The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Rooster Terrorist Summer

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1992

Issue: July-August-September, 1992

I don't remember quite what age I was that summer, probably around seven or eight. That would have made my little sister, Judy, around four or five. One thing is certain, neither of us will ever forget it. We lived in total terror, afraid to go outdoors because of the fiend that lurked there.

This demon that so terrified us was a big Rhode Island Red rooster with long spurs on both legs. For some reason my father decided to raise a few chickens that year. I think someone had given him some game chickens and it went from there. He spent a certain amount of time and effort building what has always been referred to as the "chicken house" in the edge of the woods behind the house. It was nicely roofed, had large wire windows and a couple of poles across it that could serve as roosts. The game hens totally ignored it, preferring to roost in tree branches instead. Ironically, the trees they roosted in were right beside the chicken house.

I don't know where the Rhode Island Red rooster came from, but from the minute he was let out of his sack, he took total control of the territory. The rooster included all of our yard and the woods as part of his territory. He chose to ignore the hens and spent the majority of his time lurking around waiting for my sister or me to step into the yard. He scared the dickens out of us.

This rooster would jump on anything that moved. Judy and I learned to carefully scan the yard to see if he was around before we went outside. Even that was no assurance he was not in hiding just around the corner of the house. He would come running swiftly, flying up into the air and coming back down again the last few feet away from us, preparing for an attack. Our yard had a lot of small pine trees in it and I would shinny up one of them and yell until mother came out with a broom and chased him off before I could come down. The pine trees didn't have branches close to the ground, so I had to just wrap my arms and legs around the tree and scoot up it. I kept all the skin scraped off my stomach that summer shinnying up pine trees. Instead of a "tar heel", I was a "tar belly."

Strangely enough, the rooster was always a perfect gentleman in front of my father and my father had a hard time believing him capable of the terror my sister and I described.

As I said before, this rooster would attack anything that moved. Once we rolled a basketball out the side porch door and he jumped it in about ten seconds flat. He fought that basketball all over the woods until the rooster and basketball was covered with his own blood. Every time the rooster jumped on the ball, it of course moved, and the rooster took that as a sign that the ball was still fighting and attacked it all over again. Unlike mere human children, the basketball didn't run screaming for shelter nor did it ever give in. For once the rooster had to bow to a power greater than his own. The basketball would not stay whipped nor would it be intimidated.

Eventually my father got rid of the rooster. I don't think we ate it. I think he was traded. But my sister and I were just so glad he was gone, we didn't care! It wasn't long before my father was storing car parts in the chicken house. I don't remember anyone ever gathering eggs from the game hens either.