Of all the things I never expected or wanted to be in this life, an advocate for roosters is pretty high on the list.
But there I was, lugging my own absurd back-story over the Sagamore Bridge to Chatham, where word was spreading about a rooster in peril and how I was the guy who could save him.
Specifically, an e-mail arrived from a Cape resident named Anne LeClaire, who said that the local animal officer had recently told her that her prized rooster, Andre, had to go. A distant neighbor had complained about the noise, and LeClaire lacked the permits required to keep the bird at home.
LeClaire described Andre’s fate on Facebook, and several of the many sympathetic readers urged her to alert me about her plight. Apparently, you write a couple of columns about life with a disdainful rooster and you end up with a reputation in the world of poultry. Hey, I’ll take glory wherever I can find it.
Anyway, LeClaire, a popular novelist whose 2009 book “Listening Below the Noise” is a nonfiction reflection on silence (seriously), invited me into her living room and shared her story, the two of us joined by her husband, Hillary.
A few years ago, Hillary, who always wanted to raise chickens, ordered chicks from a farm in Iowa, which had sexed them to make sure they were hens. Anne and Hillary were immediately enchanted by the creatures, the way they dug holes, lived harmoniously in their pen, and attracted neighbors who came bearing bread. “And, oh, those eggs,” Hillary said dreamily.
A new batch of chicks arrived in February, and it soon became obvious that a brown-and-tan chicken was different from the rest. First he croaked, then squawked, then crowed — sometimes at first light and occasionally through the day. They had themselves a rooster.
No matter. Anne named him Andre, after her friend, novelist Andre Dubus III. They marveled over his blue legs and the way he presided over the pen.
“He marks the cycles of the day,” Anne said. “He takes care of his flock. Plus, he’s really beautiful.”
Their immediate neighbors not only brought bread but grandkids and friends. Strangers came by car and foot. The rooster achieved celebrity status.
“There’s a difference between sound and noise,” Anne LeClaire explained in her living room. The constant rumble of construction equipment, the leaf blowers and lawn mowers, that’s noise. Andre, she said, is nature.
Apparently, the complaining neighbor, whose identity was not revealed, doesn’t get the distinction, and the LeClaires confided that waging a fight would require too much money and emotion. They planned to bring Andre to a farm the next day.
Now I was having flashbacks, flashbacks to an overfed rooster named Buddy who came with the family I joined a couple of years ago. Buddy loved the women in my house, mother and daughters. He trailed them like a puppy, emitting little love-clucks. He pecked at the doors until they let him watch TV with the kids. He also hated my guts, chased me around the yard, and crowed in my office window. His disdain had diminished only slightly by the time he died, apparently of a heart attack, in May. (I have an alibi.)
“You want to see Andre?” Anne asked. Absolutely not.
“Sure,” I replied.
He was beautiful, proudly high-stepping among so many hens, the busy bird. As I bade farewell, there was resignation in the air, but no noise.
Which was when next-door neighbor Lane Byrd walked over and declared, “I’m going to be so depressed when he’s gone.” And then Jay and Pam Robertson arrived from across the street. “Every time he crows, I smile,” he said.
When I got back to Boston, an e-mail awaited from Anne LeClaire that began, “Hillary was so fired up after you left that he went down to Town Hall to fight it.”
So the battle is joined. We will leave no bird imperiled. How proud am I?