Last weekend, I woke up to the rooster’s crow in Deep Creek. I’m not much of a morning person, but I rolled out of bed and threw the doors open to let the mountain air in. The smell of hay and dirt filled the tiny cabin, bringing back memories of my childhood in Canton with Mamaw and Papaw.
It seems like there were always chickens around when I was growing up. I was brought home as a newborn to a chicken farm just outside of Wilmington’s city limits. As a toddler, I helped Mamaw feed her flock of banties in Winnabow. And in Canton, I chased Papaw Cochran’s chickens around our yard.
Papaw Cochran had a big red rooster that protected his flock. He preferred our yard over Papaw Cochran’s and bedded in the pines behind our house. Daddy christened the rooster Old Red.
Every morning Old Red perched on a branch outside my window to announce it was time to get up. Mamaw opened the house up on warm mornings, and the scent of the outdoors mingled with those of freshly brewed coffee and breakfast cooking on the stove.
Old Red lived a long, long life. Papaw Cochran passed in 1989, but his rooster continued to wake me up during summer vacations into the late 90s. I cried when I went home and faced my first Dutch Cove morning without his familiar cock-a-doodle-doo.
Sometimes I feel so far removed from those days they seem unreal. Who wakes up with the rooster’s crow anymore? But sitting on the Airbnb’s deck at sunrise, memories of my youth washed over me like baptismal waters.
I’m back in the Sandhills this morning. And though I’m missing the smell of the mountains and the early morning call of the roosters, I feel refreshed and renewed.