All the Pretty Horses...

Plus: Gone FIshing

"We took the position that the citations that were issued were not justified," he says. "We'd be more than happy to litigate that in a court of law, and if it's determined we have to pay them, we will."

Calabria, who lives in a nice section of Kaufman out of sight of his client's business, is not afraid to play hardball, suggesting that the neighbors' concerns about Dallas Crown are overblown.

"It's been a horse-processing plant for 15 years," he says. "And it just seems unusual to me that all these people find these living conditions to be hell."

Trailer trash: Dallas Crown stores horse hides in plain view of a residential neighborhood.
Trailer trash: Dallas Crown stores horse hides in plain view of a residential neighborhood.

Eldridge, a middle-aged black man who has lived in Boggy Bottoms his whole life, says that for years no one listened to the pleas of a traditionally black neighborhood. In any case, he says, if Calabria doubts the noxious odor that spews from the plant, he can check it out for himself.

"If Mr. Calabria wants to bring his family and live here, we have a place for him," Eldridge says, only partly in jest. Eldridge offers the same Southern hospitality to the plant's owner, who lives in Belgium.

While Eldridge enjoys taunting Dallas Crown through the press, the presence of a horse-slaughtering plant in his beloved neighborhood is no joke. A respiratory therapist who formed a small real-estate holding company with his wife of 22 years, Eldridge has bought several parcels of land, most of them in his immediate neighborhood, at tax sales. Across the street from his well-kept home, he owns a 3.5-acre lot that he'd like to develop into a small apartment complex for the elderly. He says he wants to help the poor neighborhood become a better place to live, and the first step is to kick Dallas Crown out.

"I know these people are going to fight," says Eldridge. "They've got a lot to lose, but so do I."

Calabria says that Eldridge's opposition to Dallas Crown is financially motivated, although the lifelong resident is hardly the only person to cite the plant's deleterious effect on the neighborhood's quality of life. Tonya Runnels wakes up early in the morning to commute to her job at an auto parts store. Sometimes, she can hear employees of Dallas Crown yelling at the horses as they are walking them to the killing pen just across the street from her home.

"The odor and the rumbling," she says, are what most bother her about living so close to Dallas Crown. "You can hear the horses beating up against the stall."

James Smith, the police chief and the preacher, corroborated the residents' gripes about the plant after his officers monitored Dallas Crown for a month. He reported that the plant regularly left waste material uncovered in trailers and that he and his officers detected "significant foul odors."

In addition to the nuisance it presents to its immediate neighbors, Crown and other businesses like it have also drawn fire for their treatment of the horses. While company officials and even veterinary groups say that the plant provides a humane end for many old and disabled horses, animal lovers claim that the horses agonize in their last moments. Jerry Finch, founder of the equine rescue group Habitat for Horses, says that horses are executed for slaughter the same way that cows are: with a bolt driven into their foreheads.

"The problem is that, unlike cows, horses move their heads a lot," he says. "We have film that shows horses trying to escape that shot. The law says that they're supposed to be rendered unconscious by one shot, but we have film that shows the horses are hit three to five times."

Without delving into the details of his client's work, Calabria says plainly that Dallas Crown operates in a strictly controlled, very regulated business. A USDA inspector is also on the premises during working hours. Still, he refused to allow the Dallas Observer to tour the facility.

Although sympathetic to the plight of the horses that graze around them, Dallas Crown's immediate neighbors just want to have a chance at living an ordinary residential life. They want their kids to be able to play outside. They don't want to fend off rats and snakes drawn to the plant. They don't want to smell decaying horse hides left uncovered under a blazing summer sun.

"I was born here and I'll probably die here," Eldridge says. "A man's home is his castle, and you have to fight for it." --Matt Pulle

Gone Fishing

On August 18, an employee at Professional Bank in Lakewood heard "we just got robbed!" and ran into the lobby. A teller explained a man had given her a note and showed a gun. Someone pointed and said, "He's right there." The employee saw a man strolling down the sidewalk past Legal Grounds "calm, cool and collected," and watched him get into a green pickup truck with dark tinted windows. The employee ran to his own car and, as he pulled out to follow the bandit's truck, dialed 911.

His quick thinking reeled in an alleged serial bank robber dubbed "The Fishing Hat Bandit."

The employee, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, had been at other banks during four previous robberies. "They are very quiet," he says. "Their escape is pretty quick." He'd never been involved in nabbing a thief, but this time he had an extra incentive. Forty-seven families founded the Professional Bank; his was one of them.

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