A fuzzy pic of my Mom and super excited niece at Christmas (couldn’t get my niece to stand still any longer)

     One of my earliest (and most vivid) memories is the time my mom almost committed murder to protect my little sister. No joke. I grew up on a horse farm that also briefly raised chickens and our little collection of poultry also included two roosters. One was named Buddy, an honest guy-chicken if there ever was one, a chill, laid back sort who tended the hens and kept his business to himself. A real stand up kind of bird. The other one, well, if he had a name I can’t remember it, but we had plenty of things we called him, none of them good. You see, I’d like to say he was only our token barnyard jerk, but the truth was he was a feathered machete that took great joy in attacking things, everything, including people. And he had the size to back it up. He came close to my father’s knees in height and he was an expert at launching himself talons first at his chosen target. And he ran his corner of the world like a rooster Mafioso, strutting around like he was some kind of chicken king, clucking and bullying and threatening everything that wouldn’t tow his line. He was like a feathered Joe Pesci, and almost as big. I remember shrieking like a little girl on a number of occasions and hightailing it as fast as my kindergartener feet would carry me with this Rooster Pacino close at heel. I’m not sure, but I think he may have even taken a shot or two at horses on occasion. As small as I was, my sister was over two years younger and much smaller prey, so we both had strict instructions from our parents to avoid said rooster at all times unless accompanied by mom or dad. Turns out it would have been wise advice for Rooster Soprano as well.

            One rainy morning the entire Kempton family found itself in the barn for some reason or other when Foghorn Leghorn decided to take a run at my sister. It may sound comical, but remember when I mentioned how big this freaking bird was? And keep in mind that my sister was maybe three years old at the time so when he turned himself into a feathered missile of death, his hunting talons were poised at my sister’s eyes. And all that stood between him and his chosen target was my five-foot tall mother. Sucked to be him.

            My father yelled a warning but he was too far away to help, and I just watched like a helpless little bystander, but mom? Oh boy. At the tender age of five I witnessed my small mother invoke the spirit of Bruce Lee and unleash a roundhouse kick that would have made Jean Claude Van Damme jealous. She kicked this bird in mid flight, inches away from my sister’s shock wide eyes, and launched him skyward with enough velocity to achieve orbit. And I’m pretty sure he would have reached the stratosphere if it hadn’t been for, y’know, the barn’s roof. Foghorn hit a solid wooden beam cranium first with a sick thud before returning to Earth while my mother let lose a torrent of threats and malevolence that made me fear for my life. There wasn’t any profanity that I can remember, but I’m pretty sure the words “boil you alive” and “pluck every one of your feathers with red hot pokers” was included among the threats if he even so much as looked at my sister ever again. After his rather unceremonious landing amidst a cloud of now loose feathers (my mother still threatening his life in highly inventive methods you may only see in a Quentin Tarantino or Eli Roth movie) he laid really, really still while my father and I shared the same thought while our jaws hung somewhere just south of our knees: mom had just murdered our rooster Godfather. And it was by far the coolest thing I had ever seen in my brief life to that point, and remains on my top five list of awesome things to this day.

            Turns out he was still alive and after a minute or so of just lying in a broken heap he got up in a real wobbly kind of way and half-walked, half-limped around in a circle for about an hour or so. He never threatened my sister again after that day. Or me. Or anyone else for that matter. Nor do I think he ever walked in a straight line ever again, but that’s kind of beside the point. The lesson he learned? Don’t mess with the kids when Mom is around (the lesson I took away from it was never to mess with Mom in case she ever decided to get in touch with her inner Chuck Norris at my expense).

            People often talk about how many bad Dads there are, and how grateful they are they have a Father who stuck around after the delivery and stepped up to his responsibilities. The truth is there are a lot of bad mothers out there as well, women who would turn their backs on their children in a heartbeat, crush their hopes and aspirations and dreams out of negligence or contempt, or even abandon them for purely selfish reasons. Which means we should all be just as grateful for the great Mothers in our lives. Mom will be the first person we genuinely, sincerely love, and that will be first of many hats she wears in our lives. Protector. Nurse. Teacher. Cook. Chauffeur. Inspiration. Motivation. A true Mother will always be the first to chase away the nightmares and keep the darkness at bay, to remind us that magic does indeed exist and to forgive us our foolishness and sins. A true Mother wouldn’t hesitate to stand between her children and the raw fury of Hell or throw herself between her kids and the worst storm you could imagine. A quote from one of my favourite movies sums it up perfectly-“Mother is the word for God on the lips and hearts of all children.” Nothing says it any better.

            So to all the Moms out there, and most importantly my own long suffering Mother-Happy Mother’s Day and the very best on your special day. May you be celebrated well and get spoiled rotten. And always remember, you have the most important job in the world.

 And Mom, I know I don’t say it nearly enough, but I Love You.

Shayne Kempton



  1. Gary Bartlett says:

    Nice column Shayne!
    Good to read something from you again, Leah told me you were back on the typewriter.
    I would like to read your opinion on the Ontario election, if you are looking for some political ideas.
    Gary B.

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