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Tail Of Two Chickens

Chicken number one was dumb, numbed by caged mentality.

Chicken number two was daring, alive with possibilities.

A Tail of Two Chickens blinks and scratches for great lessons of life (with apologies to Charles Dickens).

A long time ago, a television crew and I were doing a story on the problems of the broiler industry—cost of operation, market madness, the sky is falling—you know the formula. Well, something happened that day I’ll never forget. As is so often the case, the most meaningful part of the one- or two-minute televised story is never seen or heard. At long last I can report what until now was left on the cutting room floor.

On the day the big truck backed up to the broiler house, you might think at least one chicken would cry “Fowl!” Well, one by one each chicken was seized by its scrawny legs and packed tight into a crate—down the road they went to the processing plant.

Lo and behold, chicken number one was riding on top, outside the cages! I leaned out the window and yelled as loud as I could: “Free and clear!” I screamed: “Jump…fly…get away…now!”

If the chicken heard me, it paid me no mind; when we arrived at the processing plant each caged chicken was grabbed and hung up to die. Chicken number one walked around as if it might be a cackling good party. I spoke to the chicken: “Fly…walk…take a hike…don’t look back.”

I might as well have been talking to a haunted henhouse. The last chicken to die was—guess who?

O.K., bring on chicken number two, first reported in Kentucky Living in June 2003. Similar situation. Valentine’s Day in Glasgow. In 1994 a large truck loaded with hundreds of chickens was driving by the front of Farmers Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation.

“Some call it fate, but when the truck hit a pothole in the road, a brightly colored red and orange rooster came careening off the top and landed on the asphalt of South Broadway.” According to Linda Foushee, Farmers executive assistant and human resource coordinator, “The rooster curiously shook its head, walked in circles, then wandered and limped onto the front lawn.

“The day was nearing an end when our electrical inspector, Gerald Guinn, strolled into the office…He noticed our feathered friend limping and waddling up and down the ice-laden sidewalk to the office.

“In the early morning hours following the incident, Gerald could be found sprawled on the front lawn of Farmers Rural Electric, on his hands and knees (in the ice and snow), trying to prod the rooster into eating the crushed corn he was providing in his extended hand.

“This became a morning ritual for Gerald and his friend, until the rooster finally trusted Gerald, and came forward for food. Eventually he became strong enough to roost in the magnolia tree during the night (retreating from the local dogs), and would wake in time to strut around the lawn looking for his friend Gerald.

“The years went by, and the rooster became known as the Farmers RECC corporate mascot.”

After Gerald’s retirement, unexpectedly he passed away in 2003. “We compiled a pouch of the rooster’s crushed corn, attached a laminated photo of the rooster, and tied the top with a pretty ribbon with the words ‘From your Forever Friend.’ The pouch was placed in Gerald’s arm inside his casket.”

In time, a vehicle hit the rooster. “Whether he died from trauma, old age, or from grief, we’ll never know, but we showed proper respect and buried him near the back door to our propane company, where Gerald had always placed his food. A beautiful wrought-iron memento with a rooster on top marks the spot.”

Sometimes, as human beings and critters live out their destinies, it’s well to remember those rare, special, shining moments when uncommon events make us stop awhile, break free of all constraints, and live to let live.

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