I started out to write a short-short story, but it ended up just a plain old short story. So I’ll have to split it in two. You get the exciting finale next week. Now let me introduce my nameless protagonist and his pet chicken.
Courtesy of common en.wikimedia.com
ME AND BEULAH AND THE RED-TAILED HAWK
The chicken hawk stared down from atop the electric company’s pole like it was fixing to come take a chunk outa me. Wasn’t really a chicken hawk, but you’d never convince my pa of that. He’d lost too many chicks to red-tails like this one. Big sucker. Must be a female. I heard tell they grow bigger’n the males.
A familiar clucking pulled me around to see Beulah, the Rhode Island Red I’d raised from a chick, scooting toward me. Most of our hens are Red Sex-Links ‘cause they’re about the lest layers around. Get a big, brown egg ever day of the year if you don’t count weekends. Beulah don’t produce nothing like that, but I’ll swear I can tell her fried over-easies from all the rest.
Most folks don’t figure layin’ hens have much sense or get attached to nobody like regular pets do. But Beulah comes running whenever I step off the back porch and trails me around the barnyard like a puppy.
Now that I seen her, I guessed that old hawk wasn’t eyeballing me at all. She’d been studying Beulah. At something better’n six pounds, the hen would make two of the raptor. But she didn’t have talons and a flesh-tearing beak like the hawk.
“Better scoot on back to the coop,” I told her. “See that big old red-tail? She’s been keeping an eye on you. Go on. Scoot.” I shooed her away, but she only went a half dozen steps before turning back and clucking like she was scolding me or something. I eased her away with my boot. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen a chicken looking offended before, but Beulah can manage it just fine. As she stalked off toward the safety of the big chicken wire pen that surrounded the hen house, I watched her precise, prissy little steps preceded by a thrust of the head ever time she shifted her weight.
Ain't sure what alerted me. Maybe it was just pure caution, but when I looked up at the light pole, that big bird was dropping down on us, talons outstretched and beak wide open. I let out a shout and rushed toward Beulah, but I was too far away. Even so, my flailing arms disturbed the hawk’s concentration. Those grasping claws closed on Beulah’s back, but came away with only a clutch of feathers.
Beulah went nuts. She squawked and ran in circles as fast as those skinny legs would carry her. As the raptor soared away, my baby ran straight for me, and with a flurry of feathers, flew right up against my chest, almost setting me on my butt. I recovered and held her to my chest, her head hidden in my armpit, her little chicken heart thumping away like a jackhammer.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” I cooed. “Bad old hawk ain't gonna get you.” I held her up with her narrow head right in front of my eyes. Her red comb was a little frazzled from getting frostbit last winter. “But you gotta be more careful. We ain’t got little yella chicks running around the yard right now, so she’s set her sights on you.”
I smoothed her feathers, checked for broken skin on her back where the talons had slashed at her, and set Beulah back on the ground. “Get on in the coop now.”
She minded me this time.
Obviously, that’s not the last of Old Red. That hawk’s bound to be back for another pass at Beulah. Try to hold your blood pressure and pulse rate down until next week, okay? By the way, does this story reveal my Oklahoma roots?
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