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

Not surprisingly, Cross, who has a stake in the Oak Cliff Coffee House, isn't thrilled about Starbucks opening in the neighborhood--not to mention other chain stores that might want to make the move.

"Here in Oak Cliff, a Starbucks? Pleeease." She claims that 85 percent of the consumers in Oak Cliff are Hispanic. "They have money to spend, but they want to go into a place they feel comfortable in. They don't want to go into a place where the people are going to look at them like they're going to rob and steal. If Laura wants to open a Starbucks, she needs to go up north."

Death hangs in the air outside the TeePee Club in the heart of Oak Cliff this Wednesday evening. And not because of the impending rooster genocide. Several days ago, on an early Sunday morning, the red and blue glow of emergency lights bounced off the black asphalt while paramedics dragged five people and one corpse out of the R&R Sports Bar, which shares the TeePee parking lot. Some guy who had been tossed from the R&R decided he'd been disrespected and came back at closing time with an assault rifle. One of his bullets caught a patron in the back of the head.

Darlene, a bartender at the TeePee Club, still thinks about the murder, planting her elbow on the bar next to a bumper sticker that advises patrons to fight crime by shooting back. But the nearby tragedy is not what's got her down tonight.

Lately folks have been hearing rumors that Eckerd is going to buy the whole block and level it to make way for a new, jumbo-size store to replace the old one across the street, next to Jerry's Supermarket.

An Eckerd spokesperson says it's too soon for the drug chain to discuss its plans. But Norman Hogue, a family-law attorney, says Eckerd is in the process of purchasing the two-story, wood-framed building behind the TeePee Club, which he co-owns and which has served as his law office for the last 20 years.

"They came to us with an offer, and we unanimously said no. They came back with another offer, and I said, 'Where do I sign?'" He claims he and his partners are getting more than the building is worth, but figures it's time to sell--he just retired, but keeps going to the office every day. "Things change," he reminds himself.

Hogue doesn't keep up with politics and hasn't heard anything about a plan to ban roosters from Dallas.

"I have no problem with roosters. They wouldn't bother me one way or the other. What makes me mad is every time something happens, they say the perpetrator is from Oak Cliff. I don't think that's fair. There's crime in North Dallas too. There's crime all over. There's even crime in Colorado."

Soon Hogue won't be coming around here anymore. The barber next door is already gone, according to the orange sign he taped to the door to inform customers that he lost his lease and moved. Closed, too, will be the auto shop across the lot, where a handmade poster hung above a grease-stained sink announces that "Jesus is Coming."

Darlene doesn't know whether the TeePee Club will re-open somewhere else. She also has no idea that roosters are now deemed a threat to the public order. Neither did Robert, a regular, who unlike everyone else in the TeePee Club has heard of Laura Miller. "Laura Miller's my girl," he shouts, punching the air with his clenched fist. "She's giving them blacks and Hispanics hell."

Robert hunkers down in a cracking red vinyl booth and strikes up a conversation with a Budweiser. Jay, also a regular, doesn't pay him any attention; his nonchalance about Robert's comments illustrate how some folks tolerate prejudice in Oak Cliff: They ignore it. Dallas-born and Hispanic, Jay can't imagine why anyone would dislike a rooster. "Not everybody has alarm clocks," he cracks.

Like Darlene, Jay mourns the imminent destruction of his watering hole and is leery of certain elements moving into the neighborhood. "Starbucks? That's not Oak Cliff at all," he says. "Starbucks is trendy. Oak Cliff life is to sit back and watch things go by."

Jay says he doesn't keep up with local politics because local politicians never seem to keep up with him. "The city council is trying to make Oak Cliff pro-business, and that's not right at all. They're talking about businesses coming through here and destroying the lifestyle. They're going to do some damage."

Jay downs one beer and begins to empty another, deciding to do some damage of his own.

Back at the Oak Cliff Coffee House, the reality of the rooster ordinance is beginning to sink in.

"We ought to declare war on Dallas," says Adam the Buddhist, who curses this vision of an Oak Cliff culturally cleansed of its male chickens. His words recall that rebellious spirit that caused Cliffites to threaten Dallas with secession a decade ago. "It's that Americanization mind-set," he clucks, "to go in and make everything look the same."

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