Once there was a very fine farm with a very fine barnyard. Many fine chickens clucked around the fine barnyard.
One of these chickens was a fine rooster who had a fine, fine voice. He liked to strut around the barnyard preening his fine, shiny feathers. He knew he was very important.
The other animals knew it, too. Each morning at dawn, they gathered to hear Rooster crow. Rooster puffed up his chest. “Cock-a-doodle-doo,” he crowed. “Cock-a-doodly-doodly-doo.”
The chickens all clucked and said, “He has the finest voice in the county. Everyone says so.”
Rooster’s wife, Hen, agreed. “That rooster is awfully proud of his fine voice,” she said.
Late one night, when the chickens were roosting in the chicken coop, Rooster awoke with a start. “Hen, wake up!” he said. “I had a terrible nightmare. I dreamed that a fox crept into the barnyard, looking for the finest, plumpest chicken. And who do you think he picked? Me! I was his chicken dinner! It was horrible, Hen. What should I do?”
“You should go back to sleep, dear,” clucked Hen, yawning. “It was only a dream.”
“But it seemed so real,” said Rooster. “What if it comes true? What if a fox really does creep into the barnyard looking for a fine, plump chicken?”
“Don’t be silly,” said Hen. “Quit squawking and go back to sleep. It was only a dream.”
Rooster took Hen’s advice and tried to forget all about his dream. But a few days later, Rooster saw a fox creeping into the barnyard. “The dream has come true!” cried Rooster. “I must run. I must hide.”
“My dear Rooster,” called Fox. “Please don’t run away. I didn’t come to harm you. I came only tohear your voice.”
Rooster stopped. “My voice?””Yes,” said Fox. “I knew your father. He was a fine rooster with a fine voice. I wanted to see if you crow as well as he did.”
“Of course I do,” said Rooster. “I have the finest crow in the entire county. Everyone says so.”
“I’d like to hear it for myself,” said Fox.Rooster puffed up his chest. “Cock-a-doodle-doo,” he crowed. “Cock-a-doodly-doodly-doo.”
“Amazing! Magnificent!” said Fox. “Your voice is almost as fine as your father’s.”
“Almost?” said Rooster.
“Yes, almost,” said Fox. “Your father’s voice wasa little deeper, a little fuller, and a little louder. Of course, he always crowed with his eyes shut tight, standing on his tiptoes. Oh, and he also raised his beak up toward the sky.”
Rooster didn’t want to be almost as good as his father. He wanted to crow even better. He wanted everyone to know that he had the finest crow in the county. So Rooster shut his eyes tight. He stood on his tiptoes. He raised his beak toward the sky.
But just as Rooster opened his beak to crow, Fox grabbed him, leaped over the fence, and raced off into the woods, holding Rooster tight.
“You tricked me!” cried Rooster.
“I flattered you,” said Fox. “Flattery always does the trick.”
“You’re very clever,” said Rooster. “And very strong to be able to lift a plump rooster like me. See that rock? I wonder if you could lift that, too.”
“Of course I could,” said Fox. He set Rooster down and reached for the rock. Rooster, now free, scrambled quickly toward the barnyard.
“You tricked me!” cried Fox.
“I flattered you,” Rooster called out. “Flattery always does the trick.”
Fox crept away and never came back. He was too embarrassed to return after he fell for his own trick.
Rooster still strutted and preened his feathers and crowed. But he tried to be more humble.
“If I hadn’t been so proud,” he said, “I wouldn’t have listened to Fox’s flattery.”