Our beautiful, but brutal, rooster Nemo Doodle is gone. Done in. And the NFL Playoffs are to blame — sort of.

 

That fateful Sunday morning, in late January, we released our feathered flock from their attack-proof, no-critter-can-dig-under-the wire-enclosed chicken run and sturdy, wind-resistant, wooden chicken coup so they could peck around our property. Only a small, square hole — in the middle of the coup door — was left open so our chickens could free range or house sit as they pleased.

 

We were planning on spending the day at home, when we got the call after church. “Hey, come on over and watch the NFL Playoffs!” Our good friends, Pam and Jim — you remember, the ones we got Nemo from in the first place — invited us to view the Conference Championship match-ups on their gigantic — like 7 feet by 9 feet — retractable screen. (We don’t even get TV stations at our house.)  So, we left that afternoon and ended up spending the night.

 

Unfortunately, we left without putting our flock in the chicken house. You see, our chickens don’t go to bed before twilight. They prefer to march one-by-one up to the coup, hop up the step, and put themselves to bed.

 

Have you ever tried to get unwilling chickens to do something? We have. Tried gently herding our fowl with a wooden walking stick to go home. Tried patiently coaxing them through the open door by tossing popcorn kernels inside. In desperation, tried chasing them down to pick up and throw in the pen. With our grown birds, all such attempts have failed. So, they’d be on their own for the night.

 

Little did we know, as we watched four football teams clash for supremacy, our brave Nemo was locked in a titanic battle of his own. A fight of life and death to protect his “girls.”

 

It was a possum or raccoon that forced entry, assailed our sleepy flock, and faced off with the mighty Nemo.  Blondie, getting old and unable to roost on the highest pole, fell victim first. Her limp feathery remains, chest cavity gutted and eaten, were all that was left. She was Nemo’s favorite girlfriend and received unbridled love and affection. The intruder felt Nemo’s full wrath and fury.

 

When we checked our chickens the next morning, we discovered the aftermath of a ferocious battle. The frightful evidence of bloodied feathers and carnage paled in comparison to our brave Nemo. Standing upright on wobbly claws, he was covered in blood with head tucked down, heaving shallow breathes. He was barely alive, but the unquestioned champion of four beautiful, perfectly intact hens.

 

For days we petted him, coaxed him to eat and drink, bedded him on dry straw beneath a warm heating lamp, even sponged bathed his bruised head and blinded eyes with a warm wet cloth. He never rallied.

 

So, I carefully cradled my once fiery and fierce roaster, carried him to a stump, laid him down gently, lifted the hatchet, and ended his misery. The mighty Nemo is no more.

 

I miss him. His eternal crowing was a friendly “Welcome Home” day or night. True, we might have had to evict him from the premises eventually. His stealthy stalking and challenging attacks were becoming legendary. I loved Nemo, but I love my husband and grandkids more. And they were in danger with Nemo around.

 

Still, I’m mourning my courageous bird, who sacrificed himself to save others. Every morning of his life, I greeted him by saying, “Protect the ladies. Keep them safe. That’s your job, Nemo.” And he did, except for one.

 

Thank you, ole buddy. I’m glad you went out with your spurs on.

 

Epilogue — 3:00 a.m. — As I write Nemo’s epitaph, I hear scratching and munching of cat food outside my kitchen window. An animal is thieving and frightening our cats, Louie and Regina. I just checked with a flashlight. It’s him — a huge, male raccoon fearlessly defying our premises and attacking food and family. . .

 

Epilogue #2 — 3:05 a.m. — I’m writing what will be this raccoon’s obituary: “Recently, a villainous, masked scoundrel raided the home of six beautiful chickens. His unprovoked attack caused great pain, suffering, and lose to their bereaved human family. The varmint’s murderous actions received the full and just penalty of such criminal behavior — he was shot at dawn. The malefactor was buried beside the remains of the owner’s beloved chickens — Blondie and Nemo.”

 

The End . . . for now!

 

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