Editor's Note:  This story originally aired in 2016.

WEBSTER, Minn - Neither geese a laying nor swans a swimming summon customers to Nelson’s Apple Farm at Christmas.

No need for calling birds or turtle doves either, since Nelson’s Christmas tree lot became home to a rooster a crowing.

“He’s got character, he’s got a personality,” Nelson’s Andrea Sauve says. “He’s part of the family, part of the Nelson family.” 

The feathered addition to the Nelson family happened in the most abrupt way.

“He just showed up one day, out of the blue,” Andrea Nelson explains.

Now, six weeks after dropping in, the Rhode Island Red rooster is strutting around the Nelson's trees like he owns the place.

“His name is Willie,” explains Scott Nelson.

Formal name: Willie Nelson.

“It seems to work,” says Scott. “We just go with it.” Meaning the Nelson family now has its own Red Headed Stranger.

“He just kind of adopted us and we adopted him,” says Scott.

Before claiming Willie, the Nelsons checked in with several neighboring farms and found not a single rooster on the lam.

Meantime, Willie has become a one rooster welcoming committee, trotting out to meet each car as it pulls into the tree lot parking lot. 

Andrea Sauve of the Nelson Apple Farm talks shop with Willie Nelson.
Andrea Sauve of the Nelson Apple Farm talks shop with Willie Nelson.

“He just knows when people come in and he wants to greet them and make sure that they’re welcome,” says Andrea Nelson. “I’ve never seen a rooster that likes people as much as he does.”

Holly Schmitz and her 18-month-old son, Andrew, are unaware at first that they have a shadow scampering behind them. “Drew, look! The rooster is following us,” laughs a surprised Holly.

At the Nelson tree farm this year, Santa isn’t the only one enchanting children in a red cap and beard.

Three-year-old Owen Tuma follows Willie Nelson the rooster through the tree lot.
Three-year-old Owen Tuma follows Willie Nelson the rooster through the tree lot.

“Follow the rooster and he’ll show you the best Christmas trees,” Jenny Tuma tells her two preschoolers as Willie leads them through rows of fresh cut trees.

The Nelsons have a barn, but so far Willie has preferred sleeping outside, in, or under, a small decorative sleigh near the Nelson’s store front door.

“It’s Willie the Christmas Chicken,” declares Alexis Mattern, who came to the tree lot with her family. “I just want to play with the rooster, you guys can go find the tree.”

No one knows where he came from, but Willie Nelson may be the best Christmas poultry delivery since a partridge landed in a pear tree.

Andrew Schmitz and his mother follow Willie Nelson the rooster through the tree lot.
Andrew Schmitz and his mother follow Willie Nelson the rooster through the tree lot.