I sometimes feel so fortunate to live here in Rappahannock that I just want to write a piece about how wonderful it really is, and then, I look back over what I have previously written. I find that, more or less, that is what most of my columns are about.
As the years pass, I get more enjoyment from looking out the window, and watching for what I can see. Lately, I have had a bit of fun watching the rooster that belongs to my neighbor, Randy Clark, and the interplay between that rooster and Mr. Clark’s cows.
Apparently, the cows don’t enjoy the rooster’s crowing as much as my wife and I do. When he struts out there in the field where the cows are and cuts loose with one of his “here comes the sun” reveilles, the cows stop what they are doing for a moment and stare at him. If he continues to crow, they take off after him at almost a gallop — for a cow, anyway. They don’t seem to enjoy his song.
I, on the other hand, just love to hear that rooster crow. It floods my heart and mind with so many memories of growing up here. We always had chickens and a rooster or two.
One of my jobs as a kid, was to keep the chickens out of the yard. There was a fence around the yard, but the chickens liked to get in and look for bugs and worms. And, they loved to come up next to the house where we had a grape arbor, and eat any grapes that had fallen on the ground.
One evening, just before suppertime, Mom looked out the kitchen window and a big old hen was in the yard. Mom told me to go down there and run that hen out.
Well, what I was supposed to do was prop open the gate to the chicken yard and run the hen out. It seemed like there was an easier way. If that hen had found its way into the yard, with a little help from me, it ought to be able to find its way out.
As I went out the back door, I went by the black walnut tree, and picked up a couple rock-hard green walnuts. Taking dead aim on that Rhode Island Red, I let fly with a walnut, just to encourage that hen to get out of Momma’s yard.
Unfortunately for me, and the hen, my throwing arm was strong, my aim was true, and I hit that hen solid in the side of the head. The picture that came into my mind is as clear today as it was then. That hen rolled over on its back and kicked its yellow legs and feet in the air a few times and that was all she wrote.
I didn’t know what to do. I stood there a few moments and considered trying to hide the hen somewhere, but I was too afraid I would get caught in a lie. That’s right. I wasn’t all that concerned about doing the “right” thing. But I knew if I got caught in a “story,” as Mom used to call a fib (she didn’t like the word “lie,” it being too strong a word), that it would be a whole lot worse than owning up to the deed I had done.
As I write these words, the lump in my throat is almost as strong as it was when I walked into the kitchen to tell my mother what had happened. God bless her, she could see my screwed up little face, and she said, “What’s wrong, son?”
Tears streamed down my face as I blurted out what I had done. My mother sighed and wiped her hands on her apron. She walked out on the back screened porch, looked down towards the chicken lot to confirm my story, and saw the hen lying there. She came back into the kitchen, looked at this pitiful little criminal sitting there in that hard-back chair, and said, “Don’t do that again. Now, go get yourself ready for supper.”
That was all that was ever said. Whether she told my dad or not, and she probably did, it was never mentioned to me again. I do know she cleaned that hen, a big fat layer, one of only a dozen or so, and we had fried chicken the next night for supper.
I hope Mr. Clark’s rooster keeps on singing his song. And, besides, he is probably too tough to fry.