Friday, July 17, 2009

home to roost

Her name was Susan.

She was small, but energetic.

A face half-way between café au lait and crème caramel -- with freckles.

Her almost-yellow eyes radiated far more interest than intelligence.

I was six and in love with her.

She was not my first pet, but she was one of my favorites. A bantam hen that I raised from a chick at my grandmother's.

Before I left Salem, one of my tasks was to repair a portion of fence around my yard. I told you about in
my ducks in a row.

The fence came down in a storm, and I made a MASH-like repair of chicken wire to fill the gap. The quick fix ended up lasting for almost two years.

Last March, I humorously noted that "my neighbors and friends had a vague fear that I was going to introduce a flock of Rhode Island Reds to our very proper urban block."

Little did I know that a chickens-in-the-urban-boundary battle was brewing even as I wrote those words. Some of my fellow Salemites were petitioning the City Council to allow residents to raise up to three hens.

I have been thinking about this post for about a week. But my friend, Al French, brought it to a head on Thursday when he sent me link to The Wall Street Journal. It appears that the chicken wars have come to a head in Salem.

For those of us in Mexico, the arguments on both sides sound almost silly. Chickens are loud, dirty, attractive nuisances for predators. Chickens are great pets, economical, and green.

I was returning from my Spanish lesson earlier this week and had one of those where-is-my camera moments. A hen came dashing out of a house on the corner, and dashed right back inside.

I am not an advocate of chickens in the living room. But after living here, I do not understand why Salem's residents cannot loosen up and stop worrying about what their neighbors are doing with their animals. The horse at the top of this blog lives on a residential lot two blocks from me in Villa Obregon.

Ten thousand people live in this little village. Few of the streets are paved, and they are filled with artillery shell size potholes. There are no traffic signals. The stop signs that do exist are treated as parental suggestions. With a mix of cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians, horses, and Twitter-addicted young women on scooters, no one seems to get hurt.

My former neighbors would not be able to navigate. I know that because it has taken me three months to start feeling comfortable driving through the equivalent of a mayhem video game.

I am a libertarian. I came to Mexico believing it was a proto-socialist state. It isn't. There are lots of rules, but very few people pay attention to them. As is true in most societies, custom trumps law.

This is not a libertarian paradise. But it is a place where people tend to follow their own drummers.

And what happened to Susan? Our Chihuahua-Manchester Terrier mix buried her alive.

It was a tragic end for her.

She would be pleased to know, though, that in my little village by the sea, the local dogs and chickens seem to get along just fine.

Not quite Isaiah's wolf and lamb. But it's a start.


Felipe said...

At one point in my childhood, I lived next to about 2,000 chickens. My father´s business. Chickens are nasty animals. And brutish.

Steve Cotton said...

Felipe -- And their lives are short -- to complete the Hobbes reference.

Constantino said...

and tasty.

Steve Cotton said...

Constantino -- My love for Susan has not affected by love for chicken.

Chrissy y Keith said...

I had a Rhode Island Red as a pet. He would crow all day and night. Not only did he make for a lousy pet, he also made for a lousy pot of chicken and dumplings.

Anonymous said...

My God man! Get hold of yourself! You are almost sounding like that daft-headed British romantic poet Wordsworth on the moral superiority of the rural person. I grew up rural and my experience about the influence of nature on human beings is anything but romantic.

I will grant you that you live in an environment that has some nice attractions -- roaming chickens, a grazing horse, perhaps even a goat to keep down grass.

But these folks you live with aren't stupid. I doubt you see any two ton bulls wandering the street or pit-bulls touring the town square in search of a fight. Rural folks know the very great difference between the experience of finding a little chicken poop on your doorstep and having a very large hoofed animal run over the top of a child. Behind all that apparent Roussean natural calm -- lamb and lion lying down together -- is a very long tradition of knowledge which tells folks which animals can roam and which cannot. I figure also the animals themselves have a kind of inherited culture which enables them to exist in relative proximity to one another without too much conflict (if the dogs were eating too many chickens, folks would have coops pretty darn fast, I assure you; family economies cannot afford that kind of waste).

Salem culture may change, may lighten up, but I would not be eager to see a libertarian raid on the place to institute a new Rousseauian paradise of let-loose animals.

My neighbor's new untrained, unmanaged, largest-damn-pitbull-in-the-world-I-have-ever-seen is a case in point. When Boom-Boom gets out of his, neighbors bring their children indoors and lock up; some bring down the rifle; others call the neighbor, having learned that to walk down in a friendly helpful way to let the neighbor know his weapon of mass destruction is loose may expose one to the very small and aggressive lizard brain behind a set of mandibles and dentition evolved over years for the very specific purpose of holding on to bone and flesh and not letting go.

No, Sir, you have lost your mind -- or what little of it you had when you left Salem.

Chicken feathers to you,Sir!


Babs said...

When you start realizing how uptight things are in the states, you ARE settling into Mexico. A happy read...

glorv1 said...

I'll take some hot wings and I do mean hot. Not that nasty pretend to be hot but doesn't even have a sting to the tongue. Give them to me very red and hot. Chicken wings are to die for....well I wouldn't go that far. I'll have a glass of cold milk with ice in it please. ::cluck::cluck::
:) Seeya and hello to Jiggy.

Steve Cotton said...

Chrissy -- Roosters are far too tough -- even in stew. The French say they have solved the problem, but they are wrong.

John -- You are wrong about the dog issue. Some nasty creatures wander the streets and beaches. But they usually come to an untimely end -- and a pacifist, like you, does not want to know the details. Lucrezia Borgia would get my drift. Wordsworth and Rousseau were simply wrong. Put me not in their company.

Babs -- Mexico is definitely not a perfect paradise. But, on this issue, they have found a happy accommodation.

Gloria -- One order coming up.

Laurie said...

Ahem. Chickens are not green. I know my chickens, sir, from helping my grandparents. Ohhh... you meant like PC green. Ohhhh ok.

Steve Cotton said...

Laurie -- I see there must be an opening for lead comic with the Marx Brothers.

Islagringo said...

Thank you for posting the horse picture. Not your typical steed of Mexico by any means. My guess would be Paint, perhaps with some Quarter horse and Appaloosa thrown in. Beautiful animal and definately worth a few pesos.

Steve Cotton said...

Islandgringo -- I took the photograph when my brother was here. He owns a Paint. But I also thought of you when I posted it. There are some marvelous horses over here. I regularly see at least two of them going through their show routines. Beautiful beasts.

Al said...

I knew you could do it. If you want help with other posts, let me know.