It all began because of some comments by Alex, the some responses by howie, then I had some drinks, and, well . . . if you want to see the complete build up, go to the Pat Burrell projection thread from 2011.
Your telling is great! Even so, I guess I’d better put down what I remember. Every word is true.
We bought a big old house on about an acre in the Fig Garden area of North Fresno. On one side was the back yard of a retired fireman, still living with his ex-wife. They had separate sliding glass doors into the back yard. From our second floor bedrooms—the only second floor in the ’hood— they could be heard squabbling profanely late on many nights.
One day a chicken showed up. Then another and another until something like a flock was moving among four or five yards there on Gettysburg Ave in Fresno County, just outside of Fresno City. This matters because the County had no laws against the maintenance of chickens, though the City did. It was a County island within the City proper, and it had a rural feel: no sidewalks, low fences, eccentric dwellings. And roaming, eccentric creatures of all sorts.
This all matters, and I’ll get to the crux of it soon. If you need to get to bed, just go. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.
OK. The chickens became a bit of celebrated cause as they ran or flew across Gettysburg in front of the gallant cars of the town. The street was lined with cork oaks trained as a canopy across several blocks. The chickens liked the protection of the trees and the acorns and, I think, the view from those trees. That’s where they hung out when they weren’t in the various yards scratching about.
This also matters, and you’ll soon see why.
The single lady living next door decided that the gallinas needed a gallo. So she got one. He was a handsome, colorful fellow of Rhode Island lineage. His head came up to my waist when he rose to full height, which he often did prior to attacking me or any other human that approached him or the gallinas. He disappeared one day about a week later, but not before impregnating one of the gallinas. She laid eggs in the hedge between our houses, and they hatched a bit later into actual freeborn chicks.
That’s when the trouble started, and I’ll tell you about that soon also.
Hawks got the first few chicks, but then the single lady swooped in and collected the rest. I was traveling on business that week. When I returned, Rhody had disappeared and two peeps were in my house. They were cute but noisy. Alex took one of them to school with him for Show and Tell. The legal documents say that his mother suggested he should do this. She denies it to this day.
Rhody Rooster had disappeared, as I said, and the gallinas seemed to have multiplied to around ten. Maybe they just danced in from other yards or they propellered in on the wind from other ‘hoods, but there they were, pecking each morning on the lawns, looking down from the cork oaks, and running across the street just ahead of cars. That’s what chickens do. They earned a front page article in the Fresno Bee, pictures included: "Chickens Roam in Fig Garden."
I did nothing to discourage the distribution of rice, seed, or grain, so each morning, there they waited.
They became more and more attached to my house. I might have even thrown some of the rice, seed, or grain myself. Usually, I didn’t. I’m telling you the truth.
Most of you should go to bed now. Go along. See you on the thread tomorrow regarding Fontenot’s prospects for the coming year.
I don’t know where he came from, but Rudy appeared one morning. He was much smaller than Rhoady but redder and brighter. From day one, he was clearly in charge of the flock of gallinas, except for Helena (whom I’ll discuss later, after the adults have gone to bed.) He didn’t abuse them in any way that I saw. Rather, he herded them with his head gestures and staccato crows. They were glad to be herded. They were a pack to behold. They were, indeed, a family. Unlike in the families being founded among my friends at the time, I saw no significant dysfunction in that chicken family. I saw order based on masculine command. That’s what I saw, and that’s all I’m saying.
Now comes the interesting part. Thanks for reading this far.
The pack developed the habit of roosting (with by-the-clock predictability) in the Giant Sequoia just on my side of the property from the retired fireman; you no doubt remember him from up the page. The Giant Sequoia, I must tell you, wasn’t a "Giant" at all in 1992, though it was full and thick in its youth. It must be quite large today. At the time it was about twenty feet tall, and it doubled the height of the fence between my lot and that of the fireman, then retired, and his wife, then -ex, and both probably still.
Now begins the interesting part.
As I do today, I then worked outside on my house and yard on a regular basis. Helena the gallina, who seemed to be the chief of the flock, would often scamper by to pander for seeds, and yes, I started by giving them seeds from the pantry, but then I actually bought bird seed and threw it for them in the classic way one throws seed for chickens. Their enthusiasm amused me. I came to shout for them to come for the feed: "Here, chickee, chickee." I’m not proud of this, but I’m not ashamed. They came to love me. I don’t say that casually. Though they pecked through many yards along Gettysburg, when I came out to dig or rake or wipe or spray, they would soon be around. I think they knew that I would keep the neighborhood dogs away from them. I’m not sure.
Again, I don’t know where Rudy came from, but once introduced to the others he was the leader and he had to establish terms with me. I was not yet Gallo del Cielo.
I, of course, am not a rooster, though I do play one on a baseball website. Even so, Rudy chose to approach me as an equal. I don’t know what he understood. I’m not especially macho in manner or appearance. Rudy left the flock one morning when I started work outside the house, and he walked to within a human stride of me. He looked at me straight and he spread his wings slightly while crowing small. I crouched and made a similar noise. Our heads were a yard apart. Rudy pecked up a piece of decomposed granite from the driveway and tossed it toward me. I picked one up with my hand and did the same. For the rest of that day, and for another month, Rudy ran to greet me when I went outside in my work clothes. He made noises that sounded damn near to talking. While I was outside, he would be predictably near, pecking or looking after the flock. The flock, too, was always near and always well corralled, except perhaps for Helena.
Which is when the story gets weird.
The flock, at exactly an hour before dusk, went to the Sequoia at the edge of the fireman’s property and found their ways variously to upper branches in order to roost. It took them an hour or so to scramble and scratch up the tree. I never broke the code for which branches for for which gallina, but Rudy always was on the highest branch. Not the highest of the tree. The highest of the group.
Scientific literature describes this behavior. To save themselves from predators, of which there were plenty in my ‘hood and in their past, these fowl go to trees. And there is the hierarchy. In farm yards, owners build hen houses in which the rooster is occasionally welcome and occasionally shut out. Hen house nests resemble roosts in that they are high, thus comforting the easily comforted hens. The Sequoia in my yard granted these protections also. Nearby, my house and I granted other protections that I hadn’t planned to grant.
That story will have to wait.
I must go to bed.
Fucking juiced ball bullshit.by gallo del cielo on Feb 10, 2011 | 12:55 AM up 3 recs flag