens. He was grateful to her for handling that unpleasant chore. “She’s a true pioneer woman,” he thought, “and that sure comes in handy at times. Only trouble is, she can’t remember that not everybody understands her ways like the farm people she grew up with in Pennsylvania.

He recalled the time when she decided that the grandchildren were old enough (at age six or seven or so) to learn that in order to have a nice chicken dinner, first a chicken had to be killed, plucked and gutted. She also used that particular teaching moment to illustrate the origin of the phrase “run around like a chicken without a head”.

“Oh boy” he thought, “Jenny sure got in a heap of trouble with that one”. He laughed out loud remembering the ensuing ruckus when his daughter and daughter-in-law found out about the “lesson”. Jenny was for sure in the doghouse with the girls for weeks about that one.

Remembering back to that incident, he pondered how strange it was that the mothers were far more upset than the children. His grandkids were more curious and intrigued than frightened. Although he did remember hearing quite a few “yucks” and “Ughs” from the young ones.

“Surprising”, he mused, “How much of the unpleasantness of life children are able to absorb without becoming mean or discouraged. They seem to have the capacity to accept life as it comes. I suppose maybe that‘s how children – and the human race – have managed to survive all these years”.

I don’t know whatever became of Whitey. I can’t really remember too much about him beyond that particular point in time. But I can attest to the fact that while he was with us he had a very happy life… as evidenced by a barnyard full of contented hens wandering about (not to mention an abundance of eggs and chicks). And… How many roosters ever got to nap in a hammock, next to a human friend, under dappled sunlight winking through the leaves of a maple tree.

Ca 1939

(As an aside to the family members for whom this little vignette is being recounted… If ever there was an explanation as to how a rooster came to respond to his name, or for that matter have a predilection for napping in a hammock, it has, sadly, been lost forever. That’s just the way it was – and no one ever thought it the least bit out of the ordinary.)

Jeannie Peck
Southbury, CT ©2012

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