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On the Ranch Journal
True Love in the
Chicken Coop
by Cris Paravicini

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Love in the chicken coop

Love in the chicken coop

The Storybook Romance of Spur and Sassy 

Spur and Sassy were in love for more than ten years, so when Sassy died last spring, I wondered if it would be the end of old Spur. The feisty bantam rooster and his teacup-sized mate had been a gift to me from my Uncle Dick and Aunt Louise Noble, many years ago. Spur had been found guilty of attacking their grandkids every chance he got, so for him, it was nearly the end of the road. (If a rooster has ever raked his spurs across your tender hide or flogged your backside, you know the sheer pain and fear that a little kid endures when the "king of the coop" makes that kid the bull's eye.) 

At five inches tall, Spur wasn't big enough to inflict much damage, but his wild-eyed charge and fantastic set of steely spurs, as long as he was tall, would make even the bravest adult fight the urge to turn and run. Thus, the sentence had been handed down. "Off with his head!" - unless some kind soul came along and took mercy on him. Sassy, of course, would sweeten the deal, so that the kind soul might eventually hatch some little spurs. 

So, as in all good love stories, we stuffed Sassy and Spur into a gunnysack, and I took the pair home and settled them into my own little hen house on the river. When I dumped the two, small fries out of the sack, Spur immediately began to set his own pecking order by knocking the heck out of my big, roan rooster. And, as the days went by, I noticed that Spur would strut and herd the other chickens away from Sassy while she ate, drank, or went to her evening roost. I rarely ever saw him fill his own craw, so obsessed was he with hovering over the little hen. I laughed to myself, thinking he was just like a fussy, old "mother hen."

And, for a small guy, he was so noisy, cock-a-doodling all the time. The little, self-assigned, "watchdog" took his job so seriously that the traditional morning reveille was expanded to take in all hours of the day and night. Whether calving time or haying time, rain or shine, if Spur felt that his territory, or Sassy, was threatened, he would tip his beak back, stretch his skinny, feathered neck toward the ridge logs, begin his war strut, and crow with all his might. Sassy, though, remained the sweet and fluffy princess, waltzing here and there, with Spur right on her tail. 

Ah yes, purty, little Sassy could surely melt Spur's thumbnail-sized heart and set the whole coop aflutter, as she preened and paraded - daintily swinging her dark, skirt-like tail-feathers right under Spur's pointed, little beak. She pretended not to notice her amorous suitor as she swished and sashayed past the grain barrel, up the roost pole, and into her cozy nesting box. Spur

The years came and went, with Spur faithfully tending his little lady, and all the while, the bantam pair's love for each other never faded. Even during the years that Sassy visited the kindergarten room to hatch eggs and was gone for the entire summer raising chicks, Spur never forgot her. He seemed always to be watching and waiting. And when the autumn leaves turned to gold, he would coo and sing and flutter, as Sassy finally returned to his side. 

Yes, together, Spur and Sassy were special, sharing a never-broken bond. I doubt any human love could ever be more true. When Sassy's health began to fail, I moved her and Spur to a quiet, "retirement shed" of their very own, where the younger hens couldn't peck on the elderly couple during Sassy's final days. 

Then, on a bitterly cold, spring morning, when I stopped by with their daily feed, I knew the instant I opened the door that the Arctic snap had taken its sad toll. Sassy lay outstretched and silent in the hay at Spur's feet. My heart fell, and for a moment, I thought she'd already died. I stooped to pick her up, and Spur made a wild dash at me. But for some reason, he changed his mind in mid-stampede and returned to Sassy's side. 

I gathered her close and tried to warm her tiny body, but she stirred only slightly, gave a feeble peep, and then, Sassy was gone. Spur looked very small that day, quietly standing in the hay. When I laid her back down beside him, I had to wipe a tear away, knowing that this loyal, little fellow would be facing tomorrow's dawn, alone. 

Spur is back in the hen house, now, and whether sunshine or clouds, he's still crowing at the top of his lungs. He hasn't yet taken up with a new chick and I doubt he ever will, because it's a stretch of the imagination to even hope that one those leggy Amazons could ever satisfy his yearnings for companionship. But, I'd like to think that Spur remains single, just because he's still watching and waiting for Sassy. 

The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be reached by e-mail at: cowgirl@wyoming.com.

Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted, Cris Paravicini, 1999-2000. Drawing of Daniel Schoolhouse by Teresa Shenefelt. No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.

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