My dad’s family spent a number of years attempting to farm on land just north of Alban, Ontario. Of course farming up there was a bit of a mixed bag that no one actually made a living at. One day his father came home with what sounded like an irate chicken in a burlap bag. He dropped the sack in the yard and its occupant struggled free of the muffling folds to take stock of its new surroundings. It was a little Banty rooster, only a quarter the size of the rooster the farm already had.
No mention was made of why there was any need for a second rooster on the place, especially one as diminutive as this one was. He would have ended up in the stewpot that very day if Grandma had had her way but Grandpa wouldn’t hear of it. I’ve often wondered if he might have won him in a bet but dismissed it as unlikely in that strictly Catholic household. Banty roosters were used in cockfighting and were known for their aggressive nature. This one was no exception. When the farm’s rooster crowed at sunrise the next morning the little Banty considered it a personal challenge and rushed to the attack. Dust and feathers flew and the short but intense battle ended with the farm’s rooster in full retreat. Within two days the larger bird was a silent and tattered version of his former self. He had learned that crowing of any sort would inevitably result in a sound thrashing by his tiny arch nemesis and the little Banty had become the undisputed ‘King of the Barnyard’.
When the Banty turned up missing soon after that there was a lot of speculation among the children about various forms of rooster revenge until someone recalled that the morning had been particularly still and they had heard the crowing of the neighbor’s rooster from the farm a mile up the road. It seemed unlikely but they decided it might be worth checking. Sure enough, within a half a mile or so they caught up to the little Banty strutting up the middle of the road, head up and feathers all puffed out, clearly making his way to face off with whichever rooster he’d heard daring to crow that morning.
That little rooster was more trouble than he was worth but Grandpa seemed to like him a lot. I think he probably felt a certain kinship with the scrappy bird. My Grandpa Landry wasn’t very big either. When I knew him he still walked with a spring in his step, shoulders back and chin thrust out. Most often I would see him with a twinkle in his blue eyes and a ready smile but I’ve been told he was quite a scrapper in his younger years. He had ambitions to become a boxer and actually fought in a few matches. He was quick and strong but he couldn’t manage to keep a cool head in a fight. His temper would inevitably get the best of him and ultimately it spoiled his chances of being competitive in the ring. Even so, he never could back down from anything. It was a quality he and the rooster shared. They never thought of themselves as small and that just might be worth remembering when I face the Goliaths in my own life.