Goodis is gone. I came home from a weekender and he seems to have vanished. In the afternoons, he usually had his ladies lounging in a group under the shrubs that flanked the driveway. As I got out of the car and stepped into the noonday sun, I immediately felt his absence. I don’t know what happened; I probably won’t ever know.
Here is what I do know: Goodis was a damn fine rooster. Handsome, gentlemanly, chivalrous, judicious; a downright excellent chicken soul.
Most mornings Goodis and I would meet at the base of my little outdoor staircase. He was always the first to greet me, and usually had his two whack-ass sisters in tow. We would all then head around the corner to the workshop and get some dried mealworms. Good would have a few and then leave his sisters to the rest. He had business to attend.
We would walk down the hill to the coop together, staying on the narrow, well-worn trail of dried earth that wound a barren path through the tall grasses that had sprung up all over from the recent rains. At the bottom, the ladies eagerly awaited our arrival, crowding the exit of the run. I would throw scratch outside the run and then unlatch the gate while Good stood off and to the side a bit, waiting. He reminded me of the airport drivers you see outside gates standing stoically with signs for arriving passengers. He never held the sign, but he definitely had his patient and friendly arrival face on when the gate swung open.
And the day would begin. Hens everywhere, about thirty of them. He would immediately dig into his duties amongst the cluck and chaos: Direct a few to the sunflower seeds, pull off a bit of the tidbit dance for others, keep the ever vigilant eye open for predators, bang a couple of willing hens —all part of the game.
And the Good Man had game. I used to call him the Technicolor Dream Cock because his shit would glow. His feathers were iridescent, and full of beautiful shades of orange and black. His body plumage ranged from fawn to deep russets and his tail was an inky gloss black of feathers cascading off of his chicken butt.
Goodis was born here, and during his teenage weeks, he boldly decided he was going to live his life on his own chicken terms. This involved not ever sleeping inside the coop. Instead, at the end of the day, after his ladies retired, he would jump up on the back of the fully enclosed run and nestle at the top where the run attached to the side of the coop. Often times, his two sisters, Hetty and Sky, would sleep up there with him. There was no reasoning with any of them. I tried in the beginning. I would go out and coax, poke, prod, anything to get them to jump down and go inside for the night. Hardly ever worked. Once in awhile I could get Hetty and Sky to be so sick of my shit that they would rather just comply, but Good wasn’t having it. He was a rooster, goddammit! If he was going to take shit from me, he was going to have to take shit from everyone, and he just wasn’t going to play it like that. So I let it go. I had to accept his choice.
My acceptance came from a place of always wanting my bird friends to have a good chicken life. If their good chicken life involved sleeping in weird places, for the most part, I had to let it ride. Not ideal for chickens, especially when you happen to be food pretty much everyone loves, including predators, but chasing him around every evening wasn’t going to add joy to his days, and it was adding stress to my nights. Good’s daring seemed to embody Shelby from Steel Magnolias when she said, “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special.”
So that’s how it went for months. Goodis would snooze under the stars until it was time to assert his territorial dominance in the first rays of each dawn with the song of his people, and I would greet him in the morning when I hit the bottom stair.
And now he’s gone. There’s no carnage, no note, no explanation, just the very sad presence of his absence. I hate that he’s gone. I miss him. I worry that he suffered. I hope, hope, hope he didn’t.
And here’s where it gets tricky: He was mostly likely eaten, and I am—in a way—okay with that too. Life is hard, especially hard for the wild ones. Someone got to eat. We’re all in this together and this sort of thing is all part of the balance. I get it. I just can’t help but wish it didn’t have to be Goodis.
I’m grateful for time spent with the Good Man. I hope the rainbow bridge only serves to enhance his magnificent colors. May we all have the courage to break away from the flock for a while and sleep under the stars.