Perched upon the big red fencepost, in the faintest dawning light, the old white rooster stretched his head high and crowed. One long crow was all it ever took him to wake the farm, such was the power of his call. Soon all manner of creatures began to stir. Nearby, the gentle clucks of mother hens gave permission to their chicks to go scratching around in the chicken yard. One by one, eager little birds popped their heads out of the entrance, then raced down the wooden ramp. A group of five or six came out at once, hopping and tumbling down together as one fluffy, yellow mass. They untangled themselves at the bottom of the ramp, then each one went off to explore. Behind the henhouse, a mother duck led her ducklings down the hill. In single file they waddled, with most of the ducklings still half asleep and bumping into one another. Under the peach tree and through a patch of tall clover the young ducks were guided by their mother’s quacks, until they made it to the pond. The mother duck seamlessly glided onto the water and then paddled out a little from the water’s edge. With varying degrees of apprehension, each duckling followed, giving a shiver as it splashed in. Around behind the farmhouse, far up by the western fence, the daily chaos of the pigsty kicked into gear. Twenty-eight greedy, hyperactive piglets commenced their relentless hounding of the poor sows. In the south paddocks, the sheep and cows strolled out for a little early morning grazing, while over toward the front gate, in the first rays of sunshine, the Clydesdale and her foal emerged from the stable. Up at the farmhouse, the two tomcats sat and watched the sun peek above the trees in the east, their tails curling and flicking at their sides. The sheepdog yawned as he stretched his legs in preparation for another day’s work. Finally the farmer, Mr McGinley, stepped out of the front door and put on his gumboots. He took a sip from his coffee mug, gave the sheepdog a scratch behind the ears, and then headed off to the barn. So began every day on Butterberry Farm.
Standing atop of his watchtower, Winston the rooster surveyed his domain—and it was his domain. It even seemed to some animals that it was old Winston, and not Mr McGinley, who was boss on the farm. For although Mr McGinley chose which hens lived and which would be killed, which piglets would be kept and which would be sold, and though he decided the fate of all the other animals, he had no say in which rooster became chief. And though Mr McGinley told the sheepdog where to run, and put bridles on the horses, and even made the great bull plough his paddocks, he never told Winston when to crow. Winston even had his own house. The other animals on the farm had to share their houses: the pigs shared the sty, the cows shared the barn, the hens shared the henhouse and the horses shared the stable—even Mr McGinley shared the farmhouse with Mrs McGinley. But Winston didn’t stay with the other chickens; he slept alone in the old wooden shed next to the henhouse. Mr McGinley didn’t use that shed anymore. It was mostly empty, but for some planks of wood and a few shelves holding old tools and paint tins. The floor was strewn with hay and sawdust, and there were cobwebs throughout. It was dark and dusty and the door had fallen off, but at night Winston had it all to himself. He was the king and that shed was his castle. No animal on the farm commanded respect like the old rooster.
When Winston was satisfied that the farm was awake and about its business, he ruffled his feathers with a shudder and nodded to himself. He flapped down from the big red fencepost and was met by Sonny, the little grey rooster. “Good morning, Winston,” said the young rooster.
“Good morning, Sonny,” said Winston.
© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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