When I was a kid my Grandmother Belle had a flock of Rhode Island Red chickens (Reds) led by a wise, old, red rooster we called Rojo. He would crow in the mornings just at daylight and his voice had a strong melodic quality that made folks want to get up, smell the coffee and start the day.
He sported a solid rust-red color except for his tail feathers and wing tips which shined black and cobalt blue at the tips. I liked to hang out near the chicken house and watch Rojo herd his Reds around the big chicken yard. That old rooster was a pretty cool customer and knew just when and how to strut his stuff.
Rojo and his well groomed chickens stood in sharp contrast to the raucous little bunch of guineas and the sorry excuse of a little yellow-bellied rooster that came with the new neighbor who had just moved in next door. At first Rojo and his flock showed some interest in the outsiders strutting up to the chicken wire fence that separated the two properties to get acquainted. Soon, however, the weird ways of their fowl neighbors caused the Reds to go on about their business. The goofy little yellow rooster on the other side of the fence, who was called El Bon, seemed visibly upset when the Reds and their stately leader paid him no mind. The newcomer would fly at the fence and flog it with his wings trying to get the attention of the hometown chickens, but his efforts yielded nothing. So, El Bon would scratch, cackle, eat worms, and beat his wings in the dirt. While his tirades raised some dust, nothing of substance ever came out of them. His efforts went largely unnoticed except by his weird cohorts who would sometimes join him in this irrational behavior.
Meanwhile Rojo maintained his stateliness and took care of his flock. He crowed at just the right time every morning and herded his charges back into the chicken house before dark every evening. He always gave a warning crow when he sensed the presence of a chicken hawk, owl, skunk or other predator. So life was good for the Rhode Island Reds.
Rojo knew it would be unwise to argue with that little fool, El Bon, because had he done so, who could tell which of two squawking roosters was a fool? And besides, what would be the point? You can’t fix stupid. So Rojo simply held to the high ground and maintained his conservative dignity.
A couple of the neighbor chickens even grew to admire the big red bird and heeded his warnings when predators were near, retiring to their own chicken house. This particularly incurred the displeasure of El Bon who never seemed to entertain an original thought, but always acted in opposition to any action initiated by Rojo. You see, El Bon did everything backwards. Even his very name was backwards. El Bon would squawk at night when most creatures were trying to sleep. He would try to keep his little flock out of the chicken house and away from their roost at sundown. He ignored the predators, and spent his days acting like he wanted to come through the fence and fight Rojo. The reality was that the chicken-hearted little rooster wanted no part of the big red bird, verbally or physically. In his little bird-brain, El Bon wanted to be like Rojo, but he just didn’t have the character. Even his own hens ultimately grew weary of him.
El Bon became more and more bitter even approaching the Napoleon syndrome. One spring day he was pacing the fence squawking and flogging his wings with great vigor trying to gain the attention of Rojo. El Bon didn’t notice when the shadow of a Red Tail Hawk passed over the yard. When Rojo quickly rounded up his flock with their baby chicks and drove them into the chicken house, El Bon rejoiced in the thought that he had frightened Rojo away, but alas, that was not the case and one of El Bon’s flock paid the price for her leader’s lack of judgment.
I learned a couple of valuable lessons observing Rojo’s handling of that little, yellow-bellied, chicken-livered rooster. First, when Johnny-come-lately bird-brains start pecking at their superiors, there is little reason to get excited. Second, it’s a pretty good practice to ignore one’s critics and let them seek their own demise, particularly when they are incoherently squawking at you in an effort to gain recognition for themselves.
And El Bon? Well, someone told me he has so far managed to escape the talons of the chicken hawks, and somewhere I imagine he is still mindlessly squawking away.
Como Siempré, Jinx