The other day, I was sitting in my dirty truck patiently waiting in the pick-up line at Clayton Elementary School when I heard a rooster crow. Loudly. My first thought was that I had finally lost it. When the rooster crowed again, a tingling of a suspicion emerged. My next thought was, “”This is not good.”"
I’m already a strange character in the pick-up line, as I do not drive an SUV. Instead I’m in a 10-year-old Dodge Ram that is equipped with an external fuel tank and pump that fuels our airplanes. My bumper doesn’t proclaim, “”I’m a proud parent of an honor student.”" Instead, it’s covered with bumper stickers that claim “”Women Fly”" and “”Radial engines don’t leak oil. They are just marking their territory!”" My face is not “”made”" and my hair is not “”done”" as I probably just got off the lawn mower, or I’ve been at the airport working on my airplane.
I am already subject to wary stares and subtle suspicion from the newly transplanted suburban mothers in line. The rooster crows again, and I sink a little lower in my seat and try to cover my reddening face with the Cherokee Ledger and News. Perhaps if I’m lucky and ignore it, the situation will go away. The rooster crows again…with gusto. It is a hauntingly familiar sound.
I lower the paper and look in the rearview mirror to see if Red, the Old Man’s prized ornamental yard bird, is strutting in the back of the truck. No Red. Luckily, the need to crank the truck and start the slow progression of the pick-up line seems to quiet my unwanted passenger. However, my worst fear is that I will pull up to the end of the line, and Red will hop out from his hidey hole and strut about in all his arrogant male glory. I promise myself that the moment his dainty spurred feet touch the asphalt, he will become the property of the Cherokee County Board of Education. Red will go to school. He can become a living learning tool or a plate of chicken nuggets for some hungry second graders, but his fate will be left up to God and Ms. Praisi, the school principal.
I try to school my facial features as normally as possible as the monitor places Keely in the truck, but just as we start to pull away, I ask “”The Miss”" to please climb in the backseat and see if Red is in the back of the truck. She bursts in giggles and does as requested. No Red. There is a chicken somewhere on or in my truck, but we make it to the road with no embarrassing appearances or revelations.
It’s only one mile from the school to home, and I hope Red has the sense to stay put. Our quarter-mile driveway is kind of rough, but apparently Red is tenacious. Keely and I quickly jump out of the truck as soon as it is parked in its spot under the shed. I open the camper top and tailgate and still no Red. Instead he hops from under the truck (from where I don’t know) and crows with vigor. His feathers are a tad ruffled, but he immediately trots off to his hens to tell them of his grand adventure.
The Luscombe pilot extraordinaire is left to ponder the situation with tattered dignity, and the munchkin sidekick thinks it all a hoot.