He startled me. I saw him wandering through cold moonlight, right where he shouldn’t have been.
The rooster, Napoleon, black and white speckled feathers ruffled, dried blood smeared across his head, limped through the snow outside the window. The sun had fallen from the sky long before. He should have been roosting, sleeping peacefully at his usual spot on top of the fence.
But he wasn’t. Tiny Tim – the other rooster – was.
Napoleon had been the boss of the chickens for his entire life. He had started when he was young and not yet fully grown, ruthlessly attacking Mr. Chicken, the only other rooster who could challenge him in physical size. Mr. Chicken didn’t know how to fight – he went for the tail. Napoleon, now; he was born fighting – he went for the head. So Mr. Chicken ran away in defeat, breathing heavily and dripping blood. We separated them then, and watched as boundaries were laid.
Tiny Tim was the next to be routed. The smallest of the roosters, he knew that he didn’t have a chance. So, he hung around Napoleon and let himself be bossed. Napoleon decided what to do and where to go. He decided when to crow and when not to crow. If Tiny Tim went against the rules, Napoleon put him in his place. Tiny Tim had the brains, sure, but Napoleon had the brawn. He was the boss. And that was the way he liked it.
Until this night…when Tiny Tim, who Napoleon had lorded it over his whole life, won a fight for the first time. For the first time, Napoleon was defeated, and badly. Wounded, throne taken, he could only go into hiding.
This was why he was wandering in the dark, through the cold moonlight. His head ached and he limped on a bum leg in the snow that bit at his feet, looking for a new place to roost. He hurt all over, but what hurt the most…
was his pride.
Sometimes there is no ache greater than the sting of defeat.
(Note: Well, it’s terribly out of order, but I suppose this blog post could also be entitled “Adventures of an Amateur Chicken Farmer, Part 2″).