Oak Cliff Activists--Between Their Bikes And Gardens And Chickens And Goats--Seek To Redefine Their Community Without Destroying It

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Bonnie and Clyde have chewed up the cord that connects their automatic food bowl to its solar-powered battery, which is why they are baaaaa-ing mercilessly at Andrew Howard, the 34-year-old bespectacled goat enthusiast who spends most evenings feeding and watering his two charges in the summer heat. Howard leashes up the two white-haired, blue-eyed La Manchas as if they might be a couple of labradors and leads the goats around the farm for an evening snack of weeds and grass, though Clyde has bigger dreams: that blackberry bush, in his mouth, at any cost—tether be damned. Bleating goats in tow, Howard tugs around a water hose, quenching the tousled patches of gourds, veggies and berries that have been planted here over the past few months.

Howard calls this setup a "farm." He says he's a goat "herder." But really, his goats are urban goats, living in a kind of goat-condo near a dead-end lane off old Commerce Street in West Dallas, a stone's throw—over Interstate 30—from North Oak Cliff.

Goats satiated, Howard wanders toward the street—no curbs, no sidewalks out here—past a pile of donated IKEA boxes that will no doubt be put to some use within days, if not hours. One of the neighbor kids runs over from across the street, where his parents are sitting with a couple of cold beers at sunset while their big, brown horse grazes in the driveway nearby, eyeing Bonnie and Clyde with apprehension.


Oak Cliff

"Would you like a beer?" the kid asks. Howard politely declines, though he grins his way over to the neighbors' aging chain-link fence. Some watermelons are ready at Bonnie and Clyde's place, Howard says to the neighbors, did they want some? Howard trades a lot with them for their peaches, or whatever's available out here. It's a goodwill gesture toward the Hispanic folks who've lived here for decades, long before Howard arrived with the goats. It's also just a thing Howard does, trading and bartering the fruits of his labor.

More than a year ago, Howard was an urban planner and a happy resident of Lakewood. He was into kayaking and mountain biking, but goat herding seemed way out of his comfort zone. Howard started thinking about buying a place. And damn, if Oak Cliff prices weren't cheaper than what he was looking at in East Dallas. He bought a place on the other side of the river, and it was all over the levees in his bright blue Toyota FJ Cruiser from there.

Today, Howard spends his free time working, watering and growing organic food on this empty lot in Western Heights, the neighborhood by the Dallas Police Department auto pound that's been more or less left to its own devices, nestled among industrial warehouses and salvage yards, for years. He didn't think he was going to ever be a goat farmer. But then his friends bought this empty lot, less than half an acre in size, and a collective of Oak Cliff transplants began planting corn, melons, really anything they could get seeds for, out on the land.

This is what happens to some people who move to Oak Cliff these days. They get their first utility bill in the 75208, and it's all responsible green living and bike rides and leisure activities that come after hours, days, weeks of building something with their own two hands. For gas-guzzling, luxury-shopping Dallas, it is downright bizarre.

And it could happen to you.

The lot's been jokingly christened the "West Dallas Country Club" by its owners, thirtysomething bike and gardening enthusiasts Mariana and Scott Griggs, who live in Stevens Park. Bonnie and Clyde's little goat-condo sits on the back of the lot, though most of the land is dedicated to small-scale farming. Near a shady patio table, empty coolers sit ready to be filled with ice and beers, and the Slip 'n Slide by the goat pen needs to be hosed down before it's ready for action. Overshoot the slide, however, and you'll find yourself in a patch of newborn okra. All of this a scant five-minute drive from downtown Dallas.

Mariana spends three or four hours every morning at the WDCC, watering her projects, pulling weeds and tending the hive of bees she's hoping will help pollinate her crop. Her husband, Scott, a lawyer whose passion for urban planning has made him one of Oak Cliff's most outspoken champions when it comes to preservation and development, says the WDCC was a gift to his wife. She wanted a place to begin a community garden. "It's kind of an urban laboratory," Scott told me over Shiners at Oak Cliff's Bar Belmont. He mostly stays out of the way, so Mariana has full run of the land.

In late July, Mariana invited me to the WDCC for lunch. She pours a bag of ice into a cooler and places a carafe of home-brewed tea on the patio table alongside tubs filled with salads and fresh fruit. I remind her that she's kind of a criminal, out here, in the eyes of a city that has recently decided to require all manner of permits, fees and procedures for community gardeners who'd like to plant a thing, eat it with their friends and maybe sell or trade the leftovers. In fact, even planting a garden on a vacant lot is illegal—the only gardens currently allowed in the city must be part of an existing structure like a home or church.

"Oh yeah, I forgot this was illegal," Mariana says with a smile and an eye-roll, a plate of locally harvested carrot and squash salad on the table in front of her. The carrots came from goat herder Howard's garden at his home off Fort Worth Avenue. The squash are from the WDCC itself. Mariana can tell the origin story of everything but the organic pasta in the spread she's set out—figs from a tree down the street, honey from her bee colony. Still, she's seriously breaking the rules. The petite renegade with bright brown eyes and a pixie haircut just plain forgets that she is such a troublemaker.

"When you feel good about doing something, and when it makes everyone around you feel good, why wouldn't you [forget]?" she wonders. "You're not hurting anyone. You're only making it better."

Making it better. That's the Oak Cliff "biko" ethos. The term was coined by the Observer's own city columnist Jim Schutze earlier this year and has been accepted by the group of twenty- and thirtysomething self-described activists who've decided to bring a kind of Euro-urban way of life to the area.

They ask for forgiveness, not permission, when turning steamy-hot urban blocks from asphalt roadways into mini-parks for undertakings like the Better Block Project, a quality of life experiment in walkability where, last spring, activists painted a bike lane on the street and took over parking spots with outdoor café seating in the triangular intersection at Tyler and 7th streets near the Bishop Arts District. Rock bands played on the sidewalk, and local artists taught kids arts and crafts all day long. The project was spearheaded by Jason Roberts, who's lived in Oak Cliff for a decade and has become one of the neighborhood's preeminent bikos. Roberts founded the Bike Friendly Oak Cliff cycling group and his Oak Cliff Transportation Authority coalition brought a $23 million federal grant to the area for the implementation of street cars.

Bikos think hyperlocally about small changes that could have a big effect on improving their quality of life—and quick. When Roberts and his friends decided they'd like some bike lanes in Oak Cliff and looked into going through City Hall, they saw it might take years. He wondered, "Why don't we just do it ourselves?"

Bikos see walkways where others see parkways. They believe, radically in this town, that roads and intersections ought to be as much for people and public transport as they are for cars. They have this thing about demanding to know where their food comes from—and they'd like the answer to be a bit more specific than "Whole Foods."

The bikos didn't wait for someone else to make their hopes a reality by lobbying City Hall and begging for scraps of space from high-dollar developers. They just up and did these things themselves. Community garden bike tours and one-off street fairs have coalesced to change Oak Cliff, no specific-use permits or public-improvement districts required. More than ever, people are walking around, waving to their neighbors or stopping by friends' places on bikes to drop off homemade pots of honey and fresh fruit.

Suddenly, Oak Cliff's got a one-up on the rest of the city. Neighborhood improvements in Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville creep along, mired in meetings and zoning and official associations. But not, it seems, in Oak Cliff. Somehow, the place just works.

"People use the same tools and expect different outcomes," says Howard, speculating about why Oak Cliff seems to have come out so far ahead in the livable space game. "Back room" deals, as he calls them, aren't the way to improve quality of life, at least not the way the bikos have done it.

Of course, Oak Cliff still relies on the official way of doing things, plenty. There's no shortage of people in suits driving around the area carrying blueprints and city blessings. The City of Dallas-approved Bishop/Davis Land Use And Zoning Study, which will bring mixed-use development, higher-rise buildings and limited parking to Bishop Arts and the surrounding area, is evidence of that—and evidence that not every biko has the same vision for the area. Jason Roberts says he found himself arguing with long-time friends over the study. He found it extremely painful.

"Some people are afraid of density," says Roberts, though he isn't. He sees the Bishop/Davis plan as the best way to deal with a future population increase in the area. "We've got to find a place to put people," he says. "Otherwise we're going to create sprawl, and that's even worse." The Bishop/Davis plan allows for tall buildings, but not wide ones. That's one of the reasons Roberts supports it. "The wide buildings, that's where you get the Rent-A-Center and The Gap." The plan includes incentives for developers who don't bulldoze existing buildings and places bans on drive-thrus and tattoo parlors.

Yet the specter of gentrification looms, and while bikos are certainly concerned about it, they also feel as though their hands are tied.

Amy Cowan, who works a day job as a fundraiser and events planner for the Democratic Party, has worked closely with Jason Roberts on the Better Block Project and other street parties. She and her husband have lived in Oak Cliff for three years and are raising their two children there. Cowan says she wants her kids to grow up among the social and economic diversity of Oak Cliff.

"I don't think anyone here wants to run off someone based on their race or their income," she told me one hot afternoon at Eno's, the Bishop Arts pizza joint favored by bikos. "This is about improving everyone's quality of life, no matter what your income is."

The biko thing, where two wheels and a dream seem to get most people where they need to go, is what Howard calls the "new path." It's a combination of civic savvy and civil disobedience. It's wearing both helmet and hat, whether attending a packed bike-friendly Dallas meeting at City Hall or sipping beers at Eno's.

The Oak Cliff bikos live in a neighborhood that has, for the first time in decades, come under the watchful, financially interested eye of the city and its pet developers. Downtown peers through the arched monocle of the Calatrava Bridge, its sights set on the vast swath of North Oak Cliff and West Dallas that has, in the past few years, become a biko playground for urban experiments on a much smaller scale. A "people-sized" scale, say the bikos.

When I pulled up to the West Dallas Country Club to have lunch last month with Mariana Griggs, she hadn't arrived yet, but a bumper-stickered van sat outside a nearby salvage yard. Two sweaty bikos pushing huge black tires appeared from behind the fence. Zac and Heather Lytle were spending a day working on the site's new dumpster pool.

After my locally grown lunch with Mariana, Zac swallowed a glass of homemade tea and reckoned he'd better get back to sanding down the sharp edges inside the big green dumpster that would be lined with a tarp and filled with water just a few days later. He'd read about dumpster pools in Brooklyn—large, repurposed green garbage bins that are a portable, cheap way to build a kind of instant swimming hole—and figured it couldn't be too hard to put one out at the farm. Undeterred by puffy eyes that resulted from a run-in with some poison ivy at his home near King's Highway, Zac climbed into the searing-hot metal box and cranked up his tools. He didn't have to, though. The original dumpster pool guys from New York will come out and build you a trashy swimming hole wherever you like, at a price.

"They turned it into a business," said Zac, who sports sideburns and has the lanky build of a competitive road biker, but he didn't see why he couldn't just do the thing himself on the cheap and have this nutty swimming contraption for WDCC visitors. So he watched a couple YouTube videos featuring the Brooklyn pools and started the project with the help of Mariana, Andrew Howard and just about everyone else who showed up to the farm over the course of four or five days. It's what Mariana calls a kind of personalized "mimicry." What bikos like Zac are doing isn't unheard of—this do-it-yourself thing. It's that they're further customizing already DIY projects to suit their own needs.

"You can buy anything," Howard later explained, but the unique experience of crafting something personalized is the spirit of their Oak Cliff, and it pervades almost every decision made by the activists. Why do the same old thing over and over again, even if it's worked for someone else? Said Howard: "There's a new energy over here. We're not accepting that it has to be the same way forever."

A couple of words tend to pop up when bikos try to describe what they're doing in Oak Cliff, and yes, one of them has appeared here already: Brooklyn. The other is closer to home: Austin. It's hard to talk about green living and walkable neighborhoods without citing those places as examples. But while the Oak Cliff activists share certain ideals about city life with citizens of those places, the fact remains that Oak Cliff simply isn't Park Slope or South Congress.

Bikos admire and aspire to the ideals espoused by their activist-kin in those places, but find there's something unique about Oak Cliff in its raw potential, rather than the pre-existing coolness of those areas. There's a kind of presto-change-o hipness available in Austin and Brooklyn (and Portland, another oft-cited dreamland for bikos), where green-living bike culture is the norm. Buy a bike and a recycle bin, and you're set.

People seem to believe that "Dallas doesn't have a culture for those things," says Roberts, while on his way to see about starting a food truck—a thoroughly Austin way of serving food out of a restaurant on wheels—one hot August afternoon. Dallas' square, car-oriented culture "has been the broad assumption." Those people who are interested in a DIY lifestyle, says Roberts, instead of "trying to champion some kind of green initiative, will say, 'We'll just move to Austin instead.'"

But not the Robertses, or the Griggses, or the Cowans or the Lytles, or any number of their cohorts, which Roberts estimates to be a core group of about 150 people who consistently bike, garden and attend street fairs and public improvement events in the area. They're sticking around because Oak Cliff is a place where they can really make something happen, all on their own.

Here's what Oak Cliff has that Brooklyn and Austin and Dallas-north-of-the-Trinity don't: Oak Cliff cool isn't ready-made. Nourished in an already diverse urban womb, nestled atop a pre-World War II street grid made for both living and working, Oak Cliff cool isn't a top-down affair. Gaze out west from your favorite downtown high rise, and you're looking at a neighborhood that is not merely changing, but one that is being molded, consciously, by those who have chosen to invest their time, their money and their physical bodies into its creation. Simply put: You can't buy biko.

"There's so much latent potential in Oak Cliff," Scott Griggs told me. The biko way—"the guerilla and the rogue stuff"—creates gradual changes that help resist gentrification and improves overall quality of life by putting people in touch with their neighborhoods on the ground level.

There are the Oak Cliff biko staples—gardens, farm animals, art, to name a few. But the thing about Oak Cliff is that there's room for so much more. After decades of near abandonment by the other, alien Dallas—the Dallas north of the Trinity—Oak Cliff isn't about to get too picky about the crazy things folks are thinking about doing there (crazy, like demanding bike lanes and walkable neighborhoods).

Two ideas exist simultaneously in Oak Cliff, and they seem to rule the everyday: immediacy and slow living. They're not mutually exclusive. There is the sense that one has a moral obligation not to wait to implement one's best ideas. Want a bike lane? Don't ask for permission. Buy a bucket of paint and get out there on the street, now. Immediacy. And then there's the idea that maybe you shouldn't get your drawers in a wad when things don't work out just so. Maybe you should just sit back and grow a tomato or two and brew some sun tea and have a dip in the dumpster pool. Slow living.

"I'm championing that idea of living casually," says Jason Roberts, who wants more "slow foods, slow bicycling, just taking it easy as a community."

Of course, it's nice to have the time and resources to live slow and sit around thinking about rock and roll and planting trees. Bikos are mostly white folks, and they're not living paycheck-to-paycheck working minimum wage. They've got graduate degrees. They are lawyers, doctors, artists, urban planners and educators. Is the West Dallas Country Club little more than a modern-day version of Marie Antoinette's Petit Hameau? Are bikos just a bunch of gentrifying jerks?

The Belmont Hotel, clinging to the edge of one of Oak Cliff's tallest promontories, has been the go-to gathering place for biko-types for years. Celebrating an idealized bygone era highlighted by its Art Moderne design, the Belmont's got this vintage cool thing going on that hip kids—bikos and otherwise—are digging these days. Boasting a pool with possibly the best view of downtown in the city, it's a natural meeting place for people with big ideas. People like the CityDesign Studio urban planners, who've been charged with drawing up plans for the future of West Dallas and North Oak Cliff. They have extensive connections to the existing bureaucracy, funded by the Trinity Trust Foundation, a coalition between the City of Dallas and some of its best-known, and often richest, families and developers.

Vancouver-based urban design czar Larry Beasley has been invited to lead the CityDesign project, and he spoke to a group of—let's be real here—mostly white folks reclining on the grass at the Belmont pool a few weeks ago. Bantered about was the buzz phrase "experiential urbanism," people experiencing their city on a small, everyday level during walked shopping trips or interactions in parks with neighbors. There were also the grand proclamations about progress.

"We are the most educated, liberated, richest people in the history of the world," Beasley told the crowd. We, today, have as much wealth as "a 15th century prince." He spoke of the beauty of European cities. And while he was talking, a car could be heard driving down the hill along Sylvan Avenue, blasting Tejano music. The white folks listened on to Beasley, hardly noticing.


Back at the farm, Andrew Howard shoos Clyde out of the blackberry bush one more time. "We wondered how the neighbors would take to a bunch of gringos coming over," he acknowledged. He likes what the CityDesign folks are doing—in fact, a lot of bikos are behind it, because it incorporates existing structures and neighborhoods into a future plan for the area around Fort Worth Avenue. As pseudo-outsiders who have no intention of remaining outsiders for long, bikos are a kind of bridge between City Hall and long-time neighborhood residents.

Jason Roberts, who "just started showing up" to Oak Cliff neighborhood meetings, fell into being biko because there was some funding available for bike programs and no one else took it. Now, he's a fixture at any civic gathering where people are talking about bike lanes. "I've got this moment where people are paying attention to some of these ideas." Now, he has long talks with city council member Delia Jasso about what's best for Oak Cliff—and how to keep the big box stores and Uptown look out of the neighborhood.

But it's one thing to trade watermelons for peaches and have friendly beers over the fence. It's another to preach about experiential urbanism to Oak Cliff's largely working class indigenous population—especially when, along with organic gardens, bikos have ideas about mixed-use development and bars that serve $8 pints.

The Oak Cliff activists I spoke with express a keen concern for preserving Oak Cliff's character and diversity. They've seen the negative effects of gentrification elsewhere, and they're not fans.

While she was living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Oak Cliff artist and educator Kayli House called hers "a very uncomfortable living situation." Crown Heights is a traditionally Hasidic and black neighborhood with poor and working-class residents, but its proximity to uber-gentrified Park Slope and Prospect Heights has meant skyrocketing rental rates.

"I was part of the gentrification of a neighborhood that didn't want it to happen," House says. She and her husband moved out to Staten Island to get away from the negative impact they felt they were having. Then, two years ago, they moved to Flower Mound to stay with her family for the birth of her daughter, and House heard about the changes in South Dallas. She thought about Crown Heights. She says she won't stand for the same thing happening in Oak Cliff, where she and Shannon Driscoll are opening a community-centered arts and crafts education studio called Oil and Cotton.

"I don't want to live somewhere where we're kicking someone out." The challenge, she says, is to incorporate your own vision into the existing infrastructure without "changing the landscape of someone's established home."

Anyway, says House, she'll probably be part of the group that'll be forced out of an expensive gentrified place, if that time ever comes. But for now, House is concerned with the moving in she has to do, rather than the potential move-out.

Oil and Cotton will take up residence in the old Patina Blue antique shop space at Tyler and 7th streets. With every class, whether it's a chemical-use archiving seminar for artists or a bunch of neighborhood kids coming in to build macaroni sculptures, the studio will impart an important biko belief—that what you make, do and believe should be focused inward as well as outward, toward the community at large.

"We wanted to do something where we could really reach out to the community," says Shannon, who wants to see the long-time residents of the neighborhood crafting and creating in her new space.

The idea is kind of a "mini-Bauhaus" space that came out of a pop-up art studio that House and Driscoll ran during last spring's Better Block Project. The women could hardly get people out of their studio at the end of the day. Folks in the neighborhood came to Driscoll afterward telling her, "Please do this." But she didn't have the money, and neither did House. When they complained about the lack of funds to their friends, they were told, "Just do it." The biko way.

Once word spread, donations of art supplies and volunteer time started pouring in. A local architect offered pro-bono work on designing the interior of the space, which they got for a steal from the local artist who owns it. Driscoll says they learned that Oak Cliff activism doesn't necessarily take a load of start-up cash. In fact, says House, "It doesn't take anything but your own built-in ingenuity to make something amazing."

The women have already been in touch with local piñata makers to give demonstrations at their studio, and they'll be bringing in a basket maker from Waxahachie. "All kinds of makers," House says. Because making is what Oak Cliff does.

Those inclined to lament about bikos bulldozing Hispanic cultural authenticity with fixed-gear bikes and whitey folk music would do well to hear Claudio Sanchez's story. He's lived with his mom and sister in a one-story house near the corner of Tyler and 8th streets for seven years. Sanchez runs his own car detailing business out of his home and a trailer he pulls around town. Two years ago, Sanchez says, he told his mom they should move out. Crime was just too bad. They needed to get out.

"Our house got shot up one night," Sanchez recalls. All the time, he'd see "thug" kids "walking down here on the sidewalk, acting stupid." Break-ins were common, and cars would cruise up and down the street. More than that, he just didn't feel like the street was friendly.

Big and burly, Sanchez felt like he had to put his "thug" face on, always keeping an eye out. "People think I'm real scary, you know, because of the way I look," he jokes. "I'm really not." He'd spent time staying in North Dallas with a friend, and up there, he says, he didn't worry about trying to intimidate other guys on the street. But back home in Oak Cliff, he needed to look like a thug to feel safe.

Then, things began to change. Sanchez started seeing people on bikes, and hanging out, not just cruising, on sidewalks down the block.

"All the time, bike people go by here. Oh yeah, they wave and say hi," he says. Eventually, he started walking down to Bishop Arts with his sister to eat at Hunky's burger shop and Eno's Pizza Tavern. His buddies down the street, artists who paint wall murals, started getting work from local food and retail outlets. The last couple years, he says, "It's been real positive. It's better."

But Bolsa, though, that place kind of made him nervous. What used to be a garage with a food stand outside was remodeled into an upscale eatery. Practically next door to his house, too. Sanchez didn't think it would be the kind of place he could go. "I thought it would be a racial thing." But it's cool, he says. He's been over there, and there was no problem. In fact, he thinks it's probably going to be good for his business.

Jessica Jeffers, one of Bolsa restaurant's four co-owners, says that friendly neighborhood feeling is exactly what she intended when they opened her place.

"It's a restaurant in a garage," Jessica says with a laugh. She makes an effort to know her customers by name, and also to serve dishes for every price point. "If you want to spend money you can," she says, but if you don't, no problem. "It's any food, any lifestyle, any dress code." Bolsa's been a draw for what her husband and co-owner Chris Jeffers calls the "bridge and tunnel crowd"—those who come from north of the Trinity since the place opened two years ago. These bridge and tunnel folks, they're a moneyed crowd. But Claudio Sanchez doesn't mind.

"People with money coming in, that's good for me," says Sanchez, tired of being low-balled by folks who want a cheap car detailing just because he's an Oak Cliff guy. "They have nice cars, they have money to spend on them."

Sanchez says he expects property values—and taxes—probably will go up in the next few years. And that'll be hard. But he doesn't think he'll be forced to move his family. "It's just change," he says. "Things change. It's for the better."

It all sounds simplistic, even idealistic. Can positive change come from something as small as a smile and a wave from a neighbor? Jason Roberts thinks so. In fact, he says that to "think small" is the best way to spur large-scale change. It's not so much that riding a bike down a street is revolutionary—it's that doing it over and over again, and combining it with the people-friendly use of public space inspires folks to think of the entire city as their own. Commutes become more than a route from desk to door via highway, with the spaces between stops a blurry view out a car window, populated with anonymous faces.

"We're trying to get across the idea that Dallas is a place to live, and not just a place to be alive," Roberts says. He—and the rest of the bikos—express passionately that they do not want to shove out the neighborhood's diverse character and long-time residents. "We're this little group of folks, folks that are not threatening our community," he says. "We're saying, we want you guys to come along."

Curly-haired OB-GYN Heather Lytle's still working on the old house she and her husband Zac bought this summer off King's Highway. After a year away from Oak Cliff living in North Carolina, they've returned and have got the chicken coop up in the back. Heather's figured out where their "ladies" have been secretly laying eggs in a brush pile in the yard. But some things are new and mysterious—like how Heather can no longer tell which of her friends are hanging out at an Oak Cliff business just by the bikes parked outside.

"I used to be like, 'Oh, there's Mariana's bike!'" says Heather of bicycles she'd see parked outside Eno's or El Jordan in Bishop Arts. "Now there are some bikes that I don't even know who they belong to!"

Heather speaks about Oak Cliff in a kind of smiling half-exclamation, like she's crushing hard on a new boyfriend. But minus the year off in North Carolina, she and Zac have been in the area going on five years now. The infatuation just doesn't seem to wear off, because Heather can't stop thinking about the next project with which she'll get involved.

She's behind those "Bike Friendly" stickers you see in the windows of businesses that offer discounts to bike riders. She and Mariana have been talking about building a haunted house at the West Dallas Country Club for the fall, in that rogue biko way, and inviting the neighborhood kids over to check out the farm and get the pants scared off 'em, too. No one else is going to do it.

"If you want to make something happen," says Heather—and heaven knows bikos want to make things happen—"you gotta get out there and sweat a little and do it yourself." Once your idea is in place, chances are it's going to bleed over into the lives of other Oak Cliffers. That's what happened with the chickens, anyway. When the Lytles were packing up for North Carolina, they knew they couldn't just abandon their existing flock. So they called the Griggses, building a coop in their yard, and handed over their feathered friends. Mariana and Scott now have nine birds in all—including a turkey.

Volunteer for one little thing in Oak Cliff, and expect to get sucked into an entire lifestyle. Heck, even when you don't volunteer, you're going to end up involved, anyway. Like this past Bastille Day, when Jason Roberts and his friends figured a sweaty Wednesday night would only bring out 300-400 folks to celebrate a French holiday with a street fair in Bishop Arts. More than 1500 people showed up. They ran out of mussels and wine just an hour and a half into the event. The line for the pétanque court? Don't even ask.

The Lytles were there, just to hang out. At the end of the night, when Eno's was packed with beret-wearing hangers-on buying pint after pint, it was time for the organizers to clean up. But when it's your friends doing the dirty work, sitting by and watching with a beer is a lame move. So the Lytles pitched in, of course. "Those are our friends doing that," says Zac. Why wouldn't they join in?

So if someone from Oak Cliff asks you to help out with something, beware. And go buy some chicken wire, maybe some goat feed and a tool kit. Because the biko slope is slippery, and those people don't believe much in braking.

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