With three-day weekends being so rare, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to head to the lake cabin despite the fact that my spouse had to work. So, a friend and I headed north on Friday. Imagine my surprise, on Saturday night, when I got two text messages in quick succession—one from my neighbor with a photo of my husband holding…a chicken (!?), and another from said husband saying, “We are now the proud owners of a rooster!” Say what?!! I wasted no time at all phoning home to get the rest of the story.
During the drive north, I’d left a message for Terry asking him to please mail something I’d forgotten about. He decided to drive the piece of mail directly to the downtown post office, taking the scenic route through the neighborhoods. En route he was more than a little surprised to see a rooster strutting along the path on Theodore Wirth Parkway.
On the return trip home, he saw that the rooster was still walking along the path. He’d head into the woods, seem to not like that, get confused, and then get back onto the walking path. Like any good citizen would do to protect a wandering rooster from potential predators, Terry decided he’d try to catch the bird. After all—hadn’t there been many recently, and we’d seen fox in our own neighborhood.
The mission—to catch a rooster—not exactly easy, but Terry is one persistent guy. He did notice cars on the Parkway slowing as they watched him walking alongside the chicken while he strategized, and chuckled at what they must be thinking. He finally was able to grab the chicken, and then, while holding him close to his chest, drove home. As he tells this part of the story, he says that the chicken, who had tucked his head under Terry’s arm, at one point looked up and out the windshield and thought, (yes, Terry was able to intuit the chicken’s thought), ”Oh my gosh, we’re moving fast, I don’t think I like this!” and promptly tucked his head again.
I was hysterical with laughter as I listened to this tale, but eventually composed myself enough to say, “We are not keeping a chicken.” He ignored that comment and went on to tell me the neighbors (who were astonished to see him show up outside their window with a chicken in hand) had immediately researched what roosters eat (greens, citrus rind, barley). And soon, the rescued rooster was eating right out of their hands.
This priceless story was way too good to not share, so I posted about it on Facebook. It got more “likes” and comments than anything ever posted before. Everyone had ideas: "Fatten up the chicken and roast him (the neighbor has dibs on a thigh)." "They like cracked corn." "They’re good at getting wood ticks." "I think he needs some hens for company." "When are you going to eat him?" "I think Terry needs a pet more than another meal." And one friend wrote, “Roosters are not as neighbor-friendly as hens, we found, because they CROW!” (They’d had a rooster too? Who knew?!)
In the meantime, Terry was telling me we could get a hen and then sell eggs to the whole neighborhood. Now there was an idea. With this new venture, maybe I could move my retirement date up! A friend pointed out that the egg profits wouldn’t even keep me supplied with the wine I like to enjoy each evening. He sarcastically suggested we’d need a whole flock for that. Another dream dashed.
Over the next day, Terry continued to bond with the rooster. I’d suggested the name “Teddy Wirth” (for obvious reasons), but he’d chosen “Ralph,” in honor of his deceased father who he thought would find great humor in him owning a chicken. With that as criteria, seemed to me, name possibilities were endless.
A text message was received from my daughter, who was also out of town during the rooster rescue, “Dad says he is going to keep the chicken, at least for awhile. He says you won’t mind because he eats bugs and weeds.” I wrote back suggesting that in addition to the garden, she’d also have to take care of the chicken when we go on our summer vacation. She shot back, “I don’t think so.” You can be sure that this attitude will come back to haunt her if there are ever grandchildren in my life that are in need of babysitting.
I finally got to meet Ralph on Monday night when I arrived home. Terry was sitting in the backyard, reading the newspaper, sipping a glass of wine, and Ralph was wandering the yard, eating bugs. He is a very beautiful bird, no doubt about that. Terry proudly pointed out that he had “trained” him to stay in the yard. “Really!?” I said, “And how did you do that?” “Well, whenever he goes into your flower garden and when he jumped from the wall into the alley, I yelled at him and shooed him back. Now he stays in the yard.” Ralph is one smart chicken it would seem.
The neighbor cat posed a concern. Zorro had been known to bring “gift” squirrels and rabbits to his owner’s doorstep. But, as he approached Ralph tentatively, Ralph fluffed up his wings and took a step forward and Zorro quickly retreated, cowering behind a bush. Way to go, Ralph!
Suggestions about what to do with Ralph continued to pour in—via text, email and in-person suggestions. The neighbor boy thought he could be used to pose with Park grads for their graduation photos. Or maybe he could be featured at the St. Louis Park All-School Reunion. Barbecued chicken on the 4th of July was suggested more than once. Maybe he could snag a blue ribbon at the Great Minnesota Get-Together?!
As I left for work this morning, I peeked into the garage to check on what Ralph was up to. I couldn’t see him. I knocked on the window. Nothing. I opened the door, called, and looked around. No sign of him. I actually felt concern. Had he escaped? Had someone abducted him? Feeling a bit of panic, I went in to tell Terry (who, on his day off, was still asleep).
Pajama-clad, he bounded outside immediately to look, and quickly pointed out that Ralph was roosting underneath the circular saw. Seems Ralph really likes it there. A T-shirt lined crate had been set up for him to use on the first night in his new home, but Ralph prefers the crossbar under the saw. I must admit, I was relieved that Ralph was safe and sound.
At this point, the next chapter and long-term fate of Ralph, the rescued rooster, is unknown. Stay tuned. And does anyone know, are roosters even legal in St. Louis Park? Oops! Shh—let’s just keep this story between us.