I grew up on a Wisconsin farm as the sixth child in the family. Our farm was primarily a dairy farm, although in my earliest years we also had pigs, chickens, geese and ducks. I remember the bantam roosters. They were a beautiful rich coppery red, with shimmers of blue and green in their dark tail feathers when the light hit in the right way. They were also vicious, mean and unpredictable especially when children were around.
I was convinced that their sole purpose in life was to mortally wound me. The explanation that they were only protecting their flock made no sense to me.
I recall playing in the driveway with a neighbor boy, Danny, when a rooster charged at us, unprovoked, squawking, flapping his wings and making a terrible racket, intent on doing great bodily harm. Danny and I ran into a shed and scrambled up on wagon racks that were stored on the wall of the shed. The rooster stayed on the ground beneath us squawking and strutting with his chest stuck out, occasionally flapping his wings to make sure we knew he was boss. It seemed that we were clinging to the rack for hours before someone heard our shouts and rescued us.
Harvest was a very busy time on the farm and in the kitchen. Mom canned hundreds of quarts of pickles, green beans, rhubarb, tomatoes and various other fruits and vegetables. When school started in the fall I became mom’s main helper because I was not yet old enough to go to school.
Mom sent me out with a pail of canning scraps to throw into the barnyard for the poultry and pigs. I went to the fence and eyed the rooster who was busy pecking the ground. I concluded that he was busy and would not notice me. I threw the scraps over the fence. The bantam rooster puffed himself up and charged after me. The fence which kept the cows and pigs in was no barrier for the rooster. I ran towards the house as fast as my little legs could carry me with the rooster close behind.
As I got close to the house I knew the rooster was directly behind me. I feared that if I opened the porch door the rooster would also get in. So I ran past the door and around the outside of the house. Mom saw my head bobbing past the kitchen window but I did not come in. She saw me run by a second time. Perhaps the third time that she saw me running by the window she decided to investigate. She found me still running, furiously pumping my arms, completely out of breath. The rooster was nowhere to be found. He had given up the chase but I was still trying to escape from him. Mom told me that when I threw the garbage over the fence a scrap had probably hit the rooster in the head. I don’t know why she was sticking up for him.
Maybe that photo in the album was added to help me feel more generous toward the rooster. It didn’t work. I am convinced that the rooster was perched on that roof to have a better angle from which to attack me. I never have recovered from that childhood trauma. I am still afraid of poultry today.
An un-conquered fear of chickens, just another thread of my life.