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Mountain Home Magazine

Animal Magnetism

Jun 01, 2021 11:46AM ● By Patrick Bernethy

The relationship between humans and animals, be they domestic or wild, has a long and complex history. Animals have been our source of labor, transportation, food, shelter, and companionship. Let’s face it, we may not deserve the companionship they occasionally offer given the nature and history of that relationship.

Yet, people have befriended every manner of creature from octopus to grizzly bear. You could lose yourself for weeks in cute YouTube videos of people and their “pets,” and the definition of pet doesn’t have any set criteria (remember pet rocks?).

This story took place on a rural Pennsylvania farm some years ago. It involves an elderly farmer named Stuart and a rooster pheasant named Chick-Chick. Stuart, or Daddy, as the family called him, had a special gift, a calmness and connection to the outside world. As a farmer that comes with the job description, but Stuart’s connection to wild animals was uncanny, uncanny to the point that a rooster pheasant flew out of the field to suddenly befriend him one day.

This wasn’t just a one-off occurrence. Chick-Chick, as Stuart dubbed him, came to visit on a daily basis. Stuart would amble out the kitchen door early in the morning with a low whistle, while all the farm stock came to life to greet him and to start the new day. This was underscored when Chick-Chick came flying down from the upper fields, landing in front of Stuart and walking side by side with him, following him out to the mailbox and then everywhere he went through the routine of daily chores around the farm. One of Chick-Chick’s favorite things to do was fly up and land on the front of the Gator—that bird loved riding around with Stuart on the four-wheeler!

Sometimes the relationship became a bit difficult to handle. When Stuart wanted to head to town, Chick-Chick would chase the truck down the drive. When the vehicle picked up speed, he’d take off and fly alongside. It got to where Stuart had to try to sneak off the farm to get his errands accomplished!

This went on throughout a whole summer and into the fall, when the bird suddenly disappeared. No one knows what happened. You can create alternate endings, happy or sad, but the truth is that pheasants don’t live that long. Truth is, humans don’t live that long either. What does live on is the story of a unique friendship between man and animal.

Stuart passed away three years ago at age ninety-six. His family and the people he loved will always remember the special touch of a gentle man, and that brief friendship he had with a bird named Chick-Chick.

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