Friend of the show Leslie Halleck's adventures in urban chickening have not gone unnoticed, here or elsewhere. But till today I had no idea she's actually featured in a well-received, just-published, just-landed-on-the-WSJ-best-seller-list tome on how the Great Recession's frugaling up America -- Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution Is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell, and Live, by John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio.
The Amazon link lets you read most of the chapter on Dallas (titled "Don't Fence Me In"), which opens at the Job Seekers Resource Center at the downtown library. But on this here website today, Gerzema excerpts a few (problematic) paragraphs from the chapter in which he writes about Halleck and the link between, oh, the old Victory Gardens and, say, North Haven Gardens. Writes he:
Leslie Halleck was one of the first on her block to start raising chickens in her backyard. She bought them in 2008, as the Great Recession gained momentum, and then watched as people all over her neighborhood in East Dallas called Little Forest Hills, followed suit. But no one would have noticed if a black-and-white Dominique hen hadn't wandered away from her home. A homeowner who alerted the gardening writer at the Dallas Morning News discovered the lost chicken. City officials got into the act and pretty soon they were getting anonymous complaints about henhouses all over Dallas. As Halleck recalls it, the chicken controversy was eventually resolved when city officials realized that no ordinance banned backyard hens. A hastily adopted rule against roosters eliminated concerns about noise, and nuisance laws assured that other complaints could be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Halleck says she was pleased by the outcome, and also intrigued by the outpouring of support she received. Many agreed with her argument that when Texans become afraid of livestock, there's something wrong with them. Halleck went one step further, creating a business to train and supply the growing number of locals who raise birds and collect eggs every day. Her first Saturday class drew over one hundred people. With the parking lot overfilled, cars spilled onto the shoulder of North Haven Road.
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Now, see, a lot of this stuff's wrong, through no fault of Leslie's. Like, the city's rooster ban dates back to Laura Miller. And there is no backyard chicken ordinance -- not yet, anyhow. And that missing chicken thing -- well, that happened earlier this year in North Dallas, as Jim no doubt recalls. Nevertheless, Leslie tells Unfair Park this afternoon, "Their heart is in the right place. People are looking for ways to take back control over their lives, their food and their food safety, and many people in Dallas have made that shift -- they've discovered what really is possible. The point [the authors] are trying to make is there. It's just unfortunate they got their time line wrong."