25
May
09

Charlotte – A chicken tale…


The old, rickety rocking chair on my back porch groaned with protest as I eased down into it for the evening. For early summer, it was already uncommonly hot. Sweat tricked down my temple as I reached into the old metal cooler behind me, which had more rust than green paint on it anymore, for a nice cold beer. I plunged my arthritic, swollen fingers into the icy cold depths, which at this point, felt almost as good as that first swallow of beer was going to taste… almost. As I cracked open the beer, cold water from the side of the can started running down my arm, sending shivers that went all the way up to the back of my neck. I leaned back in the chair, looked out into my back yard, and started what was probably going to be a fine drunk!

There was almost no breeze this evening, and the red squirrels were buzzing away, like they were having a contest to see who could be the loudest. The sun was nearing the treetops off to the west, casting an amber hue to the sky. What few clouds that were up there, were violet, with bright pink highlights on the bottom of them. I sat my beer down on the railing of the porch, and grabbed the half empty pack of cigarettes from my shirt pocket. I was supposed to be quitting, according to my old lady, but at my age, what’s the point, huh? I slid the book of matches from under the cellophane, struck one up, and breathed the cigarette to life. As I settled back, sweet smoke hanging in the air around me, I picked up my beer, and started to unwind from a long week at work.

I don’t know how long I had been sitting there, but there was now a couple of empty cans laying on the floor of the porch next to me, and the butt of a cigarette ground into a crack in the railing. At some point during this time, my best hen, Charlotte, came wandering into the backyard trailing a pack of fuzzy little black chicks that she just hatched a couple of weeks ago. They were just getting to the point they would wander away a little bit, but they still didn’t go too far from mom. Charlotte was still a little thin from brooding her chicks, so those tempting little black crickets she was scaring up, had her clucking like a pullet again! Some of the chicks couldn’t decide whether they wanted to hide up under mom’s protective shadow, or chase up some crickets themselves! Others were like little lawn mowers as they bit the tops off blades of grass, while scratching up whatever else the thick lawn had to offer. I looked down to get another beer when a shadow caught my attention from the corner of my eye. I looked up to see that Charlotte had all of the chicks up underneath her, with her neck stretched way out, and was clucking excitedly. I started to stand up, when streaking from the sky came a large Red Tail hawk. Its talons were stretched out in front of it, as it swooped down at Charlotte. I could see almost immediately, that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything to help her. All I could do was stand by and watch as Charlotte stood her ground, protecting her biddies, with the hawk nearly on top of her. I knew in my heart, my favorite hen was about to become a hungry Red Tail’s dinner, but just as the hawk was upon her, she lunged. Chicks went scattering everywhere, as Charlotte came straight at the diving raptor, her feet churning in front of her. The hawk was clearly taken by surprise by this, and started to veer off at the last second, but it was too late, Charlotte had him dead in her sights. (I know what you’re thinking, what does it matter if she is fighting back, she doesn’t stand a chance, right? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret, Charlotte is a sweet little three year old ,Rampuri Asil hen, with a couple of half inch surprises growing out the back of her legs!) Charlotte hit the hawk like a sledgehammer, knocking them both to the ground in a rolling mass of fury and feathers. The hawk, wanting no part of a crazy chicken that fought back, was doing everything it could to get back in the air, but my little hen wasn’t having any of that. She had the hawk by the back of the head in her bill, and was tearing his backside to shreds! Somehow, with all the thrashing around, the hawk broke loose, and lept to the sky. Little red and white feathers floated down around Charlotte as the hawk went screeching into the distance. She started strutting around, with her feathers all fluffed out, calling to the hawk to come back, if he decided he wanted a little bit more!

By now, every rooster in my yard was throwing a ruckus! It sounded like the crack of dawn with all the crowing going on around me. I was so shocked by what I had just witnessed, I lept down the steps of my porch in one bound, without even thinking twice. The yard was in chaos around me, but all I could think about was Charlotte, and making sure she was OK. As I ran up to her, she started talking to me, telling me that I had better wait a minute while she gathered her chicks and calmed down some, or I might get something more than I bargained for! I may be a lot of things, but I ain’t no fool, so I backed off a little. She didn’t look any worse for wear, so I told her a couple of sweet nothings, and turned back towards the porch. As I did, by wife of 36 years stepped up to the screen door, “What the heck is all the commotion out here?” she said. “It sounds like world war three!”

“Oh nothing mother,” I replied, “Charlotte’s just teaching her chicks what to do when an uninvited guest comes a calling for dinner is all!”

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