BERKSON: Talk About Coop d’Etats!


Talk About Coop d’Etats!

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His article have appears in New York magazine, the New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

Early this spring, my reigning rooster, Geezbrook, who fathered almost all of this year’s egg-laying rookies, was challenged and defeated by one of his sons.

When I arrived on the scene, the old man was cowering in a corner with his back facing his attacker.

I scooted them out into the yard and they went at it again, Geezbrook seeming to have new heart against his son, who got down like an alligator coming through a fan of feathers.
They both drew blood with the old man losing the fight until I slapped them both several times with my red plastic shovel.

Distracted, they headed for cover in a hedgerow.

When I went back to the coop to gather eggs, I noticed that several of the hens had bald spots on their backs caused, no doubt, by the roosters practicing their dominance.

Luckily, Pee Wee, my favorite chicken, hadn’t suffered any damage or I would have gone after the bullies with hatchet in hand. Instead, I tried to catch them, which was no easy task after they had had a taste of the shovel.

I needed to know which rooster was abusing my hens, so that I could pack him off to King’s every-second-Sunday auction in West Winfield.

Actually, you don’t need any roosters to keep the hens laying eggs. You only need them if you want to hatch the eggs.

It is nice, though, to hear a rooster crow in the morning.

Geezbrook still rules the roost at the Berksons.

Geezbrook hadn’t given me any trouble up until now, so I figured it was one of his coercive sons that was abusing the girls. There was no running these shy youngsters down, so I had to set a trap and bait it with cracked corn.

The door was held open by a stick on a long string, with me at the far end hiding behind a low cedar.

Several times I looked over my shoulder to see my wife, Alice, at the window shaking her head in disapproval.

Undaunted, I held my ground for most of the day because I knew at least one of these roosters had to go.

I eventually caught the culprit that was fighting with Geezbrook and boxed him up for shipment to the block.

When Sunday came around, my wife turned down a date to the auction, so, alone, I drove to Winfield and pushed the rebel’s box across King’s counter.

They gave me a number which I sat on in the bleachers.

I could hear my rooster crowing, “Why me, why me?” above all the other birds in the building.

Serves him right, I thought, for picking on his father.

I didn’t let myself get sentimental and just sat there wondering what the troublemaker would go for. The five bucks was still warm in my pocket as I headed for Richfield.

That was easy, I thought. One rebel down and maybe one more to go. For a while the regime seemed secure.

A few days later I received a big postcard marked from Syracuse. The handwriting was so scratchy I could barely make it out.

It was the rebel telling me that the slaughterhouse truck he had been riding on didn’t make it under a low underpass and that his crate was swept onto the road where it broke into a hundred pieces.

Unscathed, this bird was telling me that he was on his way back with spurs intact and a beak ready for battle.

I pictured myself waiting by the coop with the red shovel in hand. At all costs, Geezbrook would still rule the roost.

I folded the postcard and put it in my back pocket.

Then Alice looked me in the eye for a long time, slowly shook her head, and then handed over the rest of the mail.

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