FORWARD – To Bill with Love
This writing is a true story. I had such a pet rooster when I was a child. My daily life with Jerry is memorable, as he was what I called my first “real pet.” My late husband, Bill Logan, had encouraged me to write about it as a children’s tale. Accordingly, I dedicate this story to Bill, who supported me and encouraged me in many ways.
I hope that children will enjoy sharing Jerry’s adventures as a suburban household pet with me. I also hope that the messages included throughout the story will inspire them to feel good about themselves and encourage them to be kind to animals and love their pets.
My best to you from me and Jerry.
My name is Jerry and I’m a rooster. I wasn’t born on a farm like most of my species. Truth is, I don’t really know where I was born. In fact, I think I was one of many flock mates brought into this world for fun and profit. You see, there are people in this world who care more about goods and money than about living beings.
Me? I was lucky. So many other animals are not. That’s why I decided to tell my story. My hope is that if you ever decide that you want a pet (and please make it a domestic one) that you will keep your promise and take good care of it. Be kind to the animal and treat it gently as it deserves to be.
All my best to you and your pet,
Part 1: The homecoming.
HAPPY EASTER!, read the sign in the Five and Dime store window. There I was. Snuggled in with my chirping flock mates, each one of us wearing a bright spring color. Our baby-chick fuzz sported the striking royal tones of blue, purple, pink, green, or orange. Mine was shocking pink.
The Girl peered smilingly at us from outside the store window. We were displayed in a large pale-yellow squared wicker basket with no handle, similar in color to the smaller Easter baskets filled with the season’s treats being sold at the store. I came to learn that the Girl now intended to buy one of us after school. She even had a name picked out: Jerry.
Sure enough, after school the Girl barreled into the store, all excited about buying a colored Easter chick. Her little hand reached into our display basket and was coming my way. She plucked me from the group. Now I found myself housed in a brown paper bag punctured with holes so that I could breathe as she hurriedly ran home.
It was a bumpy trip for me, shifting around in that sack as she trundled her way home, but I made it. Finally her little hand freed me from the sack and set me down on a tiled floor.
I stood there, confused, looking this way and that. Where were my flock mates? I felt out of place in this strange surrounding. The Girl, and now Mom and Dad too, stood looking down at me. Mom must have found me a comical sight with my bright pink fuzz and yellow feet and eyes. She was chuckling. I was looking around for somewhere to hide.
Now the Girl was crying. Mom and Dad were telling her to take me back. Right now. They explained that I was a barnyard animal, not a household pet. Chickens belonged on a farm, not the suburbs. Also, right now I was a baby chick. Kind of an ugly-cute little creature of sorts. But what about when I grew up? What would become of me then? Did the Girl ever think of that?
But the Girl didn’t understand. Now I was cuddled safely in the Girl’s hands, lovingly being cradled like the baby that I was. Why, she was blubbering, couldn’t she have a “real pet like the other kids?” She sobbed out something about being the only kid in the whole school who didn’t have a real pet. Dad didn’t allow dogs or cats. The household had two canaries, but the Girl couldn’t play with them like with a dog or cat. And after all, I was a bird too, just like the canaries, the Girl had reasoned, so why couldn’t I stay?
Finally, Dad relented. The Girl could keep me on the condition that I was totally her responsibility. She had to feed me, clean up after me, keep me out of trouble, and do everything else for me that I needed. Dad didn’t want to see Mom doing anything regarding my care. The Girl agreed. And so with that I became a part of a suburban household.
Did the Girl keep her promise? She sure did! I was in for a most unusual summer adventure.
Part 2: Gotta love life.
I must say that over the next several weeks, I’ve transformed into quite a handsome little banty. I lost my baby fuzz to some strikingly white feathers and developed a deep crimson-red wattle and comb. If I lived on a farm, I think the pretty chicks would have liked me. But for now my destiny held that I be a suburban rooster. Not a bad deal, since I was loved and well cared for by the endearing little Girl. Oh, how she pampered me!
Despite my gender, I wore jewelry, doll dresses, and makeup. I was a pretty boy all right. Courtesy of the Girl. She loved to dress me up. Her dolls lay around in their undies while I strutted about in their frilly little dresses. And I gotta admit, I loved the attention. I never balked or pecked her. Why would I? I had a good thing going and I wasn’t going to spoil it. Not many roosters can say that.
“What are you doing?!” Big Sister once chided the Girl. “That’s a rooster, not a hen. He’s a boy.”
“I don’t care!” reiterated the Girl. “I’m dressing him up.”
I went for rides up and down the street in the Girl’s doll carriage. Neighbors chuckled when they saw us. The Girl was so proud of me, looking so fine in my fineries. Pastel pop beads around my neck and bright red nail polish on my claws.
She once made me a little triangular head scarf out of some leftover silk material from Mom’s sewing kit. The Girl knotted it loosely under my wattle. Gotta admit I didn’t care for that particular look. I looked like a grumpy old lady. Fortunately, the Girl didn’t like it much either, so I only wore it if she took me outside on a breezy day. She didn’t want me to catch a cold.
One day, as the Girl was painting my claws, Big Sister laughingly said to me, “She’ll be putting lipstick on you next, Jerry.”
Well, guess what? The next time anyone saw me, my beak matched my claw nails.
The Girl wanted to take me with the family to see the fireworks on the fourth of July. There I was, all cleaned up and wearing a freshly washed mint-green dress. Matching pop beads around my neck. My claws and beak colored pink. But Dad said no. So, sadly, the Girl removed my beads and dress and relegated me to my sleeping quarters in the basement. Pity. I would have loved to go. Sigh! No doubt I would have been an entertaining sight for those around us.
I think that if I’d been born human I would have been a good entertainer. But that was not meant to be. And so, as suburban life for me continued, I came to learn that it is not good to compare yourself to others. Just be you.
Part 3. Bubbles anyone?
I hated Saturdays. The Girl always gave me a bubble bath on that day in the back yard. Mom’s ceramic laundry tub was my bathtub. Warm water scented with white lilac soapy powder. Tub atop a cement slab that covered an old defunct water well no longer in use.
For starters, I didn’t like being wet. I’m sure the Girl meant well, but oh my. This wasn’t rooster-like at all! Then when I finally was lifted out of the water and put on the soft green lawn, my feathers clung to their stems so that you could see all of my pink skin beneath them. There I was, scampering about the yard in nearly my birthday suit, trying to dry off. I must have looked like an ugly sight, so fully exposed. Imagine that, a grown rooster! I was embarrassed.
Very soon though I began to dry out and my white feathers fluffed out magnificently in the bright noonday sun. I gleamed a blinding white, further illuminating my crimson comb and wattle. And scented with my essence of white lilac – well – what chicken could resist me!
So you see, there’s always a silver lining. Sometimes you just have to take the bad with the good. That’s life. A negative usually has a positive flip side though, depending on how you choose to see it. If somebody thinks you’re stubborn, for instance, maybe you’re determined instead. Look at me after my bath, for example. I went from feeling unattractive to looking like the Prince Charming of the poultry world. But remember – it’s all in the balance. Never put yourself down, but don’t elevate yourself unrealistically either. Just be who you are.
Part 4: Summer Fun
Ah, what a marvelous summer. The Girl took me practically everywhere, all dressed up, and feeling fine. If the Family visited friends I came too, even if she and I had to stay outside. We didn’t mind. The Girl always had newspapers in the car just in case. (You know what I mean.) She saw to it that I always had everything I needed for whatever venture awaited me.
I liked the car ride. The Girl put me on the space between the back seat and the rear window, over the newspapers of course. She liked seeing the looks and smiles on people’s faces in the cars behind and around us. She was so proud of me. All decked out in frills and jewelries. When I wasn’t on that car space, I sat cradled on her lap. She gently stroked my back. It felt so good. I’d nearly fall asleep when she did that. And then, when I would come to wakefulness, I’d stretch my wings and legs and crow. It messed up the contours of my dress but the Girl didn’t mind. She just readjusted it.
Yet instinctively I remained very much a rooster. I scratched at the ground. Found my own roosting place where I slept at night. It was atop a steel beam that ran across the ceiling in the basement. The Girl didn’t train me to go up there. Being a rooster, I found my own place to roost. And that beam was it. The Girl made sure there were plenty of newspapers spread on the basement floor underneath my roost.
And oh boy, did I love peas and noodles! The Girl delighted in rolling a cooked pea across the kitchen floor and watching me chase after it and gobble it down. The noodles came from the canned soup. The Girl would hold it in front of my face and move it around while I chased after it, my eyes constantly focused on that prized noodle. It was kind of like a worm. She had me dancing around in my dazzling outfit, turning circles, making figure 8’s, and navigating curves around some tinker toy; all the while with my eyes fixed steadily on that noodle.
Finally she stopped moving it. I grabbed that noodle and swallowed it whole. Then she’d raise my chest feathers a little so that she could see the peas and noodles, still intact, that jutted out through my paper-thin skin like little green bubbles and cream-colored strands. The Girl thought it was awesome and giggled at the sight. Mom stood by smiling, shaking her head. It grossed Big Sister out. Cool.
Part 5: Trouble in Paradise.
Being a pet rooster wasn’t all fun and games, though. And I don’t just mean my Saturday afternoon bubble baths. I had days that … well … you can guess. Like that washday when I shredded Dad’s blue Sunday shirt that was hanging on the outside line to dry.
A gentle summer breeze stirred up and billowed the shirt, moving it about in easy wavy motions. Being a rooster, though, I saw it to be a large, threatening predator. So I mustered up all my strength by flexing my chest, stretching my neck full length, and then with a flap of my wings I attacked. My shiny red claws shredded the shirt to rips and tears. Then, as the breeze subsided, the billowing shirt relaxed. Now it just hung there, looking sorrowful and defeated.
When Mom came out to take down the wash – uh-oh! Good thing the Girl had me out for a carriage ride!
Mom – God bless her – bailed me out by quickly going to the local department store in our town and bought Dad another shirt just like it. She washed it right away when she got home so that it wouldn’t look new. And Dad never came to hear about it. Whew!
Dad didn’t hear about the apple pie, either. Mom had baked it for dessert one evening and set it on the back porch to cool, as she customarily did when she baked a pie. She didn’t know that I happened to be in the area and … yep … I came across it sitting there on the porch table and – well – I did my rooster thing and explored it. It was still hot and the darn thing burned my feet. I immediately punished it the only way I knew how. I think you know what I mean. Bottom line – no dessert that night.
And then the Girl was up a creek with Big Sister because the Girl had been snagging Big Sister’s lipstick to adorn my beak. Oh, what a beautiful boy I was!
By now though, despite my lovely presence and wardrobe, I was well versed in my innate nature to sound out my early morning call. Poor Dad. Mom too. Night after muggy night following those sweltering summer days, they slept with the windows closed so that the neighbors wouldn’t complain about my five o’clock vocals. That’s right, every day at 5 a.m., when some cool relief finally set in . . .
I certainly meant no disrespect. I’m really not a bad guy. But I am a rooster, and that’s what we do. It’s our job. What was it that Dad said when he quoted the preacher that one Sunday? “Learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness” or something like that. Mom and Dad must truly be forgiving people to put up with me day after day for their love of the Girl. And the Girl continues to take good care of me and play with me in spite of myself, and Mom and Dad continue to let me stay.
Part 6: Back to my Roots.
Well, summer was nearly over. Late August had arrived and soon the Girl would go back to school. My time in suburbia was almost at an end as well. The chilly Autumn followed by cold Winter meant that I probably won’t do well in a suburban household. The Girl felt sad, but she understood. Mom and Dad had prepared her from early on that the day would come when I’d have to leave.
Dad’s Cousin lived in a neighboring state. Cousin owned a small farm, but he didn’t have a rooster anymore. Lucky for me, Cousin agreed to take me.
My life will certainly be changed from being a pampered household pet to a lifestyle more rooster-like. But I’ll always know that I was deeply loved and well cared for. I had food, shelter, companionship, and most importantly love. What more could I need?
Life brings change, and so we adapt. Will I miss my suburban lifestyle? And the Girl? Yes. But I will adjust as we all must do when life brings change. Through it all I will still be myself and be glad to be me. I’ll still scratch the ground, roost at night, and crow in the early morning because I am a rooster. It’s who I am. And for me, that’s great.
I hope you enjoyed my biography. I wanted to tell my story in the hopes that if you want a pet, you would love it and treat it kindly. Also, that you would be kind-hearted in selecting a domestic pet that is meant to belong in a household environment.
As a farm animal, I was most fortunate to have been selected to live in a loving and caring home. Maybe it’s because I was meant to share my story, in part because so many animals, such as wildlife for example, are removed from their natural territories and forced to live in sad conditions.
Sadly, too many domestic animals like dogs and cats also suffer cruel lives. So if you decide you want a pet, please be kind to the animal and take good care of it. Remember that it too is a living creature and suffers hurt and pain just like people do. In return, your pet will always love you unconditionally and will forever be a faithful companion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry was probably hatched in an incubator after his egg was injected with coloring. Intended to be for profit, his life likely could have amounted to just being a novelty for Easter. Luckily, Jerry was fortunate to have been selected by someone who loved him and treated him well. Many of his flock mates and other peeps for profit were not so lucky. Jerry shares his story in the hopes that wildlife and other similar creatures that are not meant to be household pets will be permitted to live their lives as intended and not be captured or birthed for profit or pleasure.