The Vain Cockerel, an Allegory

welsummer_cockerelThe sun was hardly a stain on the horizon when a handsome leghorn woke to discover that he was not the only rooster in the chicken coop.

He quickly surmised what had happened because things like this had happened before.

The farmer had been out drinking and playing cards all night – and apparently won a cockerel – which he tossed over the fence in the dark.

‘Well,” he thought out loud as he kicked dust across the chicken coop, “it’s time to show who is who and what is what.”

The cockerel had the same idea and the two met in the middle.  There they circled and sized the other up. The leghorn was larger. He noticed the difference immediately.  He was also older and thereby more experienced. The newcomer on the other hand was nothing but flash, although he did possess a certain appeal.

As the two swaggered about, the cockerel flipped his orange comb forward over one eye and squawked to the hens watching from the sidelines, “Ain’t I beautiful?”

The hens merely rolled their eyes and clucked their disapproval.

“Vain is a better word for it,” the leghorn sneered.

The cockerel then commenced to crow:








This bragging went on until an upstairs window in the farm house slowly creaked open and the twin barrels of a shotgun poked over the sill. “If you roosters know what is good for you,” the bleary-eyed farmer shouted, “you’ll shut up!”

But the cockerel ignored him.

Instead he directed his attention toward the smallest and most hen-pecked of chickens. “Just look at these feathers,” he blustered, “did you ever see such color?”

She hadn’t.

Not only that but she hadn’t been so flattered in years and the attention almost brought her to vapors. When she recovered, she preened her feathers and fluttered her eye lids in time with the rapid beat of her heart.

The leghorn was incensed. “Can you honestly believe this guy?” he mumbled.

The barnyard chickens could not – though they thoroughly enjoyed the show.

The cockerel continued to work on the little hen by mostly crowing about himself. “Check out the length of these wings,” he cried, stretching himself out to his fullest.

Another hen-pecked chicken, who was a friend of the first, checked him out and concluded that he was the dreamiest thing she ever saw. This hen appreciated confidence in her beaus and was more than willing to overlook over confidence.

The leghorn was beside himself. He could not believe that something so tawdry and ridiculous could be so appealing – and the hens, the ones he knew his entire life, were falling for it.

“He’s not all that special,” he crowed, “he’s a cad and a braggart and just no good.”

“I concede he is correct,” the cockerel admitted, with false modesty, “I am no good….” Then he spread his wings and lifting himself onto the tip of his claws, threw back his back head and let loose an ear-splitting cry.


The bedroom window banged open.

Shut up,” the farmer yelled, cupping his ears and rocking his head back and forth in agony, “and this is your last warning.”

After the farmer flopped back onto his bed, the leghorn suggested. “You might want to consider humility, you’ll live longer.”

“Nobody is more humble than I,” the cockerel insisted “and of all my virtues, that’s got to be my best – but as for living longer, I’m not scared of the farmer, he’s just a shaky little man with an old shotgun.”

“Not scared!” one of the hens exclaimed.

“Not in the least,” the cockerel bragged.

“Will you protect us when he comes with his hatchet?”

“You betchya, I will,” the cockerel blustered. “You have nothing to fear.”

“You’re lying,” the leghorn cried.

“Humph,” declared an old hen, “Where were you, Mister leghorn, when the farmer was stealing our eggs?”

“And where were you?” clucked another, “when he was selling our chicks?”

“Ladies,” the leghorn cried, “be reasonable.  We’re chickens, it’s just the way it is.  He gets the eggs and chicks and we get ground corn. That’s how it works.”

“Maybe, that’s how it works for you,” the old hens scolded.

The cockerel stepped into the squabble. “You got a pretty good deal going here…but tell me, how did a chicken as old as you get feathers so white?”

The question flabbergasted the leghorn.

“I am thinking bleach,” the cockerel said.

“I never….”

“Girls,” the cockerel jeered, “can you smell what I smell?  Gotta be bleach.”

YOU ARE A LIAR!” the leghorn cried.

The cockerel merely wiggled his tail feathers to the delight of the crowd.

“Bleachy, bleachy, bleach,” he taunted.


“Everything I say is the truth,” the cockerel stated with absolute confidence.

YOU ARE A LYING LIAR, WHO LIES!” crowed the leghorn.



The leghorn vanished into a cloud of feathers and buckshot.

A moment later, the bedroom window slammed shut.


“Gosh, that was easy,” the cockerel cackled, “Now girls, what were we talking about?”

** There is a lesson somewhere in this or at least I think there is. 

Author: Almost Iowa

32 thoughts on “The Vain Cockerel, an Allegory”

  1. This is genius, Greg. I don’t tend to get too riled up about Trump’s puffery, but you’re right about your observation of the press taking him literally. The parties earned this president by running the same candidate with a different face – if only the democrats had put Bernie on the ballot, they would have had a chance. Yes, this too shall pass.

  2. I suspected who the cockerel was, but wasn’t sure until I read the comment section. And yes, there is absolutely a moral in this story! I even liked the way the cockerel’s first supporters were the “henpecked chickens” who appreciated the feeling that someone was finally paying attention to them. This does remind me of a Mark Twain tale, and it does bring home the point of don’t fight on someone else’s terms. No matter how crazy they seem, they will win every single time.
    PS: You do know that every time I see a photo of Trump now, I’m going to think of a cockerel…..

    1. I’m going to think of a cockerel…..

      There is a long history of roosters in politics. No better example of which was our own illustrious Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura. Talk about a thin-skinned crowing rooster! Near the end of his term, he made the press wear ID badges with the tag JACKAL writ large above their names. It made me kinda like the guy. He was a colorful rooster.

      I would not vote for him today but despite who he was, when he was elected, Jesse Ventura had no political debts to pay off and his appointments were like a breath of fresh air that blew through the bureaucracy like a hurricane. Mostly due to his handler, Dean Barkely, who was a political genius. His affect on my department, Public Safety, was phenomenally good.

      Jesse worked his way to power through a popular talk program where very ordinary people called in to spew their opinions while Jesse listened and commented. In 1998, he ran against the tone-deaf Republican Norm Coleman and the son of Hubert Humphrey, who thought he should inherit the job. Both Norm and “Skip” Humphrey came up through an inbred political system run by lifelong activists who spent most of their time talking to other lifelong activists – kinda like what happened on the national level in 2016.

      I don’t get too upset about roosters like Jesse and Donald and tend to think that the people and the parties get what they deserve. 🙂

      And this too shall pass.

      1. Yes, there is a reason that people go for political outsiders, and even the most outrageous ones can do some good. After a while, the powers that be in both parties are only listening to themselves and only working toward keeping the status quo. And I couldn’t agree more with the last two sentences of your comment! For the 2016 election, both parties trotted out the same old people…and Trump was the result. I didn’t vote for him, but I don’t spend my days in a constant state of outrage at those who did.

  3. I am left pondering who the farmer represents in this entertaining little fable. The electoral college? Certainly not the majority opinion of the populace! Keeping quiet is not gong to restore order in the henhouse, I think.

    1. The farmer represents the cost of fighting on the ground of your opponent’s choosing, in a battle style that you are not any good at. Mark Twain cautioned against getting into a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel (the press) but a lot of fights have been won against the press by taunting reporters to make fools of themselves. Hint, trust in the press is at an all time low.

      The answer is not silence, it is a return to scrupulously accurate, objective and fair reporting rather than tribal chest-thumping. In other words, the press needs to return to the ground it is best at.

      But yes, this is about Trump. He has been using the press longer than most reporters who cover him have been alive. He instinctively knows how to manipulate the press to force them to act in the way of his choosing. He honed this craft as a promoter, and as a promoter he developed a very keen sense of his audience. All the gold, glitz and glamor of the Trump brand worked with his target demographic. If you want to understand him, watch WWF wrestling(which he was heavily involved in). Ignore the flying-power body-splashes and pay attention to the characters and stories. Watch how they work on the anxieties of the audience.

      Also notice that not one of the fans “believes” that what they are seeing is real. They know it is all theater. They understand puffery and bellicose bragging. They no more believe it than they believe a used car salesman in a plaid suit who tells them that, “this car was driven by a little old lady, only on Sundays.” But they love the spiel.

      Most people do not interpret puffery as a lie because they don’t take it literally – only the foolish press pretend to take Trump literally, it is why they are not trusted.

      What people do not trust is when a used car salesman shows them a broken down rust bucket and claims, “this car only has 30,000 miles.” That is not puffery, it is deception – and I remember sometime around when Hillary began campaigning in Iowa, Maureen Dowd of NYT wrote something to the effect that Hillary had a tin ear and could not distinguish between a lie of puffery from one of deception.

      At least in my mind, that is why she didn’t blow him away in the polls.

    1. Sometimes it does – but here the lesson is “don’t fight on the ground of your opponent’s choosing.” The cockerel had his eye on the shotgun in the window and the leghorn was foolish enough to bring it out for the third time.

    1. Hey! That was some great story-telling! I could see the similarities too.

      I am definitely going to take in more of that site. It reminded me of a bus trip my wife and I took in New Zealand. While the driver was telling stories, I turned to her and said, “I wish I could write like that guy talks.”

  4. Aesop would have loved this one, although I’m not sure which of the morals he would have chosen for the story — there are so many possibilities, especially in a world where there’s so much struttin’ going on.

    1. From what we know about Aesop, the man might have been a fable himself – but if there is any truth to the legend, he was a diplomat who viewed politics, as the subject should be viewed, as a lens into the foibles of human nature.

      It is said that both politics and the stock market work on the same principle – that everyone believes that everyone else is a bigger fool than they are – and the biggest fools, like the leghorn, lose big when they are wrong.

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