Longform

Fowled Out

Page 3 of 7

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.

But the way things sound on McAdams Street, this process won't be easy.
"They want my chickens?" Ruben asks, unaware that they're already an endangered species.

Vicky tries to explain the ordinance to the girl, who explains it to Ruben. He looks concerned. He says he hasn't done anything wrong, has broken no laws.

No, it's just a new rule, the girl explains. His visitors, she tells him, would like to know why he likes roosters, so they can tell the politicians.

"The people who don't like chickens are crazy," he says. Roosters may crow, but there are louder noises the city should deal with. "The people who drive in the street with music," he says, "and the dogs."

When asked why he has roosters, he seems baffled by the question. "You have chickens. They make eggs."

With that, Ruben walks over to his crooked hen houses and reaches inside one nest, removing two eggs. Compared with store-bought, his huevos taste better. "There is a difference," he says.

Which raises the question: Does one need a rooster to get good eggs--or, for that matter, any eggs at all? This is a subject of friendly debate between truckers Tommie and Charles, who are nursing a couple of coffees at the No.2 Pitt Grill on West Davis Street.

"You don't need a rooster for a hen to lay eggs," Tommie says.
Technically that's true, Charles says, but it's better to have a rooster. "A hen likes a rooster around. It's like all women," he says. "You might not like us, but you've got to have us around."

Roosters, after all, keep the population going, and without them all chickens would be doomed.

Sitting next to the jukebox, a large Hispanic man with two missing front teeth plays a video-poker game. After a while he takes a seat next to Bob, an elderly white guy dressed in a polyester polo shirt and beige slacks hiked high above his waist. Like nearly everyone else in here, they haven't heard about Miller's ordinance. Bob has heard the roosters near him go off at 4 a.m., so he supports the rooster ordinance. But mostly he supports Miller.

"I like Laura Miller. I worked on her campaign," he says. "She's always right to the point."

The toothless Latino disagrees. "Once we get rid of roosters, how long is it going to be before we get rid of dogs?" he says. "You get immune to them after a while. It's no different than living next to the airport, hearing those jets come in every 30 minutes. It seems to me they [the council members] have better things to do."

Roosters aside, the two regulars agree that there are more pressing matters in the neighborhood. Their discussion is evidence that Oak Cliff's experiment in tolerance factors in a certain amount of intolerance. Oak Cliff diversity doesn't necessarily mean that everyone is sitting around holding hands and singing "Ebony and Ivory." For some, it's more a matter of finding ways to live together without killing one another.

"I've got neighbors that wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning, and they start drinking beer and listening to that Mexican shit," the toothless guy says. "How do we expect these people to come to this country, and then we let them live like that?"

Bob says he'd move to North Dallas tomorrow if it weren't for his wife, an Oak Cliff native. She doesn't like to be around "outsiders." That isn't the case with Bob.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley