No joke: There's a bird missing, and an 11-year-old girl's crying...fowl. I hate myself.

Avian Boo-Hoo

It looks kind of like a joke--the childlike scrawl, the hastily added phone number, the phone-poll placement along a busy thoroughfare. (It would make a great album cover for some indie-rock band, come to think of it.) But, no, the "Lost Chicken" sign posted here is the real thing: an 11-year-old's cry for help.

I saw it Friday evening, shortly after it was nailed to the post at the corner of Walnut Hill and Strait lanes in Northwest Dallas; there is--or was, till someone yanked it down--another sign at Royal and Strait. Turns out it belongs to the f0urth-grade daughter of prominent local plaintiffs' attorney James "Rusty" Tucker, who is a next-door neighbor of Laura and Robert Wilson--you know, parents of Owen, Luke and Andrew Wilson. When reached by phone, Tucker explains that he and the family recently tore down their home--worth $5 mil, according to the Dallas County Appraisal District--to build a new one. Behind their place is a pasture where they keep horses and chickens, which they come to feed every day while their new digs are under constrution. (Tucker answered the phone from the site, actually.) Well, late last week they made their daily stop-n-feed and discovered the beloved chicken--which Tucker's daughter was given at school, where it had been part of a class project--was missing.

"We're one of the only ones who took one of the chicks, because it was her favorite," Tucker says, explaining that his daughter was so enamored of the bird he named it for her favorite teacher (Sheila). "Then it went missing, and my 11-year-old made the sign, as you can tell--it's pretty 11-year-old-looking. Some people thought the sign was a joke. I guess she's gone. We have a lot of workers over here, and I hope nobody decided to take it home, if you know what I mean."

But you post a sign like that on Walnt Hill, and you're just asking for trouble: Saturday night, Tucker got a call from a guy--"who clearly had a little too much to drink"--claiming he saw nearby neighor Ross Perot stealing the bird and cookin' it up over the barbecue pit. "My daughter didn't think that was too funny," Tucker says. "Then he said, 'Really, if you would call me, I think I just saw some feathers flying over Perot's fence.'"

Then again, maybe one of Tucker's other neighbors did abscond with the bird: The attorney lives right across the street from Fuddruckers-Macaroni Grill-Il Mulino founder Phil Romano and his $8.6-million manse. "He does have all those restaurants," Tucker says, clearly kidding. "Maybe he needed an extra chicken." I'm gonna go out on a limb here and add this: I betcha there's a reward for Sheila the chicken. Coupla bucks, at the very least. --Robert Wilonsky

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