Hage: Buster is why I have a built-in alarm clock

I’ve always wondered why I have no need for an alarm clock. When I intend to get up at 5 a.m. like I did Tuesday because it was newspaper production day, I found myself rising at 4:56. That pattern repeats itself on weekdays, weekends, holidays and even on vacations.

I’ve even had a prescription for Ambien for those days I really wanted to sleep in.

I’ve often wondered why I’m always early to rise and I found out this week while doing some family research in anticipation of a July family reunion.

It all comes down to one simple word: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

The reason is rooted on the old family farm near Franklin, Minn., in Renville County.

Animals on the farm were friends to my Grandpa, Orville Hage, and his two brothers and three sisters.

That sheep answered to a name they gave it. Special animals all had names. Even some of the poultry had names.

I was lucky enough to live a block from my Grandpa while growing up in South Minneapolis. As a young boy I spent many hours listening intently to the stories my Grandpa shared on many an afternoon from his big, living room chair.

Buster was the name of one old rooster that the Hage children all loved. I remember many stories about Buster — or maybe it was the same story told many different times.

As my Grandpa recalled, it was the spring of 1923, the year my great-grandmother sold the farm. It was a few years after my great-grandfather fell ill and died.

After church one day, my great-grandmother wished the family could have chicken for Sunday dinner, but there was nothing but laying hens and they needed the eggs.

It was a nice day, and as they would sometimes for nothing better to do, neighbors Alvin and Clarence Walingen ambled by from their place about 3/4 of a mile away. They were maybe 16 or 17 years old — a bit younger than my Grandpa at age 18.

Grandpa said he must have been eyeing over the cast of the feathered characters when those Walingen boys came over and somehow got the idea that he wished one of them would be on our dinner plates that afternoon.

The Walingen boys considered themselves to be a selection committee, I guess, and suggested Buster for the sacrificial role.

“He’s been around this barnyard forever, I couldn’t kill old Buster,” my Grandpa recalled saying.

Clarence Walingen said, he could, but Grandpa proclaimed, “You’re not chopping the head off of good old Buster, buster.”

Then Clarence said something that made Grandpa stop and think.

“Good old Buster? What’s he good for? Does he wake you up in the morning so you can get your chores done?”

That’s when he realized “good old Buster” was nothing to crow about.

He didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t make a peep.

My Grandpa gave Clarence the axe and Buster flopped around the barnyard for the last time. He was a tough old bird, Grandpa said.

It was then that I learned why I can wake on the spot almost each and every day.

Grandpa always told me that it is because of no-crow Buster that every true Hage of my lineage has had his or her own built-in jump-start for every day.

No rooster or alarm clock is needed to get up and get going on whatever needs or doesn’t need to be done.


Jeff Hage is the editor of the Princeton Union-Eagle. Reach him by e-mail at [email protected]