Monday, August 15, 2016

The King Is Dead

That title may seem dramatic for a chicken but this was no ordinary chicken. Our Brewster died yesterday and we have lost a very fine rooster. After eight years -- which my husband believes is longevity for a rooster -- we woke up this morning without hearing his early morning crowing and we let the hens out of their coop without our big fella leading the charge through the pedway.
When I got home from church yesterday, Dwayne said, "I have to tell you something. Brewster isn't doing well. He didn't leave the coop yesterday, he was down on the floor, so I moved him out into the hospital."
The hospital is the outer coop where our injured chicken, Sasha, now lives.
"I didn't tell you because I didn't want to upset you."
My lessons in life-and-death in the country have yet to overcome my country boy's instinct to protect me. And he did upset me anyway because I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Brewie. By the time I made my way out to the coop, thinking Brew was just sitting around because his arthritic legs finally gave out on him, he was dead. At least his death was swift and he did not suffer; he also spared Dwayne the agony of having to shoot a friend. I can be glad he lived to see another summer after struggling through the winter with his stiff and twisted toes.
I would have liked to have said goodbye to Brewster, the only rooster I've known in this wonderful country adventure. I would like to have told him he was a good rooster because he really was. 

He was good in three ways:
1) He was handsome and well-built and he had a beautiful voice. I think he used to thank me when I brought treats out to the pen. He was good-natured with everyone.
2) He took good care of his hens. When I fed them bread, he'd make noise to tell them where the pieces were and if I handed him a piece of his own, he'd often drop it for the ladies instead of eating it himself.
3) He was friendly and gentle. We could hand feed him. We could walk into the coop and the pen without fear he'd attack us. We could actually have a conversation with Brewie; we'd talk to him and he'd make quiet rooster sounds in response (different than hen clucking).
Oh, I'm going to miss hearing his voice.
Brewster was the perfect rooster, and  he's left some very large spurs to fill. I'm afraid he may have set the bar too high for our new rooster. There has to be a rooster, a flock of hens needs their becombed and bewattled leader, but how can anyone new compete with a rooster who could hold his own in conversation? Who was once the male model for a painting class? Who was a literary critic who recommended books?

So I am upset both by losing Brewster and by not getting the chance to talk with him before he died. He's been our friend for eight years, having arrived as a pullet the summer we built our chicken coop. He was very much a part of making my dream of chickens and a coop in the country come true so he's been as much a part of this rural life since the beginning as my husband! And just like my husband, I've written columns about him.
Which makes me sadder yet: Brewster didn't live long enough to recommend the Field Notes book.

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