On the strongest bough of a massive Oak tree, Golden Eagle sits alone in her nest. The sun beams down upon her chocolate plumage but she does not feel its warmth.
Her mate is dead but there is no time to grieve. His killer also managed to pierce her side with a bullet as she tried to offer help. He is lost to her but she is soon to join him.
She does not check her wounds. She feels the life slipping from her body, but there is something more pressing on her mind. Cradled in the bottom of her nest is a single cream color speckled egg. She must act fast to save the little life inside.
“What can I do? You will die out here alone. I will find another bird to raise you. Maybe they can give you a chance at having a life?”
With the best intentions, she takes the egg into her talons and soars down into the valley nearest her nest. The pain in her side is almost unbearable but she remains clear and focused on saving the life of her only child. Her eyes hungrily scour the land below looking for a bird, any bird and any hope.
She spots a farm and presses her weakening body to get there. There in the yard, she spots a brood of chickens scratching the ground for their meal. She lands a bit away from them as not to startle them. The pain is blinding as she lands but she composes herself and calls out to them. “Sisters! Sisters! Please! I need your help!”
The fat bundles of brown and white scarcely look in her direction. They pop their heads up, put them back down and scratch the ground as if an eagle in their midst is an everyday occurrence.
The Golden Eagle rolls the egg out in front of her and tries again. “Sisters! Please! My child will die without your help.”
A scrawny tough old bird makes her way from the back of the crowd. It is clear by the way the others part, she is the leader of this group. Her comb and wattle are a faded red and bear scars to imply she has seen a fight or two in her day. Her feathers are white, but thinning a bit.
She struts, painfully slow, unsure of the stranger and suspicious. She does not trust birds that fly. It could be some kind of trap.
She stops just short of where the eagle stands. Even from this distance, Mother Chicken knows Golden Eagle is wounded. She looks from the eagle to the egg and back again.
“You need my help?” she snarls. “Your kind doesn’t often visit unless it is to snatch one of our chicks from its clutch for a quick snack!”
“Begging your pardon, Mother,” says Golden Eagle lowering her head as an offering of humility. The lives of chickens and eagles cannot be debated now. There is no time. She continues, “I come today in peace. It is urgent that I speak with you.”
“This is my egg,” she motions with her outstretched wing to the oval object between them both. She knows her tone sounds frantic, like she has gone mad but between the pain and the urgency the situation demands, she can do nothing about it now.
“My mate has been murdered and I will soon join him. My egg will be left alone to die. Can you find mercy in your heart to mind my egg and raise the child within as your own? You are our last hope.”
“Ha ha ha! A chicken raising an eagle? I have never heard something so ridiculous.” She turns to the chickens behind her and following her lead, they share a good laugh.
“Please! I know it has never been done. It does indeed seem laughable but if you don’t help us, the tiny little chick inside will emerge from its egg alone and slowly starve to death.
“I cannot bear the thought of little helpless cries of hunger going unanswered until they are no more. I must know that will not be the fate of this chick. Grant me this peace before I die. Please! I beg you, have mercy!”
“Tssst! My kindness has always been my downfall,” she speaks over her shoulder to the brood. “Okay. I will raise this chick as my own. I will raise it as we raise all of our chicks, to be dependable and dutiful.
“It will be a chicken, not an eagle amongst chickens. It will not hunt. It will not fly. It will never know of you. I am its mother now and it is a chicken.”
“So be it!” Golden Eagle exhales loudly as her fear of the worst has been put to rest. “Please be kind to the chick and help it to live so the death of my mate and the taking of my life will not have some good come of it.”
She bows deeply before Mother Chicken and her most precious speckled egg. Raising herself on the last of her strength, she soars into the air. She spirals one time over the top of the brood and trumpets her call in hopes of imprinting her spirit upon the little egg. “My life is done.” She flies off to die alone, content in knowing her child will have a chance.
Mother Chicken and the rest of the brood surround the egg.
“I don’t know why you would agree to raising that thing,” says one Chicken.
“I have a heart for creatures less fortunate them myself,” answers Mother Chicken. “Besides, at least we know this one will be raised the right way. No hunting, no flying, and none of that screeching those birds do!”
As Mother Chicken rolls the egg into the coupe, she hears, “At least there will be one less blood thirsty chick stealer in the world! Actually, I guess today there are three less!” She smiles as laughter erupts. She feels she is doing a good and noble thing. The most honorable task of turning an eagle into a chicken.
The baby Golden Eagle survives. She names herself “Goldie” because that is the name she hears whispered within her heart. No one has taken the time to give her a name. In fact, they don’t speak to her directly at all. They refer to her as “it” when they speak about her.
“It is defective by nature and cannot scratch for food as our chicks do. That is part of the inferiority of the breed. I must bring it worms until it can walk. I have half a mind to put it in the woods and let it fend for itself,” Mother Chicken often complains.
As Goldie grows, her days are filled with harsh and hissing tones. The glares she receives are cold. The worms leave her hungry and the seeds they uncover hurt her stomach. When she becomes ill, Mother Chicken calls her ungrateful for wasting good food.
She knows how different she looks than everyone else. She tucks her wings in tight and draws her body down into its smallest form. She does not speak. She tries not to make eye contact with anyone. She hides herself in the coop whenever possible.
There alone in the darkness of the coop, she wonders if this is all life will ever be. She has never known any other way but something within her whispers, “there has to be more. There has to be more.”
When she is out in the yard scratching near the brood, she tries to be a good chicken. They treat her like an outsider not letting her be within the brood. Each time she takes one step closer to them, they rush to move away. She thinks of it as a game. She makes quick movements to see them work themselves into a frenzied state.
This morning is no different. The brood isolates her. Her mother glares at her with disapproval. It is just like every other day she has ever known, until she notices a shadow sweeping over the ground.
She lifts her head towards the sun in hopes of finding what is causing this shadow. What could it be? What bird has such massive wings? What bird soars on the air this way?
Lifting her head is not enough to find answers, so she stretches her neck as well. Then she stands up to her full height. What is this beautiful bird up above her?
The brown and golden feathers? The large wings and curled talons? The strange call that could never been mistaken for a cluck?
All the things that make her “defective” and strange are the very things that make the bird above her beautiful. “Could it be? Am I just like that bird?” She glances to her mother who is busily making her way over.
“What are you looking at?” she hisses.
“Mother, what is that bird soaring high above our heads.”
“It is a savage murderous eagle. I suggest you do not concern yourself with things that are above you. Good chickens keep their heads down in hopes of finding food.”
“But it looks just like me. I think I belong up there with them, not down here with you.”
“You ungrateful little freak! If I had not been merciful enough to take you in when your mother abandoned your egg here, you would not even be alive!”
“What? My mother? Left me here? Where is she now?”
“Dead, as is her mate. Eagles are hunted because they are savage and evil. At least she had the good sense to leave you with us – ethical, noble and dependable chickens.”
Goldie stretches her wings out to their full length and lets out a cry that startles the entire brood into silence. “I no longer have need of what you call kindness,” she screams. With that, she soars into the sky never to be seen again.
The moral of the story is an eagle can never play the role of a chicken no matter how hard it tries to fit it. Being surrounded by those who only look down at the ground and cannot fly, will never suit someone born to soar.