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Desert Companion

Gives you wings

Correction: The Nevada SPCA operates a no-kill animal shelter, and would have accepted a rooster at its sanctuary. This fact was incorrect in an article ("Gives you wings," August). We regret the error.

Thank God I’m not a country boy. I couldn’t have hacked it, being a lazy brute who likes to sleep late and shirks heavy manual labor whenever possible. Besides, if I ever got attached to a chicken, pig, cow or horse, the poor critter would eventually be decapitated, sent to a slaughterhouse or maybe a glue factory, leaving me devastated. Plus you’ve got those doggone roosters cock-a-doodle-doing incessantly, with no sense of time whatsoever.

Farms are places for visiting and indulging bucolic fantasies. Like my wife, I’m perfectly content in quasi-suburban existence, in a 1962 neighborhood developed by Wilbur Clark near UNLV.

So guess who was sought out by a distressed rooster last Easter Sunday?

“He’s coming up the driveway,” my wife exclaimed, as he strutted toward our house like a proud almoner. Probably the victim of a cockfighting ring, he’d lost his coxcomb and the crown of his head was laid open to the scalp. Both of his wings had either been mauled or deliberately mutilated.

Now, the only thing stronger than my dread of farm life is susceptibility to a hard-luck story and “Plucky” (as Jennifer soon named him) was obviously down on his fortunes. Some instinct told him to make a beeline for us. Birdseed and water were quickly provided, as we tried to make sense of our homeless visitor.

Support comes from

Not even the presence of three cats, several of which were watching him from open windows, deterred Plucky from his conviction he’d landed in the lap of luxury. He even rapped on front door, demanding admittance.

Our improvised, live-and-let-cluck idyll came to an abrupt end a few days later when Plucky went postal on our postman for daring to infringe upon his turf. It was clear that Plucky would have to be domiciled in our backyard while we found a permanent home. Neither objective was easily accomplished. The Lied Animal Shelter, we were told, would euthanize Plucky on sight. So would the Nevada SPCA — and it’d charge us for the privilege of murdering our new friend.

It would have been the simplest thing to call Animal Control. But, after all he’d suffered, why reward him with a death sentence? We admired his scrappy survivor’s spirit — like a feathered hobo — and became firmly resolved to give him a better life than he’d seen so far.

Phase One: Corral Plucky. How do you capture a rooster singlehandedly? With great difficulty. A rooster can accelerate and turn faster than an Alfa Romeo. Meanwhile, you’re left feeling like a damn fool, pursuing a scrawny, elusive chicken with a quilt.

So we were playing two waiting games. One, for Plucky to let his guard down sufficiently to nab him, the other to hear good news from any of the many farms and refuges Jennifer had contacted.

Once plopped into our backyard, Plucky was in paradise. He happily foraged the grass for hours when not burrowing in the dirt of our garden. At night, he slept on the middle rung of a ladder, safely out of reach from prowling neighborhood cats. Our own trio of felines, strictly housebound, discovered an endless source of fascination (and no small amount of frustration) in Plucky’s peregrinations. A big, juicy bird so near — and yet so far.

The unlikely solution to finding him a home: Pigs. Plucky’s luck turned when Jennifer’s cold calling led her to R.C. Farms, in North Las Vegas. Its owner, Bob Combs, scours the Strip, relieving casinos of leftover food, thus ensuring his thousands of hogs a high-protein diet fit for a VIP player. He also keeps roosters as pets and agreed to give Plucky a home on the free range.

After locating the huge (but inconspicuous) pig farm, we drove through acres of livestock before being directed to a wooded aerie where Mr. Combs and his family live. A peacock and turkey paraded about in the breeze. Concealed in a bamboo thicket was a large and shady pond, stocked with fish, geese and ducks.

It was idyllic – and the sign my wife had prayed for. Coaxed from his carrier, Plucky quickly began exploring the underbrush and chatting up the handsome red rooster who appeared to, well, rule the roost.

As we left, we passed a chicken and a brood of fuzzy little offspring. Hmmmm … female companionship. Might there soon be a bunch of little Pluckys scuttling around R.C. Farms? If so, their DNA will be encoded with bravery, trust and a survival instinct that would put many a human to shame.

 

David McKee is a local freelance writer. And still not a country boy. 

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