One Cluck Too Far: A Parable

Once upon a time, on a rural country farm, there was a rooster.

fotolia_55359034This rooster was bigger than the others, with ruddy feathers, a shiny red comb, eight greenish-grey tail feathers and solid yellow feet. In fact, this rooster was so handsome that all the hens had little choice but to swoon every time the rooster walked past.

Life was good on the farm. Farmer Joseph took care of his animals, building the chickens shelters with hay for bedding, water troughs, and even a fan to keep them cool during the heat of the day. He even let his chickens roam free, with no fences in their way. The roosters and hens had everything they needed, especially food. Farmer Joseph fed his chickens twice a day, once in the morning as he headed out to round up the cattle and once in the evening when he got in from mowing his hay pasture.

One day, the rooster noticed something unusual about his neighbor, Farmer Judy. Usually, Farmer Judy was just a simple vegetable grower, tending her tomatoes and squash with loving-but-smothering attention. She was always out in her garden, it seemed, and rarely spent more than a few hours anywhere else!

The rooster usually said, “Hello,” to Farmer Judy in his most typical rooster way — a cluck here, a cock-a-doodle-do there, a squawk on occasion. Judy always waved back. But today, Farmer Judy was waving her hands around and something was falling from her fingers. It was small and plentiful, grains of some kind… grains! She was tossing grain on the ground! But for whom?

Rooster got his answer when wild birds came fluttering down from the trees nearby, landing on the ground and pecking at the seed Farmer Judy left for them. “How nice, Farmer Judy is feeding the birds,” rooster thought to himself. “I wonder what she is feeding them?”

A few days passed and rooster grew increasingly curious every time he saw Farmer Judy toss seed on the ground. As he ate the grain that Farmer Joseph faithfully left for him, the food started losing its normal good taste. It just became… food. “I wonder what she is feeding them?” The phrase repeated in his head, over and over again. He couldn’t seem to ignore it!

It was on a Thursday that the rooster could handle his curiosity no longer. He slowly made his way across the street to Farmer Judy’s garden. She was always friendly to him, maybe she wouldn’t mind his sampling her bird seed? As he arrived on the grounds, he saw an exciting sight: wild birdseed was all over the place! Grains of different sizes and colors! The rooster felt compelled to just start eating away.

Now, when a rooster eats it is no civil affair. The big bird moves with firm steps and precision pecking, grabbing each grain in a merciless fashion. With speed, greed and gluttony, the rooster seemed to be practically sucking the kernels off the ground. In only a few short minutes, he had consumed over ten feet of seed!

But then something unexpected happened. A turn of events that the rooster just couldn’t comprehend. Some unknown object came flying over his head! Well, flying is a kind word. The object’s flight resembled more of a missile than a helicopter, screeching as it zoomed by rooster’s noggin.

“Rooster!” came a familiar voice, this time shouting. “Stop it!”

fotolia_63314569Farmer Judy had hurriedly opened her farmhouse door and started shouting at the rooster. This confused the bird. “It’s me!” he thought. Sensing that Farmer Judy had made a mistake, the rooster went right back to eating the wild birdseed. That’s when missile number two came his way. Pow! The object hit within inches of rooster’s legs. Dirt sprayed up against his feathers and he lurched into the air, shocked, startled and quite scared.

Grapes. Grapes! Farmer Judy had launched a grape towards the rooster. But this wasn’t just any grape, it was a wild grape. Small, round and not-so-squishy. Yikes! As the rooster stared at the grounded grape in disbelief, he felt missile number three smack him in the side.

“Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck!” he shouted, frantically looking for the closest exit from Farmer Judy’s garden. But Judy was no longer standing by her doorway. She came walking after the distressed rooster, explaining, “That seed is for the wild birds, rooster! Not for you! You have your own food. If you’re hungry, go home and eat.”

Rooster had a little extra pep in his step as he hurried back across the street to Farmer Joseph’s land. Ouch! That grape hurt! Farmer Judy could hear a faint little whimper as rooster whined under his breath about not being able to eat the wild birdseed.

That night, though, the rooster could not stop thinking about the birdseed. It was delicious. And fresh. And there was a variety of seeds! Farmer Joseph only fed him the same seed over and over again. He used to love eating the normal seeds. But now… The rooster drifted away to sleep, dreaming about eating Farmer’s Judy’s wild birdseed.

The rooster went light on breakfast the next morning. All night he had visions of wild birdseed dancing beneath that red comb on his head. He thought he needed to eat some more. So he was convinced.

When he got to the edge of the road, he saw a most unwelcome sight. Farmer Judy got up before the sun that day and had put up a large, green plastic fence around her garden! The fence looked very imposing. But if there was one thing rooster was determined to get that day it was the wild birdseed, fence or no fence.

With Farmer Judy nowhere in sight, the rooster circled the fence, looking for a weak spot. Did Farmer Judy forget to cover anyplace? Finally, the big bird saw what he was hoping for: a six-inch gap in the fence. Perfect! The rooster waited near the gap until he was sure that the coast was clear, then he squeezed himself through to the other side. There it was! A fresh spreading of wild birdseed!

Rooster started chowing down on the seed, eating as fast as he could and as much as he could before Farmer Judy noticed him. Any wild birds nearby scattered in fear, as the bigger bird turned his back to the farmhouse and sipped the seed like a fine soup.

Whizz…. thump. Whizz…. thump. Two more grapes came swiftly flying at rooster as Judy bolted out the door of her house. “Rooster! Get out of here!” she hollered. “That’s for the wild birds! Stop it!”

As Farmer Judy raised her left arm, grape in hand, rooster clucked a few times and started to look for an exit. Where was it????? Oh, no! He couldn’t remember where the gap was! The third grape hit him in the backside and rooster jumped as high as he could — a good seven inches. “Cluck, cluck, cluck!” he shouted. “Go home!” Farmer Judy reminded her neighbor.

Finally, after several frantic seconds of running around the garden, rooster found the gap and squeezed his sore and exhausted body swiftly through the opening. He breathed a sigh of relief as he ran across the street and onto friendly ground. Farmer Judy sure was mad!

Once again, though, the rooster found that the taste of the birdseed haunted his dreams at night. There was something about it — something different, something forbidden, something… he really wanted. Even though his backside ached from the impact of the third grape, rooster made a determination. Even if ten thousand grapes came flying his way he was going to get that wild birdseed.

The next morning, the rooster found that Farmer Judy had closed the six-inch gap in her fence with twigs and sticks. While this revelation disappointed the rooster, it wasn’t going to stop him. No ma’am! The bird wanted that seed and he was going to find a way to get it. So rooster started digging. Now, it wasn’t exactly a railroad tunnel, nor the type of earth-moving that would make a miner proud, but rooster managed to dig out a small ditch under Farmer Judy’s green plastic fence. Sucking in his breath, once again, he squeezed through.

Paradise! Farmer Judy was nowhere in sight, there was fresh birdseed on the ground, and he felt like a million dollars. So rooster let out a loud, “Cluck!” to scare the poor wild birds away and he went about his task of stuffing his belly with grains of many colors and sizes.

As he swiftly ate, he fully expected Farmer Judy to soon rush out of her house and throw more grapes at him, but minutes passed with no sign of his garden-happy neighbor. Where was she? Was this his lucky day? He could hardly believe it!

“Cluck!” he bellowed as he stop eating for one moment just to celebrate his perfect day. His head went back down, right on a sunflower seed, then… then…. THEN….

“SQUAAAAK!” The rooster let out a horrifying yell as his body leaped what seemed like ten feet off the ground and moved three feet from where he was standing. Pain shot through his feathers as he suffered the impact not of a small, innocent wild grape but a small, guilty rock.

“Rooster!” Farmer Judy yelled, only after launching the boulder. “Cluck!” was his only reply.

Limping, the rooster ran frantically towards his ditch. Farmer Judy was close behind him. He dove head-first into the ditch and wiggled his body with haste. And wiggled his body with haste. And wiggled some more with even more haste! But he was stuck!

His belly sucked in, the rooster found that either the ditch wasn’t as big as he first dug it or he wasn’t as small as when he dug it. As he wiggled in desperation, Farmer Judy could only react honestly.

“Ha!” she laughed. And then giggled. And then laughed some more! “Look who’s stomach is bigger than his eyes!” Judy was terribly amused by the rooster’s predicament. “Cluuuuck!” he weakly begged his neighbor.

“All right, rooster. My friend! I’ll let you go free.” Farmer Judy went back inside her farmhouse and returned with a pair of scissors. She cut the plastic fence and rooster bolted, clucking in embarrassment and soreness as he made his way back to Farmer Joseph’s, his lesson learned and, in the process, giving us the answer to life’s most fundamental question:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Ha!

Oh, also teaching us that the longer we let temptations linger, the more they will eat away at our good judgment and poison our minds. As James wrote, “Each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death (James 1:14-15).” The rooster didn’t die but our spiritual lives seem to die when we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by sin. Wounds and hurts caused by sin are often ignored because the sin itself is so enticing.

So be content with the things God has lovingly given you, and remember that the world sets many traps to convince you otherwise! The grass always looks greener, you know, but if it is not from God, it is not worth having.

Also beware of wild grapes.

Be God’s!

— Farmer John