I wrote this story when I was a 14-year-old sophomore at Uni High. It was an unorthodox way to fulfill a rather mundane essay writing assignment for English class. I had little inkling at the time that this would be a major turning point in my life. You can read more about the impact it had here; meanwhile, enjoy this little story for its own sake.
When I was a very young rooster my father was king of the barnyard. He would strut importantly around the chicken coop, followed by his many cackling wives. As king, he had many responsibilities. He kept peace in the chicken coop, chased out intruders, and taught us young roosters many things we needed to know before becoming full-grown roosters. But his most important responsibility was to call the sun up into the air in the morning. Every morning he would wake up, throw back his head, and crow towards the east in his mighty voice. The sun would hear his call and rise up into the air.
One day my father called me to him, and he said: “Son, you are getting to be a big rooster. Some day you will be as big and strong as I am. Then you will be the king of the barnyard, and it will be your duty to crow to the sun every morning. It will be a big responsibility, for if you should forget, the sun will not rise.” He taught me to crow, and even let me call the sun up one morning.
Soon I became a full-grown rooster, and it was not long before I was king of the barnyard. Every morning I woke up and crowed several times in my loudest voice. Then I flapped my wings and began to scratch around in the dirt. Every morning the sun rose majestically over the edge of the world until it shone in full glory above the earth. I was awed at my power to call this creature up into the sky every morning.
One night I couldn’t get to sleep. For some reason I just didn’t seem tired. I tossed and turned on my roost. I tried sitting still, I tried changing positions, and I even tried counting sheep. Nothing worked.
I finally decided that since I was not going to get any sleep out of the night anyway, I might as well call for the sun to rise and try to get the day started. I left the chicken coop and faced the east, letting out my loudest crow. Nothing happened. I crowed again, and still nothing happened. I crowed and crowed and crowed. The sun did not rise, but someone threw an old shoe at me. It seemed that I crowed for hours, but the sun for some reason would not rise. When the shoe’s mate landed only inches away from me, I decided to stop. I flapped my wings like always, and to my surprise the sun burst out from behind the edge of the world.
How naive I had been to think that the sun could understand my language when I crowed to it! It was perfectly obvious how wrong I had been. The sun could not understand my crowing any better than the stupid cattle on my farm. It could only imitate me. I realized that when I flapped my wings after crowing, the sun flapped its wings, and rose into the air. I felt foolish for having believed my first hypothesis about the sunrise.
From then on, I stopped crowing in the morning. Instead, I merely flapped my wings and began to scratch in the ground, and the sun would rise. I felt more proud than ever. I gained even more glory in the barnyard for having disproved the age-old theory that crowing makes the sun rise. I was respected as one of the wisest kings the barnyard had ever known.
Then one morning when I woke up, it was terribly dark: darker than any night I had ever known. I was outside, and I could barely distinguish the outline of the chicken coop a few feet away. I realized that I was in a dense fog, and I became worried that the sun would not be able to see me. Anxiously I flapped my wings, but I could see no trace of the sun. I flapped for a long time, beating frantically against the fog with my wings. I was so desperate I even tried a feeble crow. Finally I gave up, exhausted. It became a little lighter, but the sun never rose that day.
Was I losing my ability to make the sun rise? Did the barnyard need a new king? I heard a few remarks behind my back to this effect. I spent all day in a dark corner of the chicken coop, brooding about my failure to make the sun rise.
In the evening I suddenly had an encouraging thought. Every morning I had scratched in the dirt immediately after flapping my wings. This morning I had been too worried to bother. I decided that the next morning I would not flap my wings but merely scratch in the dirt, and see if the sun would rise. With this hopeful idea in mind, I settled down to sleep for the night.
The next morning I woke up early. The fog was gone. That was a good sign, but I was still worried. What if the sun didn’t rise? Hesitantly I began to scratch the ground. Then I looked up. There was no trace of the sun. I scratched harder and more vigorously. I looked up again, and I saw a tiny sliver of the sun peeking over the edge of the earth. Overjoyed, I scratched and scratched until the sun was in the air.
I again felt silly for having believed my hypothesis. The sun had to sleep like any other creature, and how could it see me flap my wings if it was asleep? It was obvious that the sun slept under the ground, so naturally it would wake up when it heard me scratching. It would then rise out of the earth and into the air.
I felt very proud for making this discovery, and my glory, which had waned the day before, burst forth with a brighter flame than ever. On mornings afterwards, I neither crowed nor flapped my wings, but scratched leisurely at the ground. My new method never failed. I wondered how I could ever have been so foolish as to believe that flapping my wings had actually made the sun rise.
For many, many hatching periods I scratched in the dirt without fail, and not once did the sun fail to rise. I was positive that my new theory was correct. I had become famous throughout the world as the greatest king the barnyard had ever known. I grew into old age basking in my glory. Then one morning not too long ago I woke up and was filled with dismay.
I had overslept. It was bright daylight, and cattle were mooing, hens were cackling, and men were awake and working. And worst of all, the sun was already in the sky!
But as I stood there in shock, I had an epiphany. Suddenly the truth was so clear, I wondered why I had never seen it before. I realized that all the animals on the farm, including the men, go to sleep when the sky gets dark and awaken when it gets light in the morning. Why should a creature like the sun be any different? When the sky begins to brighten, the sun wakes up and rises. All of my crowing, flapping, and scratching had made no difference at all.
Since that day I have stopped trying to tell the sun to rise, and it has risen reliably every day with no prompting from me.
I am old now; it has been almost 70 hatching periods since my own hatching. I have noticed several of the young, impudent roosters of the barnyard crowing in the morning as they attempt to draw the sun into the sky. I smile at their self-importance. I write my memoirs now in order to show them the fruitlessness of their efforts. Although I spent my life pursuing foolish theories of my own, I can retire with the satisfaction of being the first rooster to have discovered the truth about the sun. I trust that future generations will benefit from my hard-earned wisdom.
Editor’s Note: It has now been over ten years since this was written by the old king, and roosters still show no sign of stopping their crowing, flapping, scratching, or anything else they have always done.