July 26, 2011

There's something about Larry...

Larry, all baleful
OK, Larry stays.
Our rooster, the former queen of sass, Roxy, will neither go to the chicken farm of friends – we don’t even know if they’d accept him – nor into our stew pot.
We didn’t want a rooster, didn’t expect one, and were taken aback when all our homespun sex tests indicated that Roxy was a male. But Roxy, temporarily renamed Rocky, and now Larry, has been part of our little flock since the beginning. That’s way back in April.
Both Vicki and I have fallen for these birds in a big way. I’ve read much about the affection that even veteran “hobby” chicken keepers have for their flocks, about each of the birds’ distinct personalities and pec(k)cadillos, about a soothing calm that imbues your time with the chickens.
In Larry’s case it is a flashy jauntiness, barely masking a peeping vulnerability, which has defined him even since the early Roxy days. It’s like having your darling, precocious little girl grow up to be Freddy Mercury.
He cuts a very arresting figure among the rest of the flock. Two of them are copper-on-black, three are red, and then there’s Larry.
As a chick, his yellow fluff was gradually replaced by white feathers. Snow white, which makes his prominent comb and wattles all the more striking in their redness. His tentative croaks have turned into full-throated crowing in the early morning, in mid-morning, in late morning, around noon, and on through the sunlit day. Funny how that can grow on you when the alarm on your cell phone can threaten cracked molars.
Larry, Billie, Sweet Red and Sadie. Simply Red, background.
He struts and flies to the roof of the coop and charges with his head down and beautiful cape puffed wide. He herds the girls like a tiny cowpoke, a benign security chief, and fronts off any of the hens who dare rise up to face him, fixing her with gimlet eye and a forward rush. Early on, “Roxy” behaved like the Boss Chicken, and he hasn’t changed a bit.
I just told Vicki I was trying to describe our rooster, and she said, “I love Larry. Every day I love him a little bit more. He’s just so concerned with keeping an eye on the girls and taking care of them.” Which, decoded, also carries the message, “Larry isn’t going anywhere!”
No argument from me. We may have one less laying hen, and a rooster who’ll be looking to get him some before long, fertilizing an egg here and there, crowing about it later, obnoxiously. But we can still eat those eggs. I’ve read that, nutritionally, they are virtually identical to unfertilized eggs. To prevent the rooster’s spawn from developing even the littlest bit, we’ll have to be sure to gather our eggs every day and get them into the icebox. Handled thus, deciding whether to eat them is only a matter of getting past the thought of an incipient chick in there. We have no problem with that. You can take it as a political statement or not. Can’t control who sees what where.
Ray Bohy
We were suckers for animals before we got our chickens. As I get older, I’m speaking to and about our animals with many of my dad’s words. He was a World War II Marine sergeant who was part of the last great battle of that war, the taking of Okinawa. He was a career Detroit cop who once dug the dirt from a child’s makeshift grave with his bare hands, who worked the hate-filled streets during the city’s 1967 riot, who knew the streets and its characters so well that he could phone the miscreants and tell them to come in to the precinct. For the most part, they did, including a "red-headed cross-eyed bandit" he told me about one night.
When he retired from the notorious Cass Corridor as a detective sergeant, several of those who gathered to honor him testified to that story’s truth. What I’m saying is he was tough.
But aside from a marked distaste for cats, when it came to animals, he’d comfort and cuddle, coo or talk baby talk, and just soak up the minimally conditional love that came back. When my sisters and I were kids, he was the one who picked out and named our pet dog. She was a mini-toy poodle, largely unshorn to avoid any appearance of prissiness. Her name was Gidget.
When he sent me off to college, it was with the admonition, “Come visit when you want, but no cats, dogs, or unwed mothers.” He had gotten his life pretty much where he wanted it, complete with Gidget, and was warning that nothing was to disrupt his fragile quasi-serenity.
Now, when I speak to our little parrot, one young cat, one older, and our chickens, I sometimes hear my father’s voice. And I thank him for this soft legacy here, where my own serenity is just as fragile as his, in a place complete with our animals.

4 comments:

  1. Methinks there's a good bit of Ray in Rocky, and that's part of why you've become so fond of him. That lovely combination of tough and tender: That's what your wife remarks on in Rocky, and what you remark on in your pop.

    A lovely post, Ric.

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  2. Many thanks, Robin. This one actually went in a direction that I wasn't expecting when I started it. Dad's not quite two years dead and I guess he's on my mind more than I realize. I'm glad you liked it.

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  3. Roxy...Rocky...Larry stays!!! YAY!! I knew you didn't have it in you...even though I didn't get to know your dad, it sounds as though you possess a lot of his wonderful qualities (Larry stays!!)

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  4. Thanks, sweetie. You know Jack will have to have a rooster to chase around.

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