Archived Story

A rooster named Foghorn and a job

Published 8:11am Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Column: Tales from Exit 22

As Glinda the Good Witch said in The Wizard of Oz, “It’s always best to start at the beginning.”

Yellow leaves fell from the trees like exhausted butterflies. A particularly lovely leaf fluttered to the ground near a rooster in my yard.

A rooster in my yard! What was a rooster doing in my yard? I don’t have any chickens. I’m chickenless. Was this a free-range chicken that had lost his way?

I kept chickens for many years. I loved the eggs with yolks of a color not found in supermarkets. I enjoyed the crowing of a rooster. Those were the good things. There was a duty that I didn’t enjoy. I had to clean henhouses filled with enough ammonia to make Mr. Clean hold his nose. I cleaned a henhouse with the same enthusiasm demonstrated by a bad guy getting into the backseat of a squad car.

As I saw the rooster in my yard, a cartoon bubble of me cleaning a henhouse formed over my head.

I thought of asking Col. Sanders for help but he is no longer available.

I attempted to catch the rooster but he would have none of it. He had spurs long enough that he could have ridden a horse. The spurs caused him to run in a goofy gait, but he was still fast enough to elude me. I felt like my cousin Wanda, who pursued a chemistry major who was too fast. Unable to apprehend the rooster, I wished I could slow the steady decline in temperature. I worried about predators. The problem with a chicken is that it tastes just like chicken.

I named the rooster Foghorn after Foghorn Leghorn of Looney Tunes cartoon fame. I named him because men have been naming things since Adam.

The moniker reminded me of hearing a foghorn on Lake Erie.

I was on a ferry. It was a day that was like an unopened box of crayons — filled with endless possibilities. I was working at a job with a scenic view.

I recalled a job I’d had early in life. I had never really disliked a job before. This one was a thudding bore, paid poorly and was hard. A bad combination.

“You know what I hate about this job?” I asked a co-worker.

“The work.”

The man was psychic. I toiled with a tepid sincerity. One day, my boss took me aside and left me there. I didn’t lose the job. It’s still there.

I find pleasure in work that allows me to dally. The job that brought me to the ferry turned my mind into a kaleidoscope. Each time I shook it, I saw a new picture. I wore a hat advertising my employer.

“Nice hat,” said a man with a slight tilt of the head wearing the world’s grubbiest hat.

“Thanks, I wish I could say the same for yours,” I replied with a smile, allowing my impish spirit to speak for me. I hoped the man realized his hat was disgusting.

“You could if you were as big a liar as I am,” he responded with a smile of his own. He was thin enough that he could be seen only when he inhaled. He continued talking. “I don’t know what I’m doing up so early. There isn’t much worth doing before “The Price is Right” is over. What am I doing here? This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s within easy driving distance. If you hang around long enough, you end up somewhere. If you live long enough, something will kill you. I’ll bet you a dollar the bird to the right on that wire flies before the other one does. You ever farm? I worked on a farm once. I learned that many things don’t really smell until you step on them. I herded cattle, but I wouldn’t hold the halter of a cow at the county fair. I didn’t mind being a director but I didn’t want to be a stockholder.”

He went on. He sensed the world was mad. He had read a 2008 Harris Poll that showed that 14 percent of Americans had tattoos and that inspired him to have his zip code tattooed on his arm. He said it was like an address on an envelope. If the world crumbled beneath his feet, he’d still find his way home.

“I have to go home someday. I own a plot in the cemetery,” he concluded just as we reached our destination.

I hope Foghorn wears a tattoo of his zip code.

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.