What better way to celebrate a twentieth anniversary than dinner at a romantic restaurant and the love of my life sitting across from me? I look at Bethany, my heart swelling with love, and all I can think of is that pesky rooster and dog.
I was twenty-nine years old that summer of 1993. My longtime girlfriend, Anna, had broken up with me months ago and I’d found out she was getting married. Plus I was trying to meet a deadline from my publisher. I wrote book series for kids along the lines of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew mysteries.
I had hit a brick wall, a major brain freeze. I couldn’t write a thing. That Anna had moved on with her life didn’t help. My friend, Leo, offered me his cabin. “It’s in the middle of nowhere. Quiet, peaceful. All the other homes and cabins are a quarter or half a mile away.”
I tried to just rest the first day, but somewhere a rooster kept crowing. Like every fifteen, thirty minutes. When the rooster wasn’t crowing, a dog was barking. It never stopped – bark, bark, cockle-doddle-doo, bark, bark….well, you get the idea. The way sound carries in the woods, it could’ve been a few feet or miles away.
Over the next few days, I became obsessed with finding and silencing that infernal rooster. I was positive the dog was barking out of irritation at the rooster. My frustration took on a life of its own – a palpable, consuming entity. Oh, I knew my frustration was fed by my inability to write, and because Anna was capable of moving on and I wasn’t.
Seriously, though, around the clock barking and crowing! Why weren’t the owners doing something? As a kid, I spent summers on my grandparents’ farm. Roosters don’t crow all day and all night. It’s not normal.
Finally fed up, I walked a quarter mile to the closest cabin. “Name’s Charlie. This is my wife, Laura,” the man said. “That’d be old Maggie’s rooster,” he chuckled. “Yeah, we been hearing all the commotion from Maggie’s dog and rooster, but it don’t bother us much.”
I tried to chuckle, but it sounded more like a snort. “Well, it’s driving me crazy. Where’s Maggie’s house? I’ll go talk to her.”
“Oh, Maggie broke her hip, been in a rehab place. Her granddaughter’s staying there. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with her dog and rooster. They miss Maggie. Maggie has a garden, and chickens. Sells eggs and produce at the farmer’s market. She swears that rooster is the spark that keeps the hens a’laying.” Charlie pointed up the road. “Maggie’s place is ‘bout quarter mile that way.”
I decided to walk to Maggie’s by taking a shortcut through the woods. All I had to do was follow the sound of barking and crowing. The whole atmosphere took on a surreal feeling. The sound of weeping and mumbling mingled with the barking and crowing. It felt eerie, like the woods were haunted.
The scene I came upon left me undecided as whether to laugh or jump in to help. A collie was barking as a squawking rooster ran in circles. This beautiful girl was chasing the rooster while tears streamed down her cheeks, and angry, frustrated words poured from her mouth. That rooster backed the girl against the cabin, pecking at her heels and flying into her face with flapping wings.
I rushed forward and managed to grab the rooster in my arms. The girl’s eyes widened, and she sputtered, “That stupid bird is full of the devil. I’ve been trying to put him back in the pen with the chickens for days. I’m a city girl, not a farmer.”
You may not believe it, but I fell in love in that instant. I was so awestruck, I forgot about the rooster and let go. “No,” the girl and I shrieked at the same time when the rooster flew from my hands and onto my head, pecking and scratching my face.
I managed to grab the demented rooster and get him into the pen. She, Bethany, invited me in for coffee. She cleaned and doctored my scratched face. We spent the afternoon talking, blissfully unaware that the barking and crowing had ceased.
My creative juices kicked in and I could write again. But the best thing that happened the summer of 1993 was finding Bethany.
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