Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Roosters

Contrary to what I had believed for many years, roosters do not limit their crowing to the early hours of dawn. The one that roosts in the large oak tree that graces my home with its beauty, often crows throughout the day and night, like a cuckoo clock that signals each passing hour. My granddaughter Elayna once stated upon awaking early one morning, “Granya, I know why farmers wake up so early, because the roosters are very loud.” I replied, “Elayna, those roosters have kept me awake all night!"

Tres was once part of a gang of three affectionately known to us as the Three Amigos. On the fringe of the group, not really fitting in, but tolerated by the three was a bantam rooster aptly named Little One. A fifth rooster was only permitted to join the others when it was time to rest each night; he was the last to go to roost and the first to leave each morning. At some point he had been forced into exile by the Three Amigos, and now resided with four mallard ducks by a pond on an adjoining lot. He was named Dock because he now seemed to be part duck and part cock. Should Dock attempt to cross the line prior to roost time, a fight would quickly ensue and he would soon be forced back over the fence to lay with the ducks. The only exception was when a predatory hawk was on the hunt for poultry. Soon all the roosters would be uttering a loud cry of warning and seeking shelter from the prey. Only then would Dock be allowed to join the others and once the danger was past, he would be promptly ushered back over the fence.

Queen over all the roaming fowl was a large, beautiful peahen that went by MamaPea. She had initially been known as Diane until the death of her partner Jack. Once Jack passed, Diane no longer suited this matronly bird, and soon all called her MamaPea. She wondered the property and adjacent street with a calm stride, only occasionally striking out at a stray cat or rooster that got too close. Each morning she would make her way to the back stoop where she would take hours to clean and groom her feathers. Later, she would wonder into the yard seeking rest under the shade of a tree. On very hot days she could be found standing in the bird bath, cooling her feet.

Interestingly, MamaPea was usually the first to spot a predator as it soared through the sky. She would signal a warning, and the roosters would quickly heed her advice. As they scurried for cover, she would actually stand and defend against the hawk. As the bird swept low in an effort to nab a rooster, MamaPea would jump at him, attacking the marauder. Early one evening, a young red-shouldered hawk attacked a rooster that that had just sought refuge for the night. The shocked rooster and hawk flew through the air, landing in the bushes below. Both rolled violently on the ground and raucous calls of struggle rang out.
The peahen flew from the oak to the rooftop where she loudly shrieked in protest. The hawk was unable to gain the upper hand, and Tres fortunately survived the incident. Being assaulted while at roost disarmed the cock. He stood on top of the wooden fence for more than an hour voicing his objection to the incident. Finally, he calmed and retreated to his sanctuary. All the while, MamaPea stood guard until he was settled for the night.

We had been camping for several days, and upon returning home we found Little One sick and barely able to stand. At that time, we realized that Uno and Dos were absent. Little One died that evening, and Uno and Dos never returned. Little One was a gentle rooster and his departure was greatly missed.

Soon Tres would seek fellowship with MamaPea, walking with her as she wondered the property, resting beside her in the grass, and roosting with her each night. She was gracious and accepting of his presence. While she will quickly come to his aid when a predator is seeking prey, she will swiftly send him packing should he attempt to assume her position. With the demise of the gang of Amigos, Dock can sometimes be seen milling in the vicinity. Just as MamaPea accepts Tres, he is now more apt to abide Dock’s company.

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