Friday, November 29, 2013

The Colonel

Last spring a young rooster picked at the grass along a country road - perhaps someone's discarded Easter chick no longer wanted when the soft yellow down yielded to stiff white feathers.  A passerby took pity and drove him to a nearby sheep farm.  This is his story.

He took the name "Colonel".  It was a warning - behave or you will be fried chicken. He ate with the ducks in the morning. He explored the hay barn, the sheep pastures, the old horse barn, the equipment shed.  He matured. He grew beautiful long white tail feathers. (The Colonel bedded down each night with the lambs.  Roosters go dormant when they sleep and do not notice that the lambs munch on tail feathers. The colonel suffers this indignity stoically.)  He grew a vivid red crest and wattle.  And he fell in love.  With a ram. The Colonel's BFF is Bert.  They were inseparable. The Colonel crowed for Bert.  He stood on the ram's back and groomed his woolly shoulders. They napped together and shared fresh hay.  Bert lives alone in a small pasture, eating, sleeping and waiting.  In the late fall it is time.  Bert is put out in the large back field with his ewes.  He has 17 days to complete his work.  Bert's call came last week.  The Colonel was lost. He cast about for a new devotion. He explored the sheep barn anew. There he found the lame sheep. There are usually about a half dozen. They spend the day in a wing of the barn where they can rest and heal. The Colonel was energized. He groomed and guarded his flock.  He perched on their gate and crowed. 

I volunteer at this farm. Yesterday my chores included attending to the lame sheep. It was time for their soak in zinc sulfate.  I sent my dog to the back of the barn to gather the sheep.  There were eight in the infirmary. She returned with seven. I sent her back again for the eighth sheep. She came back alone.  On the third try, I went with her.  There was the sheep, in the far corner. In front of the sheep was the Colonel, feathers puffed, eyes blazing, wings held stiff and low like a fighter jet.  Every time my dog started around to gather the sheep the Colonel rose into the air, wing flapping, feet punching and calling hell fire on my dog.  Every time the sheep moved to respond to the dog's pressure the Colonel rose again, facing the sheep with the same display.  I stepped into the fray and engaged in an all-out sparring match. I used my feet, my hands, my voice and my dog. The sheep was liberated and order restored. The Colonel watched intently from the gate.  

Next week Bert will complete his mission and return to his pasture.  The Colonel can join him - or not. We will see.  To see pictures of the Colonel and Bert go here

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