The Rooster Who Crowed Too Soon (A Fable)

Crowing rooster and hen

 

It was the rooster’s job to make the sun come up every morning. He would stand atop the fencepost, thrust his chest out, and crow, just as the sun first began to light the eastern sky. With each crow, the sun inched a little higher in the sky, until it was fully risen. Then the rooster would hop down, and strut off to boss the hens around. That was his job too – if he didn’t do it, the hens would not lay. But making the sun come up was his biggest job, and he took great pride in it.

He wasn’t a terribly old rooster. This was his first spring, and the only other rooster on the farm was several months younger, and only just beginning to crow. Obviously HE was not the one making the sun come up with his cracking and squeaking crow – the older rooster sensed the value of his existence, and looked with pity on the younger rooster.

It didn’t take long for the older rooster to notice that EVERYTHING on the farm centered around the rising of the sun.

When the sun rose, the farmer would appear to milk the cows, and to hitch the horses to the plow, whistling a tune, a little off key, as he worked. The farmer’s wife would come out to gather eggs and to feed the smaller livestock, smiling and talking to them as she moved through the farmyard. The older children would run for the schoolbus, and the younger ones would help the farmer’s wife, and then swing in the yard and torment the cat, laughing as they played together. The farm bustled with constant activity as long as the sun was up. When it went down, things were quiet, and the farm rested. Somehow, that bothered the rooster. He thought that it was so much more interesting and productive when the sun was up.

As the weather warmed, the rooster woke a little earlier each day. He felt a thrill of excitement at the power he had to command the sun to rise a little earlier, so that the farmer was compelled to begin his day at an ever earlier hour, day by day. It pleased him that not only was the sun obedient to him, but that it was there, waiting and ready for him each day, a mellow light already spreading across the horizon. The whole farm was at his command, the horses, cows, sheep and pigs all came under his reign, because he made the sun rise earlier, and so must they.

The hens were laying strong, for which the rooster also felt responsible. After all, he not only commanded the sun to rise, but he scolded the hens to make them lay. Without him, there would be no eggs. He felt warm all over as he thought about how much the farmer’s wife must appreciate his services. Soon, chicks began to pop up around the hen house, and he took great pride in his status as a father. He did not share in the care of the chicks, nor did he feel any interest in them – but he took great pride in their existence anyway. Every once in a while, he would order one around, just to make sure they understood that this was his job.

Soon the gardens were lush with fresh produce, and the chickens enjoyed a bounty of scraps of fresh greens from the garden. Of course, the rooster felt that he had provided well for the hen yard, after all, wasn’t the garden his doing as well, since he made the sun come up so the farmer’s wife could plant?

Then one day, the sun was no longer waiting for him. He was on time, not even early but he had to crow to get it out of bed enough to see the first light on the horizon. Within weeks, the sun began to ignore him the first time he crowed. And it grew worse as the summer progressed –  he stood on the fencepost at the appointed hour, and the sun had to be wakened from an ever deeper slumber. He determined that he must simply explain more earnestly, and insist that it rise on time, so each morning he crowed until the sun felt shame for hiding, and slowly roused itself from sleep. That lazy sun! This, surely, was proof of how desperately the farm depended upon the noble rooster, for without him, the sun would certainly fail to rise at all!

Each morning at 5:00 am, the rooster began to crow, and as fall approached, the sun took more and more coaxing to begin the day. First it took one extra crow, then two, and more!  The rooster was not pleased! The work on the farm was obviously suffering, since less work could be done in the shorter daylight hours. The hens began to lay a little less each week, in spite of his scolding. This was clearly the fault of the lazy sun!

The horses and cows began to grumble about the rooster’s crowing. The sheep and pigs baa-ed and grunted their discontent at being roused from their dreams by the piercing noise. The farmer’s children began to squabble and annoy one another in irritation over the early wakenings, and the cat was tormented more than usual, leaving the cat in a perpetually bad mood. The smiles left the faces of the farmer and his wife, and they grumbled as they did their chores, no longer talking cheerfully to the animals, short tempered and tired. The rooster noticed the change, and shook his head sadly, reminding himself that he must redouble his efforts to rouse the sun on time, because obviously the entire farm was experiencing negative effects because of the shortened days. He ignored the snide remarks of the horses and cows, and thought to himself how easy it is to lay blame in entirely the wrong quarter – the other animals were simply lazy, that was all.

One morning, several weeks after the crops had been harvested and stored, the rooster climbed up to his accustomed morning perch, and began to crow. The sun, lazier than usual, was even slower than the day before.

After about the fourth crow, the farmer stomped out of the house and threw an old boot at the sun, making angry noises as he did so. The rooster had to duck, because in his anger at the sun for not rising on time, the farmer had thrown carelessly and had nearly hit the rooster! The flustered rooster persevered though, and brought the sulking sun forth, in spite of resistance. It took some time that morning for the rooster’s ruffled feathers to settle, and each time he had to smooth his feathers back down, he pondered what to do to make the sun obey.

That afternoon, the farmer passed the hen yard, and pointed his finger in the direction of the rooster. He then spoke very sternly, and turned to walk on to the house. The rooster quickly looked behind himself to see who the farmer had been scolding, and determined that it must have been one of the hens. After all, they had not been laying as much lately.

At 5:00 am the next morning, the rooster began calling to the sun, bidding it to rise. It was so lazy by now, that it took a full hour and a half of crowing before the lethargic sun finally began to rise. The farmer stayed in the house, and did not yell at the sun again.

That afternoon, the farmer’s older boys came into the hen yard, and captured the rooster. He swelled with pride – the farmer must be preparing to thank him for his selfless service! The boys carried him to a wood block, placed his neck on the block, and chopped off his head. The farmer’s wife prepared chicken and dumplings for dinner that night, and the farmer said, “Well, that stupid rooster won’t be waking us at 5:00 in the morning in the dead of winter anymore! The only time we get to rest a little, and he stands out there crowing his fool head off when the sun isn’t even up yet!”

The next morning, just as a soft glow began to light the eastern edge of the farm, the younger rooster climbed atop the fencepost, gave a funny wobbly little crow, and bade the sun rise.

Moral: Tyrants usually come to a bad end, and nobody ever misses them.

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