The Red Rosette

 Try as he might Charlie could not fly more than a few metres. He could flap as hard as he liked but he was too heavy to be able to soar into the sky like the many birds he saw around the farm. He had watched in envy as a flock of geese flew over the farm in their V formation. Why couldn’t he fly like that? Well, he said to himself, look at their wings for a start. Lovely long streamlined wings, nothing like his stubby ones. And look at their sleek bodies. He looked down at his own chest. Even when he wasn’t showing off and puffing it out he was still ….. round.

Delighted squeals distracted him and he fluttered clumsily up onto the gate to see what was going on. Joe, the farmer’s son was running across the field with a red shape flying up into the air behind him. Even that thing could fly, although he could see that it was attached to a piece of string held by Joe.

The boy had a lot of fun flying his thing, but eventually came back to the farmhouse when he got hungry. Charlie had been watching enviously the whole time. He sauntered casually over to where Joe had dropped his toy. Perhaps …..

The other animals in the farmyard watched in amazement as Charlie, the cockerel, sped out of the gate and across the field dragging a red thing behind him. They were even more amazed when the red thing flew up into the sky, carrying Charlie with it! Charlie hardly had time to take in the view, when the string got tied tightly around him and he and the red thing fell to earth with a bump. He lay there in a daze for a few minutes wondering where that awful noise was coming from. Was he groaning? No, it sounded more like an angry, but muffled, ‘mooo’.

Charlie was tied up tightly but could turn his head just enough to see Billy, the young bull, with his head stuck in a tree! If he wasn’t so concerned about his own predicament, Charlie would have laughed. Instead he set about crowing and squawking as loud as he could. Eventually Farmer George appeared to see what all the fuss was about.

Charlie arrived back in the farmyard embarrassingly tucked under Farmer George’s arm.

“Enjoy your trip?” sniggered Alfred, the old horse. The other animals joined in,

“Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away,” sang sheepdog Shep.

“What does the world look like … upside down?” laughed Percy, the big boar.

Charlie ignored them. He couldn’t see what all the fuss had been about. Who wanted to fly anyway? As far as he was concerned it was uncomfortable and undignified, and he felt slightly sick. He didn’t need to fly, he had everything he needed right here on his farm.

He was tossed to the ground, his once beautiful feathers ruffled and dusty. He found a sheltered spot away from everyone else and hid his once proud head under his useless wing.

Later that day Farmer George led Billy into the farmyard. He was none the worse for getting his head stuck in the tree and had calmed down. George and one of the farm workers had eased his head out by twisting it on its side. He had bounded away, feeling angry and foolish, but after he had calmed down he had allowed Farmer George to slip a halter on his neck and lead him back to the yard.

“You’re in for a bit of pampering, my lad. Got to make you look your best for the County Show tomorrow.” Billy stood, head in a feed bucket, while he was washed, cut and blow dried. Joe enjoyed helping his dad get the animals ready for showing. He spotted Charlie hiding in the corner of the yard. He ran and picked him up.

“What a mess, you naughty cockerel. You broke my kite and got yourself all dirty. I know what you need,” and he dunked Charlie in the soapy water. The other animals were mooing, grunting and neighing with laughter. More indignity! Joe lifted the bird out of the water and dried him off, smoothing his feathers back into place. As the dust was cleaned off, Charlie’s beautiful plumage emerged once again. His feathers glowed orange, red and gold, like the sunrise.

“Look, dad. I made Joe all pretty again.” Charlie’s chest puffed with pride. He would use the word ‘handsome’ himself but ‘pretty’ would do. “I could take him to the County Show with you and Billy, dad. I could show him myself couldn’t I?”

Farmer George thought there was no harm in doing that. It was good to get the lad involved in all aspects of farming. The cock was a bit of a liability, getting them up late and causing all the fuss that morning, but he had led them to Billy and the tree by squawking. He may be as useful as a chocolate teapot but he was indeed a fine specimen to look at.

Joe bounced up and down in the front seat of the Land Rover as they drove to the show. Charlie was in a cage on the back seat and Billy was in the trailer. Joe always enjoyed visiting the shows. There were loads of animals to see and burgers and ice cream to eat.

He stood proudly by the small pen containing Charlie, as the judging took place.

“Beautiful colours,” said one judge, scribbling on his clipboard. Charlie puffed out his chest even more.

“And the red rosette, for Best in Class, goes to Charlie, shown by young Joe from Thompson’s Farm.”

Charlie was so proud, and the icing on the cake was that Billy only got a third! He couldn’t wait to go back to the farm to tell the others.

“There were loads of entrants, (four was loads wasn’t it?) and I came first. Beautiful colours, they said,” he crowed as the others gathered round.

The giddy hens were very impressed. Their cockerel had won first prize. He was the best cockerel in the land.

“You’re so strong and handsome,” they said. “Our chicks are lucky to have you as their father.”

“You are our hero.”

“Super cock!” clucked Hattie Hen. Her sister Holly giggled.

After that Charlie took pride in his appearance and his role on the farm. If his feathers were as beautiful as the sunrise then he should meet the sunrise every morning and show it how beautiful he was.

“Cock a doodle doo!”