Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #196 – “Alas, Poor McNugget”

Sorry, this isn’t McNugget. But the only difference between him and the one in this photo by Linda Tanner is that McNugget was – well he was always so wonderfully silly!

THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

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by Larry Brody

McNugget the Banty Rooster died this morning.

I found him at the back of the lean-to Burl Jr. slapped together when he returned to Paradise a few weeks ago. The lean-to that replaced the original chicken house, which was destroyed when a tree crashed down on it.
The sight of McNugget’s body hit me hard. He and the hen called, variously, either Lemon or Orange Chicken were the only survivors the dozen chickens we inherited seven years ago when we bought the property we call Cloud Creek Ranch.

I’ve been through a lot with McNugget. I’ve written about the time he got out of the chicken yard and Emmy the Bold decided he’d make a mighty fine toy. Normally, he was a rich russet color, with long, curly feathers, some of them spotted with white, others whorled with red, still others tan-striped, but by the time I got him away from Emmy that day he was a totally featherless, shivering mass of pale flesh.

I brought him back into the yard, and the old biddy hen wrapped her wings around him as though they were loving arms and nursed him back to health with a week’s worth of cooing and clucking and—surprise of surprises!—operatic singing so beautiful that the most famous of divas would’ve been envious.

The little guy was low man on the rooster pecking order then, and as soon as he felt better the Number One Honcho I now think of as “That Ginormous Yellow Guy” started going after him. The biddy hen got between them and kept Ginormous Yellow Guy at bay for almost a week.

At the end of the week, Ginormous lay on the ground, dead from causes unknown, and McNugget was Number One.

Over the years, McNugget was the Cock of The Mountain Walk, with a presence so powerful that all I could do was watch admiringly as he crowed his orders and strutted and—regular readers will recall this—worked his game of magical disappearances and reappearances from and to remote corners of the property and even more distant dimensions unknown.

I worried now and then, when he was gone too long, and would talk to the universe about his beauty and courage so he would hear and know how much I cared, and return from whatever adventure he was on.

I celebrated whenever he turned up, safe and sound, at one of the water bowls, or when I recognized his distinctive four in the mornin’ crow. It was a wonderful crow. The full ark-a-doodle-doo. No shortcuts, no glossing over any syllables, the whole enchilada of self-proclaimed, “I am here! I am me! I am!”

McNugget believed in himself.

And so did I.

This last winter, however, was hard on the Ole Bird. The unusual cold kept him closer to the other chickens than usual, and when Gwen the Beautiful and I came back from a short trip last month we noticed that his feathers seemed faded, his wings colored more like fall leaves than the Easter eggs they usually resembled.

We were concerned, but Burl Sr., the Paradise County Farmer of the Year, had taught us the sad truth of chicken-raising awhile back:

“By the time you see that a chicken feels poorly it’s already too late to help.”

There certainly was nothing I could do to help my feathered brother this morning. His last breath had left him hours before.

Picking him up, I held his stiff body close. “Bye, buddy,” I said. “Hope you know how lucky you are. It’s a cold, hard world, and you’re well out of it now.”

McNugget’s passing deserved to be honored with a ceremony. A funerary barbecue seemed fitting. I put him in the burn barrel near our hay barn. Gwen handed me a new bottle of cooking oil, and I poured the entire contents on the banty. Struck a match. Up came the flames.

With McNugget truly gone, my heart was strangely eased, but it didn’t seem right. In fact, this afternoon I got to feeling an unexpected hole in my life.

Then I looked over at the chicken yard. Saw Lemon Chicken standing apart from the others, near the gate. The silkies who currently comprise the rest of our little flock have never accepted her. All she had was McNugget.

Now she’s alone.

I felt my chest tighten with concern.

Good-bye worry gap.

I’ll be looking out for the Lemony Gal until the end of her days.

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

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