After nearly 25 years of living on a farm, I tend to let myself think I've seen it all. But nothing comes as close to winning the Oscar for 'believe-it-or-not' as the story of the invincible rooster.

My wish for a small flock of free range chickens and their farm fresh eggs was granted last spring with the arrival of forty-some little layer pullets. Somehow, one little rooster chick managed to sneak past the gender selection department at the hatchery and was included in my order, only to reveal its true identity several weeks later.

As it turns out, I now believe our rooster's slip past the hatchery sexer was the result of his sheer will to live.

As our rooster grew into his cock-a-doodle-doo, so to speak, he quickly made his presence known on the farm. As a result, one of Dan's first perfected farm animal noises was the crow of a rooster.

Unfortunately, Dan's fascination with the rooster didn't stop at just listening. He apparently thought the rooster's pretty plumage warranted closer inspection.

It didn't take long for the rooster to make it very clear that he did not appreciate Dan's curiosity. The first time the rooster attacked Dan I was shocked into inaction. By the time I rescued our terrified little boy the rooster was long gone.

The second time the rooster attacked Dan, Glen was watching. He hadn't made much of it when I relayed the story of the first attack, so I was stunned when Glen took off for the barn to get the shot gun after he deposited our sobbing son in my arms.

"Wait a second," I said. "You can't just haul off and shoot the rooster. What kind of lesson would that be for Dan?"

"So you're okay with the rooster attacking our son?" he queried.

"No, but I don't think we should send the message that when animals misbehave we shoot them."

So the rooster's life was spared.

There was one more attack that summer. But, again, I pardoned the rooster. I told Dan he needed to stay away from the mean chicken. Dan looked back at me, paused, and then proceeded to run toward the rooster. Sure enough, the rooster nailed him square in the bread basket.

Glen retaliated after I told him what happened by chopping the rooster's beautiful tail feathers off. He said at least the rooster wouldn't be able to conduct aerial attacks on our son. (Apparently chickens don't rely on their feathers for flight as much as Glen thought, because the rooster didn't have any trouble reaching the roost in the coop that night.)

After that, Dan clung to my leg when a hen so much as looked at him. He would say "cock-a-doodle-doo owie" and then whimper until I picked him up.

I have to admit, I did feel bad that he had developed such a fear of the chickens. He had been so fascinated by them before the attacks. Maybe if I had let Glen take care of the rooster after the second attack, Dan wouldn't have been psychologically scarred.

But on the other hand, I felt strongly that Dan needed to learn to respect the animals on the farm. Our son had absolutely no fear for anything other than that rooster. Sooner or later he would learn, one way or another, that cats scratch, dogs nip, cows kick and, well, roosters attack.

Then, this winter, the rooster picked a fight with the wrong human.

Glen was up in the machine shed getting the sled so we could take Dan sledding. As he tells it, the rooster puffed himself up, flapped his wings and came running at Glen. As the rooster closed in for the attack, Glen swung the sled and clocked the rooster upside the head.

Glen came to the car and sheepishly said, "I just killed the rooster."

"What?

He told me what had transpired while I nodded in understanding. The rooster had dropped where Glen hit it and was lying there twitching when Glen left.

"The cats were swarming in like it was a Sunday buffet," he said.

As we were pulling out of the driveway, I turned to Glen, pointed and asked, "That rooster right there? Is that the one you killed?"

The Americana was strutting down the hill from the machine shed.

"Well, I'll be," Glen said. "I was sure he was dead."

Dan's fear of the rooster subsided as time passed. And, he seemed to have gained some respect for the bird. I gave little thought to the rooster until last Sunday.

Dan and his cousin were outside playing on the "hills of gold" (the three dump truck loads of sugar sand in our yard left over from excavating the pit last fall). Glen and his brother were nearby working on the tractor.

All of sudden, Dan was screaming bloody murder from the other side of the sand pile. Glen sprinted over to find Dan and the rooster in a standoff.

The rooster fled when Glen approached, but Glen gave chase, determined that this would be the last time the cocky bird bothered our son. With his brother's help, Glen caught the rooster.

Glen quickly rendered the rooster unconscious. Then he cut its throat and hung it over the gutter to bleed out.

When the crew came in for lunch, Glen said, "We'll be having chicken for supper," and proceeded to tell me the story of the rooster's demise.

Dan added his take on the situation: "Rooster nigh-nigh."

What Glen didn't count on, though, was this rooster's unprecedented will to live.

When I went out to the barn later to fill the milk jug, Glen met me at the door with "You're never going to believe this, but..."

"What?"

"The rooster's gone. Either the cats got it, Annie (our dog) got it or it untied itself and got away."

We both knew it was probably the cats. They'd been cheated out of rooster dinner once before and it wouldn't have taken them long to come running at the scent of fresh rooster.

Glen's brother, having left and then returned, came in to ask how the chicken dinner was coming. I told him the rooster had disappeared. Glen came in later and said his brother had found the rooster in the corn crib.

"Oh well," I said. "I wasn't looking forward to eating that bird anyway. At least it won't be bothering Dan anymore."

I was wrong. The next morning Glen reported that the rooster was running around the yard with the remnants of the twine string still tied around its leg.

"I thought you said it was in the corn crib," I half-asked, puzzled.

"I did say that, but I never saw it for myself," Glen replied.

Apparently, Glen had never asked his brother if the rooster was dead or alive. We had both assumed it was laying in the corn crib, dead.

And so, believe it or not, the rooster lives on, albeit a bit anemic for awhile.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 50 cows near Melrose, Minnesota with help from their two-year-old son, Dan. When she's not farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. She can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.