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Quid pro crow

Perhaps not everybody is aware that in Germany a rooster does not sing cocky-doodle-do, as he does here in the Boston States, but cries kikeriki. True, those of us gifted linguists who have pursued this are aware that when a German rooster rises tippytoe on the Huhnerstange at Dammerung and lets go with his kikeriki, he sounds very much like cocky-doodle-do, but we ascribe this to faulty translation. In France, I'm told, roosters naturally incline to the tonic , and cry coquerico, which is close enough to kikeriki to presume it is almost Teutonic. In classical Latin, the dawn-cry of the bull chickabiddy was simply galli cantus or song of the cock, and the name of the last watch of the night derived from the rooster who sang at daybreak, the gallus, and was the gallicinium. This has nothing to do with the Gaelic cock-a-leekie, if you were beginning to think perhaps it did.

Which brings us to our story:

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In the smallish commune of Landsberg, in Bavaria, a farmer named Hans Gebele has a now-somewhat-famous rooster named Tscheki. Tscheki was not always Tscheki, but was just another scrub barnyard rooster until he was taken into court as a common nuisance, and a reporter on the Landsberg Blatt thought a rooster in the news should have a name. Tscheki is, therefore, a nom-de-plumage. A neighbor of Farmer Gebele, by the name of Rudolf Kofron, complained that when Tscheki went kikeriki at dawn's early light, it roused him from the rest to which he was constitutionally entitled, and therefore Tscheki should be rendered null and void. I have no information as to why the judge decided as he did, any more than I have any notion of why judges in the United States decide as they do, but the beak in Landsberg agreed with Kofron, and Tscheki was remanded to the stewpot. Bauer Gebele has appealed, and Tscheki is on his personal recognizance -- biding with his pertelotes and kikeriking as has been his wont. Bauer Gebele, in his appeal, has asked the higher court to consider that said Kofron once put up a spite fence, indicating he is hard to get along with, and that ''a person of more or less normal sensitivity will find the crowing of a rooster a thoroughly enjoyable thing.'' The appeal also suggests, which I feel is a grand idea, that Neighbor Kofron move to the city.

The town where I grew up had fifteen grade crossings on the railroad, which was the main line. An engineer was required to blow two long's and two short's for each crossing. Just about midnight, seven times a week, the Boston to Halifax ''Maritime Express'' would roar through town at a sustained speed of 80 mph. The compact part of the town, the village -- where the fifteen crossings lay -- took about a mile and a half. If you want to put your slide rule to that, you'll find that the engineer on the Halifax train blew sixty times in a bit more than sixty seconds. We were a rootin'-tootin' town.

But, the Halifax Express usually ran in two sections. The first, making fewer stops, had the returning fish cars and the sleepers. The second had the work cars, mail and baggage, and the coaches. Allowing five to six miles as a safety distance between sections, this meant that four-five-six minutes after first section passed, the second section would arrive -- with the consequent and required sixty blasts from the steam chime whistle.

Relative to Tscheki and his kikeriki, the people in our town felt this midnight hullabaloo was a natural consequence of affairs, and instead of pestering a judge about it, we just got used to the midnight hullabaloo and lived with it. The interesting thing is that some nights, for want of fish cars or passengers, the Halifax Express would run in just one section. This would pass through town with the usual sixty blasts, and then in four-five-six minutes there would be an unaccustomed silence that woke everybody up. For the rest of the night the entire community would fidget in bed.

I commend the moral of this parable to the justice of the Bavarian appellate court who is considering the fate of Tscheki. Perhaps he should ask Kofron to move to Munich. And even Kofron is going to be unhappy if, rather than learning to endure a kikeriki, he comes at last to the dark day when the world has no chanticleer to rouse the Orient sun.

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