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I had only met one rooster before moving to England for six months to study at a Bible school. That rooster was not particularly nice; in fact, he was pretty much the spawn of hell. However, he was also usually confined to a small pen and could only plot the world’s demise without action.
Now, when I knew I would be moving to a castle in England, I certainly hadn’t imagined there would be a rooster roaming freely on the grounds. Who in their right mind would let such a creature out into civilization? However, the castle rooster seemed generally respectable, from what I could tell at a distance.
You see, for the first term, I stayed in some rooms that were a little ways away from the main house, and the rooster and his two hens never came that far. The rooster’s land was the castle grounds and the looping pathway that led past rolling green sheep fields. Sometimes they even made it to the dining hall but never to where I was staying.
We never ran into one another for the first three months of my stay and so I thought little of the proud strutting yellow and red bird. One got used to seeing them everywhere and they sort of became part of the scenery.
However, things changed over the Christmas break. Those of us who decided to stay behind and work moved to the clock tower. Now, the area surrounding the clock tower was a favourite hangout place of the chickens, which I quickly discovered.
After a long morning of working in the kitchen, chopping vegetables and scrubbing oatmeal pots, I was ready to go up to my room and relax for a few hours. I was walking with a friend, Luka, and we were talking nonchalantly about our plans for the evening.
As we rounded the corner, heading towards the door that led into the clock tower courtyard, we suddenly came face to face with the chickens. They looked at us and we paid little mind to them, as always, and continued walking. I was leading, as the pathway was narrow and I was quite focused on the conversation.
Suddenly, the rooster began to walk rather quickly towards me. The hens watched from the sidelines, egging him on and the next thing I knew, a flurry of feathers was flying into me, viciously reaching with the sharpest claws I’d ever seen. The rooster somehow became three times his usual size and was quite determined to knock me over and probably eat me.
I, like any intelligent human being, began running around like a…well, like a headless chicken, while the rooster continued to batter and lunge at me. Luka, meanwhile, was watching the entire thing, laughing as though my imminent death was the funniest thing she’d ever seen. We finally went back the way we came and ran as quickly as we dared. Thankfully, the rooster didn’t follow us, though he forced us to go to our rooms by the long way around.
Naturally, I was quite shaken up by this violent and unprecedented attack and it took me all afternoon to calm my shattered nerves. By the time I had to go back to work, it was dark out and with great fear, I ran back outside to the kitchens as quickly as possible, fearing for my life. All the way there, I had visions of the rooster watching me from shadowy alleyways and stabbing me in the back when I least expected it.
However, I wasn’t bothered by the rooster for about two weeks after that. Many people had named him and the hens but my name for him was Harold, simply because it was a fun name to say and it somehow fit the rooster. The hens didn’t have enough personality for me to name them.
Harold and I occasionally eyed each other across the lawn but it was only when term two started and I moved into the main house that there was another incident.
This time, it was early morning, just after breakfast and my friend Amy and I had planned to walk the Loop. It was a glorious morning out, with the sun just peeking over the clouds and sweet little songbirds sang and we were very excited to go. It was the second day in a row that we walked after breakfast and we were going to make it a daily thing. Until Harold got involved.
We set off down the stony pathway, anticipating a delightful excursion, when we suddenly saw Harold and his hens. They were probably still a mile away from us and I was suddenly filled with determination. What was Harold other than feathers and a bad attitude? I was the human! I was the predator! I should be able to walk where I pleased and not be scared of a fluffy bird with entitlement issues.
Just as I came to this conclusion, Harold saw me. The look in his eyes screamed murder and he began to trot towards me, sort of like a feathery marshmallow. The fighting blood of my ancestors ran in my veins and I felt a bloodlust roaring in my eyes. I would vanquish my foe!
Screaming like a banshee, I charged the charging rooster, howling and screaming and showing my teeth. I knew I would win! I was ten times his size! No creature would be stupid enough to-
So I found out that morning that Harold was a very stupid bird. That or very smart.
Harold did not run away in fear of my barbarian tactics. Harold did not even bat an eye at my attempts. Harold leapt into the air with his claws extended and proceeded to back me up the hill while Amy pulled at the back of my jacket, trying to save my life. I kicked. I screamed insults about Harold’s mother. I told him I would cook him for lunch. I kicked again.
Harold would not back off and we didn’t dare turn and run because then he really would sink his claws into my back and eat me for breakfast. All the while, his ridiculous hens gawked at us, cheering on the wretched rooster.
We ran uphill, backwards for about five minutes and then Harold stopped and watched us flee like beaten dogs. (Well, at least, I was the beaten dog, Amy was more of the amused dog keeper.)
Our walk was ruined, I was now developing a fear of chickens and on top of it all, it began to rain. Defeated, we went back to the castle and never tried to walk in the mornings again.
I was quite wary of Harold after that. As I went to my lectures, he would watch me from the hedges, and soon I thought I could hear him whispering my name. I knew he was determined to get me, though for what reason, I couldn’t say. During meetings in the dining hall, he would peer in through the windows, hoping some unsuspecting accomplice would open the door so he could rush in and finish me.
Though I wanted to be brave, I began taking long routes just to avoid him and his hens. For days, I wracked my brain, wondering what on earth I might have done to offend Harold so badly that he wanted me dead.
At night as I tried to fall asleep, I envisioned him sitting somewhere, telling his hens about his evil plans for me. Perhaps he would find me out by the pond one afternoon and push me in so I drowned. Maybe he’d catch me on the Loop again, just after I walked the entire thing and I’d be too tired to run away. Or perhaps he’d succeed in coming into the dining hall, early in the morning at breakfast, and they’d find me dead in my bowl of oatmeal, the stab wound of a chicken claw in my back.
I wasn’t safe anymore. I would have to leave the castle. I would have to leave England. Harold would never leave me alone again.
A few weeks later, I nearly met my doom. I was just finishing my walk and was walking towards the castle, when from around the corner, Harold appeared, his two hens in tow. He looked at me and began to walk down the path towards me, a few feathers rising.
In a last, desperate attempt, I tried reasoning with him, for he was clearly a genius rooster. “Now, Harold, no need to attack me. I just want to go home. You can have the Loop. We are two civilized people. See here, Harold; this is me, minding my own business.”
As I spoke, I walked far, far off the path and onto a marshy grassy area. Harold strutted about like a regular country gentleman, though I knew what he was really like. It truly was humbling though, walking far around him, off the path as though I were the animal. Stupid chicken.
That night, I poured out my tale of woes to a friend back at home. He laughed at my dreadful misery, though he tried really hard not to. When I got to the end of my story, he said, “I bet it’s because of your hair.”
I took offense to this. “Excuse me, is that another of your redhead jokes?”
“No, I’m serious. You know, bulls get upset by red. Why not chickens?”
This made me stop and take a long time to ponder my existence. I never gave much thought to my hair color. It had never caused me to be attacked my murderous animals before. Still, what he said sort of made sense. So I quickly searched in Google, ‘do chickens react to the color red’.
There were immediate results as horror story after horror story came up. I read one after the other and by the end was in tears. Those people understood my troubles! They had gone through the exact same traumatic experience that I had! I was not alone!
Then I came to one animal behaviour website. “Roosters often think that the color red is another rooster and so, feel threatened by it.”
Harold didn’t even think I was human. He thought I was a rooster.
Those days were dark and sometimes, I didn’t think I’d ever pull through. But step by step, I began to recover. I bought a hat to always carry with me, because one never knows when Harold will pop up. I was broken but once I identified my problem, I was able to push through. Harold may still be around and sometimes I forget my hat. But when I wear my hat and watch Harold flee me, I remember that I am no chicken.