The quiet of the pre-dawn darkness was interrupted by a slightly unexpected “cock-a-doodle-doo.”
The day before, I had heard tales of a couple roosters roaming the parking lot at Lowes Creek County Park south of Eau Claire. After a running buddy shot a video of the pair of dueling vocalists, I did a little clicking around on the Internet to see if I could figure out what in the world was going on.
It turned out the roosters were fairly well-known (to, at least, the three or four park regulars).
When the leaves start falling in large quantities, I spend most of my early morning running time on the roads. This shift to the roads started after a few years of continuing to charge into the woods with trails leaf-covered, hiding roots, rocks and stumps that are difficult enough to see in broad daylight — let alone in pitch dark with just the beam of a headlamp lighting the way — only to emerge with twisted ankles. Apparently, at least in my case, the strength of one’s headlamp matters little when the angle of the beam from atop one’s head doesn’t allow the light to throw a long enough shadow from a small root or other trail obstacle well enough for the eyes and brain to establish depth perception. Or maybe I’m just clumsy and still half asleep at 5 a.m.
Anyway, on this particular morning, I became keenly aware of my tired legs and noticeable lack of speed on the road, so I decided to duck into the park, where I can more easily justify my lack of quickness as just a sensible person being cautious while out for a run in the woods at a time when most of the other sensible people are home doing other sensible things.
As I made my way through the park — still well before sunrise, or even first usable light — I heard a distant rooster crow, straight west and across the creek from where I was running. At least one of the roosters had made it through the night, and, perhaps, mistaken my headlamp for the rising sun. At least its sense of direction, if not scale, remained intact after a night in an unfamiliar location.
And, honestly, it was one of the more pleasant animal encounters I’ve had while running through the woods in the dark. Just a week earlier, something small, brown and fluffy swooped/fell from a tree and landed on my neck.
Still, it was a bit out of place.
The roosters were likely dumped there by someone who, at best, couldn’t figure out why their chickens weren’t laying eggs and didn’t know any better than to think that Lowes Creek County Park was their natural habitat, or, more likely, had decided that a county park was a fine place to abandon animals they no longer had any interest in caring for.
While it likely wouldn’t have been long before one or both roosters realized their place in the food chain, I can’t say I wanted them taking up permanent residence in the park. But before I could decide whether a humane association, wildlife rescue or sheriff’s department should get first crack at bagging the birds, I took one more look online to see if there was any news on their fate since my run several hours earlier.
It turned out, another trail runner and member of the local Moms on the Run group took some initiative and, with the help of her family, rounded up the roosters. A picture of a few kids was captioned with, “Chickens are gone and safe.”
And morning runs can go back to being nice and quiet.
Nate Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.