Chickening out is not an option

September 16, 2008 — by Sophia Cooper

People say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Military leaders throughout history have used this tactic to control adversaries and make it harder for them to attack. I, however, completely disagree.

My enemies should be as far away from me as possible, preferably in Antarctica where they’ll freeze to death. After all, the only birds that can survive there are penguins. And they can’t make aerial dives at you.

My rivalry with birds started when I was in second grade. During a trip to Europe, my family and I stopped at a beach in northern Germany. I saw these two majestic white swans coming towards us off the ocean and being the friendly 8-year-old I was, I lifted my hand and gave them a big wave.

Waving is apparently a sign of aggression in swan language. The two birds, both larger than I, started chasing me all over the beach and squawking like crazy. My loving family stood there and laughed. Way to go support system.

That fateful day in 2000 initiated eight years of constant fear. I’ve been attacked by pigeons, blue jays, seagulls, ducks, geese, chickens and, yes, parrots.

One of my most recent incidents occurred at my annual adventure to space camp this summer. The owners of the lake house at Beaver Lake, Ark., had a beautiful green, yellow and blue macaw named Willie and the entire week we stayed there, I avoided him like the plague.

On the day we were leaving, I decided to be brave and take a picture with Willie on my arm. He hadn’t bitten anyone throughout the week, so I figured I was safe.

Boy, was I wrong.

As soon as I got Willie on my arm, he started squawking and flapping his wings and trying to snip off a piece of me for dinner. I screamed and ran away as soon as someone got the demon bird off me. Needless to say, I was very happy to leave Willie in Arkansas and come back to California.

The only good that came from the incident was that I tried to face my fear — a lot of good that did me. Nevertheless, it helped me try once again to make peace with the birds.

This summer, after thorough reassurance from my neighbors, I agreed to feed their 15 “nice” chickens while they went away for the weekend.
Although I let out more than a few blood-curdling screams when the chickens came flying at me, I’ve become significantly less scared of them. Plus, I get comfort in convincing myself that I can outrun most birds.

Confronting my fears helped me build self-confidence and independence. Knowing that I don’t have to hide behind someone every time a bird waddles by gives me a sense of pride and dignity as well.

But if it’s a scary swan, you can find me hidden in Antarctica with the harmless penguins.

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