The rooster attacked me, and my father came to my rescue, and in the process gave the bird its first flying lesson.
We raised chickens when I was a youngster and one of my most pleasurable—if not perverse—memories revolves around those birds. Actually, the main fowl I remember was a big red rooster that disliked me.
In the 1940s my parents, sister and I lived in El Monte, California a small town in eastern Los Angeles County. Today it’s considered a suburb of Los Angeles. Fifty years ago, however, a suburb of L.A. could be pretty rural, and it was considered “country.” All of the neighbors raised chickens, rabbits, pigeons and other non-domestic animals. We kept chickens for the eggs that could be sold, and the Sunday chicken dinners those birds sometimes became.
One of my chores when I was about six or seven years old was feeding the chickens. Not a hard job. We had a big barrel of chicken feed, and I'd use an old coffee can to put feed in the feeder for the birds. The hens knew when I walked in the chicken pen it meant food, and they would come running. The rooster, though, would stand away, aloft, waiting for me to leave before he would attend at the feeder.
One day after feeding the chickens, I decided to gather the eggs, too. My mother usually did that because she worried that I would drop them. Nonetheless, after filling the feeder that day, I walked into the hen house and started picking up eggs. And that was when I encountered the wrath of the rooster.
I had picked up only a few eggs when he burst into the hen house. He was a tall, red-feathered rooster. A bold bird and nearly half my height. He entered the hen house wings spread and squawking. He was furious. He started jumping at me with his sharp, claw-like talons, aiming for my legs and mid-section.
I didn't know what to do. I backed away from him and he knew he was in charge. He had me where he wanted me. Between his squawking, wings flapping and jumping at me, I was in panic. He effectively blocked my escape since he stood between me and the door. There was no way to get around him. I was panicked and on the verge of tears.
I tried fending him off with my foot, which did little to slow his attack. I was afraid of hurting him despite the fact he had no fear of hurting me. The futility of my kicking at him, and his aggressiveness just made the situation worse. When I didn't know what I would do, the hen house door swung open and in rushed my father.
I was rescued. It was as if the cavalry had arrived just in the nick of time. Suddenly the rooster lost interest in me. He seemed to sense his attack on me was going to be discomfortable for him. He darted passed my father and out the hen house—but not to safety. My father went after him, and kicked him in the backside.
Even more than fifty years later, I remember the sight of that rooster in flight. My dad’s kick was well placed and powerful. The rooster became airborne. Squawking, his wings flapping he shot into the air and over the eight-foot high fence. That bird had never been that high off the ground. He had never experienced flight before—at least not with such a sudden and swift launch. While his flight was high it was short duration. He landed with a thump just on the other side of the fence.
It was marvelous to be rescued, and even more so to see the rooster punished. I loved it. I remember laughing through my tears at his awkward takeoff, flight and landing. And he wasn't hurt, except maybe his pride. He meekly returned to the chicken pen when the gate was opened for him.
Then my father asked me why hadn’t I kicked the rooster when he came after me. I said I tried. He said, "You weren't kicking him, you were pushing your foot at him. Really kick him if he does that again." I was surprised. I had feared getting into trouble if I kicked him. But no. If he came after me it was all right to kick him.
Once I knew that, I wanted him to come after me. I hoped he would try attacking again. I wanted to redeem myself. I wanted him to be aggressive so I could make him pay for it.
It didn't happen—at least not immediately. It was as if the rooster and I had an uneasy truce. He continued standing back, watching me, when I fed the chickens and collected the eggs, but there was no aggression on his part—for a while.
A few weeks later, though, I walked into the chick pen, heading for the chick house and it happened. The rooster came after me. Talons thrust forward he jumped at me. I sidestepped him, and when he landed I firmly planted my foot in his behind. He squawked, flew forward and crashed to the ground.
He got to his feet, stunned. Twice he had attacked me, and twice he had been kicked in the backside. He walked away from me and left me alone that day. He tried to jump me again a few days later, and he got a shoe in the rump, again.
The rooster never again came after me. Though closely watched me when I feed the chickens and collected eggs, that was the last time I ever had to kick him to keep him at bay.
The rooster was totally unharmed by the few swift kicks he'd received from my father and me. He lived several more years, and when he died it was apparently from old age. Though he was an aggressive bird, he was doing what he was understood he was supposed to do—protecting the hens.
At the same time he gave me one of my favorite memories—my father protecting me from that aggressive bird, and the resulting "flight of the rooster."