It’s true. There really IS a dead rooster in the trunk of my car. It’s how he came to the ranch. In a twisted way, it seems kind of fitting that it’s how he’ll leave.
I could bury him if it weren’t for the inky black darkness and the sound of coyotes howling from just beyond my back acreage. No, digging a grave deep enough to thwart animal exhumations doesn’t seem wise at the moment.
We found him in the chicken coop, at the end of a frantic hustle to get home and get the goats barned. I had gotten a text message as I was driving home, complete with a picture of the coyote, his stance majestic as he looked pointedly at the goat pasture. I could just make out the silhouette of their goat boat in the distance, and a shadow of my herd huddled in a corner.
I was so intent on ensuring their safety and moving Jaxie into their pasture that I failed to notice Skippy standing sentinel in the bottom of the coop. Not until my son and I were upon him, closing up the chickens, that I noticed something was amiss. He let us pet him, and I took him in my arms as he drew his last breaths. With a pitiful gasp, he was gone. His eyes clouded over, and my 8-year-old put his hand on my shoulder. “Mom, I don’t think he’s breathing anymore.”
I wasn’t sure what to do. What is the proper form when livestock/pet dies and your children are standing right there? We tucked him in a shoe box, tears streaming down my daughter’s face. She had named him. Looked after him. Hugged him.
“Mama, can we take care of him like we did Gregory?” she asked, referencing the rooster before Skippy took up residence here. He too had died rather unexpectedly. I found him dead on the floor near the hen boxes. I didn’t quite know what to do when he passed and so I bagged him up, said a prayer and placed him in the garbage. That was the part they didn’t see, as blessedly, they were with their dad at the time. All they knew was that I took care of it.
But in that situation, trash day was the next day, and coyotes weren’t prowling the property looking for supper. So now there’s a dead rooster in a Ralph Lauren shoe box in my trunk. Something tells me Ralph would be a little disturbed by the thought of a rooster where the pair of red flats used to be.
Yet it’s not where my mind drifts. My thoughts are with the picture my daughter drew before bed. A pencil drawing of her rooster, “I love you Skippy” scrawled in her wobbly handwriting above his head.
How do you find a bandaid for such a tender heart?