The night had taken a dip into winter with ice on the water buckets and a coating of ice on the ground. There was hardly any moon light and because of the cold wind that was blowing in and around through Barn Town, the residents were snuggled down into the hay to stay warm. Everyone in Village House was very grateful for a restful night with just the comforting sounds of the wind as it whistled around corners and shook the trees like wind chimes in the yard. From my bed in the loft I could see through the window that the residents of Village House were snuggled under warm comforters with dogs and cats curled up on top of the big bed. It had been a very long, cold, sunless, miserable day and everyone, man and critter, myself included, were tired and ready to enjoy our sleep. Hens had visions of grasshoppers in the yard, ducks dreamed of slugs in the wet mud and the geese longed for the green grass in the field of their dreams. But alas the sleep was not to continue for more than an hour after lights were turned off. With the stealth of a big cat, that dastardly villain, Rooster Cogburn, crept closer and closer. Then he struck with the pinpoint accuracy of a heat seeking missile at the target of the Sheriff’s bedroom window. The noise was a direct hit with Cogburn cunningly placing himself directly under the window of the Sheriff’s bed and releasing ear splitting crow after crow after crow.
I almost fell out of the loft from the noise. I jerked myself upright on all fours with my black cat hair standing on end. You would have thought it was Halloween with the way I looked at that moment. I flew down from the loft and streaked across Barn Town to see how I could assist the Sheriff with this attack. Up the ladder, barely touching the rungs, I grabbed a quick glance through the window and could see the Sheriff had bolted upright in bed. As I scrambled back down from the ladder, I could hear the Sheriff yelling many an epithet as to the lineage of one Rooster Cogburn. By the time I reached the hay bale in front of the goat pen, Rooster Cogburn had fled to the vast darkness. I crept quietly back to the window ledge and saw the Sheriff throwing himself out of bed. He ignored his jeans and grabbed his shepherd’s staff on the run. He flew bare footed out the back door. Out into Barn Town the enraged Sheriff, who had forgotten his coat, began his quest for finding the diabolic culprit namely one Rooster Cogburn. I was in a quandary as to how to help him and yet not get in his way as he tore around Barn Town. Finally settling on searching from the loft, I went back up where I could see into the corners of Barn Town and still keep an eye on the Sheriff as well in case additional help was needed. I watched as he was stepping on rocks, food pans, trying to dodge the land mines left by the critters and sliding on the icy floor of Barn Town. The Sheriff, I noticed, was shivering from the very cold wet breeze zinging through Barn Town. As sleet began to fall on Barn Town, I noticed that it made it difficult for the demeanor of the Sheriff to remain positive. I could see that his fingers were cold and bluish in color. His hair was in jagged ice spikes. When I quietly ventured a question as to how he was feeling, he tersely replied that his feet had lost all feeling. Nevertheless, he continued ruthlessly seeking high and low for his quarry in the dark corners as I continued checking from my vantage point up in the loft. However, Cogburn stayed just out of the staff’s reach and taunted the Sheriff with cat calls of crow while dancing across bales of hay. As the Sheriff’s demeanor deteriorated I thought it best if I just stayed up in the loft. Quietly I burrowed back down into the hay. I was ready to go help the Sheriff again if he called but I hoped he could manage without me. After all it was very cold out there, out of the warmth of the hay. No need for both of us to be pop sickles I thought.
Then it happened. Rooster Cogburn made a mistake. He zigged when he should have zagged and he allowed himself to be cornered behind an extra door leaning against the east wall. It had been put there for storage and made a great place for me to catch a snack. With no way out he was trapped like the “rat rooster” he was. The Sheriff yelled in triumph as he grabbed that sorry excuse for a rooster and held him tight.
The Sheriff’s wife who had earlier ventured out into Barn Town, adorned with coat, hat, scarf, gloves and shoes, to watch and lend vocal encouragement to the Sheriff. She was presented with Rooster Cogburn by a very triumphal but tired, cold, limping Sheriff. I peeked over the loft edge to watch. The Sheriff’s wife held the culprit tightly while the Sheriff applied the no crow collar to Cogburn’s neck according to the instructions. I watched as the collar was checked again to ensure that it fit properly. Cogburn was released to the ground and promptly fell over. I snickered. “I can’t breathe”, Cogburn whispered. I could barely hear him. “I can’t move. My legs, I can’t feel my legs”, he gasped. I watched as he lay limp as a wet noodle. I saw the Sheriff pick him up gently. I could tell that all anger was forgotten as the Sheriff readjusted the collar making it a little bit looser and placed Cogburn back on the ground. Cogburn jerked, flopped, jerked some more. I started down from the loft as Cogburn gasped and muttered “I’m dying”, and then dramatically flopped around on the ground, twitching, jerking until finally laying still and not moving. By this time I had sped down from the loft and was by the Sheriff as he picked him up and again checked the collar. I could tell that it was not tight. “It was placed as the instructions indicated”, the Sheriff muttered, “but something is diffidently wrong.” The Sheriff looked at me and shook his head. It seemed the rooster had died or was dying unable to breathe or to walk.
Not knowing what else to do, the Sheriff began slowly and reluctantly removing the collar. The Sheriff gently placed Cogburn on the ground in hopes he would revive. The precise minute Cogburn was laid on the solid ground he vanished. The blur from that rooster would have done “The Flash” proud as he disappeared into the darkness. It had all been an act by a crafty and dastardly villain. The Sheriff stood there shaking his head and then looked at me and Honey. Heaving a huge sigh he uttered quietly, “I’m done”. I watched as he shivering and limping went back into Village House. I went back to the bedroom window ledge in guard position. I verified that the Sheriff was indeed off -duty as he went back to bed. The Sheriff’s wife followed slowly inside Village House, turning out the lights, shutting the doors and then called to me, “Good night Stipe. No need for guard duty. Go back to bed. Stay warm”. She finally went to bed and we all prayed for quiet that was not to come.
In the distant corner of Barn Town, much to the distress of all who were trying to get back to sleep, Cogburn could be heard declaring his victory. “I will never surrender. I will never cease crowing. I vow to continue with my war against Village House. I will be the master here and not the Sheriff”, Cogburn shouted into the night as the reminder of us pulled pillows, hay and whatever else was in reach over our heads. It was going to be a very long night. This was not over. There would be no peace between Cogburn and Village House this night or any night to come.