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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Eating My Pet Rooster

Eating meat is not a problem for me ethically, environmentally, or emotionally. I was a tough, practical little girl, frugal as a child, and thrifty beyond my years. But trauma remains from my pet rooster. Yes, sixty years later, I am still terrified of roosters.

My father was seventh of twelve children, so I had many aunts and uncles who all lived in Memphis, Tennessee. Some cousins were adults. There was always a relative just across town to visit. Some relative gave me a bunny. Daddy promptly built me a hutch. It was just my height! At another time, after a visit to a relative, a little chick came home with me. Daddy built me a chicken yard and placed the rabbit hutch in there. I cared for both for about six months, feeding them each day. Since I was the oldest of the three children (five eventually), these were given to me and me alone. Of course, I was the only one old enough to feed them, so they remained mine alone.

The little chick grew to be a rooster, beloved by me. I was so proud to have two pets. I felt special. One Sunday morning just after sunrise with dew still on the grass, I, a little four-year-old, set out to feed my bunny in the backyard, far from the kitchen door. I can remember the details clearly. I opened the gate to my rooster's little yard. I closed and re-latched it carefully, like I had been taught. I opened the hutch to feed lettuce to my bunny and felt searing pain in my back. My screams were deafening to me. My rooster was spurring me over and over as I ran. At the time, I had no idea what was happening to me.

Screaming, I fled in terror to the safety of my parents and the house, leaving the hutch and the chicken yard open. Mama and Daddy were on the back porch yelling and running as the chicken chased me, flogging me, chasing me, spurring me. They both rushed to me. Daddy beat the rooster off me while Mama snatched me inside. The rooster was still trying to get to me despite the presence of two adults who were trying to keep him away.

Mama tended my wounds that ran from my shoulders to my ankles, long cuts that bled. Since it was summer, I had on light-weight clothing, short and no sleeves. My clothing was in shreds. I cried long and loudly. Several hours later, I was still shaken by the whole incident when Mama told me he would keep spurring me when I went out. She asked me if it would bother me to eat my pet chicken.

Oh, joy! That would really show him. I eagerly agreed and really became cheerful. To this day, I can still remember that Sunday dinner and eating the pulley bone, enjoying every bite, thinking that he would never hurt me again. Oh my! I had such satisfied feelings as I ate. That was such sweet revenge.

I lost two pets in one day. We never saw the bunny again. The whole extended family knew what happened. One day, a relative gave me a kitten. As I sat in the cavernous back seat of a 1940's Buick, Mama said she heard my small voice, "Mama, are we going to eat my kitten, too?" She said she was horrified, wondering if we had eaten all my pets.

Yes, I remember all the terror but not the question I asked, and never knew how horrified my mother was at the thought of my thinking we just ate ALL my pets. She told me that part when I was a teen and still recounting the story of the rooster, terrified to collect eggs from our hens.

To this day I am terrified of roosters. At the age of four I was introduced to sixty years of terror. (Think Psycho-like terror.) Roosters circle me, trying to get behind me. Really, they do. They always try to get me from behind. No, I am not imagining this!

I raise hens.

Have you ever been spurred by a rooster? Do you fear them as I do, irrationally and fervently? Did you ever eat a pet, an animal that was acquired solely to be a pet?

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