Fowled Out

Does City Hall's rooster ban signal the end of old Oak Cliff? Rose Farley goes to the front lines of a cultural war that threatens to turn the 'hood into something truly heinous...North Dallas

The visual tactic made sense coming from Miller, who could not speak from personal experience alone, as there aren't any roosters living within earshot of her affluent, mostly Anglo neighbors in Kessler Park. Miller says she discovered the extent of the rooster's presence in Oak Cliff only when she first ran for office a year ago. Back then, she ventured into territory occupied by her working-class, predominantly Hispanic neighbors.

"When I walked door-to-door, I was just shocked at the problem," Miller recalls. "I stood there and listened to the noise, and it was horrible."

Two roosters clawing themselves to death during a cockfight, an event that's known to happen in Oak Cliff, was not Miller's primary inspiration. Having little sympathy for the feathered fowl, Miller simply doesn't like the sound of crowing. "People should be able to have, at the very least, peace and quiet in their own home," she says. "I think roosters are expendable as pets. They can go to the farm."

Miller acknowledges that the roosters' total removal will be a challenge considering their population in Oak Cliff. "It's just everywhere in the district. We just scratched the surface."

Still, one person's noise is another person's music.
To many Cliff Dwellers, the rooster's throaty cry is a reminder that one never knows what each new day might bring. The creature's flashy plumage is a sight as familiar as the image of a 6-foot transvestite navigating a cracked Oak Cliff sidewalk in 3-inch heels. These Cliffites hail the rooster as a testament to the diversity that is Oak Cliff and see its banishment as notice that the world around them is changing beyond their control.

As a result, Oak Cliff residents are beginning to ask hard questions: What's to become of their neighborhood? What does City Hall have in store for them?

Councilwoman Miller has the answer: Frappuccino.
With roosters on the run, Miller resumed her quest to usher in a new era of Oak Cliff development, led by national chain stores and major corporations. Like Starbucks.

"Starbucks, that's all I think about," she says. "This is the year for Starbucks south of the river."

On May 11, Miller's dream came true: Starbucks announced it would be opening its first location in Oak Cliff in six to nine months.

Unbeknownst to Miller and Starbucks representatives, there is a strong belief among many Oak Cliff residents that Starbucks is a post-trendy trademark of corporate gentrification that, they fear, will bring about the end of life as they know it.

Many Cliff Dwellers worry that the sound of the rooster's silence will be replaced by the roar of leaf blowers wielded by North Dallas refugees who, 30 years after sailing across the Trinity on the White Flight Ferry, are now coming home to roost.

If the voices of change had entered certain areas of Oak Cliff and attempted to comprehend the culture, there might never have been a rooster ordinance, and the clarion call for a Starbucks might easily have been stilled.

On McAdams Street in central Oak Cliff, the eggs don't get any fresher. It's easy to hear the crow of roosters but hard to locate the proud birds. This task is best accomplished from the alley, which is overgrown with weeds.

Dogs, however, are easy to spot, yelping behind chain-link fences and turning the alley into a gallery of bared teeth. Vicky, a recently retired waitress who lives nearby, is now, as she looks a Doberman squarely in the eye, regretting her decision to help locate a few roosters. There was a rooster next door to her house a block away, she recalls, but its owners ate it. She's certain there are more around here somewhere, because she can hear them.

Gingerly, she approaches a fence that has been cleared of weeds, and there, in the opening, stand three roosters. Cocky, strutting, tough-tasting on anybody's menu, they act as if they still rule the roost, sadly ignorant of the law that will soon banish them from their home.

Until the rooster became a refugee, Vicky had never heard of Laura Miller. "I understand what she's doing," she says as she waves a Hispanic man over to the fence, "but she doesn't understand what she's doing."

The man's name is Ruben, and he speaks little English. According to his shirt, he works at Westway Ford. The smell of fresh-baked tortillas wafts out the back door of his small house. A wooden chicken coop filled with pampered hens lines the fence. A young girl, perhaps his daughter, skips to the fence to translate.

Anyone wondering how the rooster ordinance will affect the people of Oak Cliff need only spend time in Ruben's back yard, ground zero for the war on roosters. On August 1, Oak Cliff animal-control officers will begin to purge the neighborhood of roosters, following up on complaints they've already logged. Sgt. Paul Ellis of the Oak Cliff animal control shelter says his orders are to fine people who fail to comply, but his staff usually prefers to issue warnings first. Ellis anticipates that communication will be a barrier. Right now, he says, there are two or three officers who speak Spanish, and more are in training. The ability of officers to speak Spanish is key to enforcement.

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