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Chicken Run


Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, January 22, 2000

“It’s hard being brave when you’re a chicken.”
~from the movie Chicken Run

I am not much of a golfer. I rationalize my poor scores with the notion that I am involved in too many other activities to devote the necessary practice time to be any good at the game. I tell myself that some day I’ll take the sport up full time, and I too will be able to sit around the clubhouse and say, “Well, let me tell you about my birdie on number four.”

And so it was with mixed emotions that I accepted an invitation from a friend of mine from the Twin Cities to play golf with a group of his friends at Mississippi National near Red Wing. Not only did I have reservations about whether my golf game was up to the standard of this high powered course, but the 8:00 a.m. tee-time meant that I would have to leave home somewhere around six in the morning to get there in time.

Darkness comes early in October, and it was rainy and foggy on the eve of my golf date. In the middle of the night, my wife heard a commotion in the yard only to find out that we had left the door of the chicken coop open. About 25 chickens were grazing under the security light as if it were normal to be out eating bugs at three in the morning.

“What’s going on out there”, my wife yelled outside. One bantam rooster let loose with a soprano-like cock-a-doodle-doo, almost as if it was answering her directly. She came back to bed complaining that the dog must have wondered into the coop and scared all the birds out.

Our chickens are about as diverse a flock as one can get, a combination of French Silkies, Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas, and, most recently, bantam Whinedots. The last group are descendants from a lone midget rooster that we were given by our neighbor last spring. We soon started calling him Perv (short for pervert) as we noticed that he spent all of his waking hours chasing the ladies.

Not surprisingly, the last batch of chicks that we hatched in the summer had been a baker’s dozen of quail-like short-legged fowl bearing an uncanny resemblance to Perv.

The birds were still clucking and pecking the grass when I left the next morning. The air was cool and windy and the breeze brought tears to my eyes. In the darkness, I grabbed my clubs from the shed and threw them in the back of the pickup and headed toward the highway.

I was just settling in for a long ride, wondering just how little sleep I really managed to get the previous night, when I noticed that the gas gauge showed less than a quarter tank. So I quickly detoured into Preston to get gas at the Citgo One Stop, just off the highway.

I pulled the collar up on my jacket as I stood in the glare of the dim florescent light and started filling up the tank. My mind was as blank as it can possibly get as I stupidly watched the revolutions of the dollar and gallon gauges go by. As I turned to grab the gas nozzle, I did a quick double take as something caught my eye in the back of the pickup. To my great surprise, and sudden horror, there stood a lone bantam rooster.

My first thought was, “it’s frozen. The bird froze to death on the ride into town.”

Then, almost as if it could read my mind, the cock fluffed its wings, and let out one giant shiver as if it was trying to restore heat to his body.

“What do I do now?” I thought. But before I could put together a plan and spring into action, the bird took a quick skip and a jump and lighted on the tail gate.

“Holy crap,” I thought. “It’s getting away.”

Perched on the back of the pickup, the rooster seemed to realize for the first time that it was a bird and birds know how to fly, and he studied the wind speed and direction and, gaining enormous amounts of courage, took wing flying low on the horizon like a great ring-necked pheasant, away from the glaring lights and toward the dark street.

The fowl arrived at the intersection at the same time that a commuting car pulled up at the stop sign. I heard an enormous squawk and saw the bird carom off the hubcap running like a two-legged dinosaur up Kansas Street, toward Olmsted Medical Clinic, and out of sight.

I stood in shocked silence. “Am I awake?” I wondered, just as the gas nozzle clicked to off, as if to say, “You are!”

I looked at the intersection, then glanced over at the One Stop to see if any other human beings had seen what I had just seen.

There are some things in this world that one must walk away from, if only to give distance to the macabre and the unexplainable, and a runaway chicken hitching a ride to the city is one of them.

I drove out of town as if fleeing a nightmare. Golfing was the last thing on my mind.

By John Torgrimson

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