Cock-a-doodle-bark

By Anna Mitchael

It ain’t natural

I don’t know what’s worse — that September is hot enough to make a grown woman cry or that every September I find myself weepy. As if I didn’t live through last September in Texas. Or the summer before. As if I don’t know heat waves in Texas operate like their namesake at football games — The Wave. The first time it comes around you’re ready, maybe you even welcome separation from your sweaty seat. By third time you’re still smiling but wondering when the fun will end. By the fifth time, except for a few choice words mumbled under your breath, you pretend it’s not happening.

But when you handed over your ticket, this is what you signed up for. It’s like the day you woke up and thought about all the places in the world you might live but then gazed at the green rolling hills right out your window. When you felt a surge of attachment and pride that confounds (and irritates the heck out of) outsiders, and you thought, “OK, Texas, for better or worse, you’re mine.”

I always expect September to come with a cool, not-made-by-a-machine breeze. I believe Labor Day should signal the start of fall-ish scents. Fresh crayons. Apples. Cinnamon. Perhaps even cider. And that none of it will be tinged with the scent of a sweat droplet on the upper lip.

“It ain’t natural” is the phrase that comes to mind. It’s a sentiment our neighborhood FedEx guy shared with me a couple of weeks back. (And I use the word “neighborhood” loosely, since our neighborhood includes sprawling miles filled with country folks and cattle.) He wasn’t talking about the heat, at least not directly. He was watching our rooster pace territorially in front of our gate.

Our rooster has been spending lots of time with our dog lately. And he’s like a child who hangs around adults and ends up using big words and understanding politics way before his time, except our rooster wants to bark.

“He’s mostly harmless,” I yelled from my place in the doorway, where I could feel the air conditioning on my back. And mostly I was telling the truth. So far the rooster has only pecked the legs of two visitors. The others he just leers at.

“You could drop the package there,” I offered.

“It really ain’t natural,” he repeated, almost like an apology as he left the package against the fence. Then he sped away in his van while our rooster stomped triumphantly in a cloud of caliche dust.

I left the package against the fence so I could retreat inside to the cool, and then through the window I watched the rooster dance. I can accept it ain’t natural to have a bird who yearns for a longer neck so he can lick his own rear end. I will also concede it ain’t natural to consistently forget that September feels as inviting as the inside of a wood-burning pizza oven. But what’s the other option? It’s only in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood that roosters sound a perfect cock-a-doodle-doo at daybreak and then polka with puppets and poultry before naptime.
Maybe if I lived in that neighborhood I would greet September ready to juggle children, work, play and love without the first sign of perspiration. Then stay fresh while I smile for a selfie and laugh, “All this? It’s simple. Just takes balance.”

But I think I’ll keep my cloud of caliche dust. I like being in the stadium with people who will sit when they want and stand when they want and — if the current temperatures of our time require it — will even bark to be heard.

Anna’s new Kindle Single, “Rooster Stories: Farm-Raised Tales of Life, Love and Motherhood” is available on Amazon.

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