Saturday, March 27, 2021

Texas notes: Cockerel

     Austin bureau chief Caren Jeskey has previously written on the theme, "Hail chickens." Today's could be considered a variation, "Chickens, hail."

     It’s been an odd week. That’s saying a lot considering the past few months, nearly all of 2020, and every single day after the horrible night of November 9, 2016.
     This is the most stressful time many of us have ever known. We’ve all been brought to our knees, vulnerable and faced with the fragility of life. Aware of the fact that we might lose everything at the drop of a hat— our businesses, our homes, the neighborhood stalwarts we’ve relied on, even our loved ones. We suffered through and pretty much survived our first oligarch. It’s been a bizarre ride, hasn’t it? 
    At least there are certain things we can still count on, if we are lucky. A hot cup of coffee in the morning. Snow storms in the north. The sounds of crickets lulling us to sleep in early spring in the south. The PBS News Hour, and Teri Gross on NPR. The Sun Times. SNL. The Austin Music scene coming back to life.
    Each morning I sit in front of my laptop with a cuppa joe near a floor to ceiling open window. I enjoy the sounds of the wind, blue jays and doves, the crunch of feet on the gravel path a few yards behind my tiny house, and children playing in the park. The chickens bellow out an insistent opera back and forth to each other as they vie for scraps and seeds. The little ones cower and skulk, and sneak bites when they can.
     Earlier this week I started noticing a rooster crowing nearby. Cock a doodle doooo! I figured a neighbor down the street must have acquired one of these dapper fellows. I heard the gent on and off for a few days and didn’t think much of it except “oh, Austin. You’re pretty cool.” Today he was a little louder, and much to my surprise I realized the calls were coming from our coop. How could that be? We don’t have roosters, only hens. A rooster would mess up the delicate balance of the egg laying ladies.
     It hit me like a ton of bricks. Blanche. Lately I’d found myself marveling at her dinosaur talons and noticing how quickly she was growing. She was gigantic, towering over the others. She was twice as large as her sidekick Thelma, yet they had come to us as a pair of teeny chicks.
     Blanche was no hen. She was a young rooster, a cockerel.
     I texted Wilson, my landlord, and filled him in. He responded “yes, I realized it too. We’ll have to get rid of her soon.” We are still calling her “her.” I decided to hang out with her a bit today, to get used to the fact that she is, in fact, a he. I could tell right away that she was different. Thelma seemed scared of her. When Blanche tried to straddle her, she shape-shifted before my eyes from the cute little hen I’d watched grow up into a domineering cock. When I let Wilson know what I’d seen he said “oh, no. We’ll have to get rid of her sooner than I’d thought.” Poor Blanche. This gang is all she’s ever known.
   A few nights ago I was awoken by a storm. Heavy wind, lightening, and a furious rain pounding against the roof and making percussive sounds on the air conditioner perched outside the window. All of a sudden huge balls of ice started falling from the sky. It sounded like the house was being pelted with little missiles. I was unnerved, thought about my car, and wondered if the chunks might fly through a window. I worried about chickens and even more so about the thousands of unhoused Austinites. Would everyone be ok?
     The hail lasted several minutes and I told myself “this will pass. Everything is OK.” When it was over I stepped outside to a lawn peppered with little white balls. I collected a few, the largest were green-grape sized, and popped them into the freezer. I’m not sure why, but it seemed fun, and the right thing to do. Something my Dad would have done when we were kids.
     It’s been hard for me to sleep this week after I had the unfortunate side effect of “COVID Arm” after my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. 11 days after the shot I developed huge red welts that look like burns and itch like the dickens, first around the vaccine site and then in random spots all over my upper body. Today is day 19 after the dose, and I noticed some new welts pop up. I saw the doctor, and as I expected, they are a known reaction and will go away. (Or so they say). The angry welts kept me up for days, and now the hail prevented yet another good night’s sleep. As I drifted back to sleep with the help of Benadryl, the chickens and I stayed safe. At about that same moment, straight line winds knocked down brick buildings in Bertram Texas, less than 50 miles north of here.
   And how was your week?
Oh I am a chicken who lives in an egg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplanes roar,
So I’m staying in here where it’s safe and it’s warm,
                         —Shel Silverstein


  1. Love the rooster story.

    I had only a slightly sore arm after Moderna, but also had a rash ( not as bad as yours) in various places around my body. A cortisone cream helps a lot.

  2. Passover begins at sundown. Have a good yontiff, Mister S. That's how we pronounced it in Sha-CAW-go, even though it's actually "yom tov"...Hebrew for "good day."

    Is that a matzohball in an almost-empty soup bowl...or a piece of gefilte fish?

  3. Totally distracted by what I'm sure was delicious kneidel (matzohball if you prefer) soup.
    As a first born son, I wish for the angel of death pass over my house.
    Chag Pesach Sameach!

  4. Now THAT'S gefilte fish. Next up some melt in your mouth brisket with horseradish?

  5. Seems like your landlord is having a hard time accepting that Blanche fooled the chicken sexer.
    Sorry about the tough week. This too shall pass over.

  6. Happy Passover all! And thanks for your support. This too shall pass, and so much to be grateful for.

  7. I have had both shots (Modera) A sore arm after the first one but not bad, slightly less so after the second and no side affects. Guess I was lucky

  8. Yeah, you were damn lucky. My wife and I felt pretty lousy after our first shots, but the second one knocked us flat on our keisters.

    My wife slept all night, and all day. I spent about eighteen hours in bed, had the shakes, the chills, dizziness, headaches, stuffy nose, and I ached all over.

    I've read about what heroin addicts go through when they kick the habit cold turkey, and what having malaria is like. That's how bad it felt, at least for a little while. A lot worse than we expected.

  9. I'm excited to learn that my hives, etc. may be an indication of a "strong immune response" more commonly seen in children.

    "March 8: Researchers from Mass General Brigham published a Research Letter in JAMA analyzing allergic reactions in employees who received their shots there. Out of 52,805 participants, 2.1% experienced some kind of allergic reaction, including hives, itching, rash, swelling or respiratory symptoms within the first three days after vaccination. Allergies were slightly more common with the Moderna vaccine than the Pfizer vaccine (2.2% compared to 1.95%). Sixteen experienced anaphylaxis.

    Moderna has announced that it will begin testing its vaccine in children and adolescents, who they believe may have stronger immune responses, leading to more intense side effects."


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