The other day, I took a break from literary activities to meet a friend in Fair Oaks Village for coffee. Once upon a time, Fair Oaks was a farming community, separated by miles of fields and orchards from Sacramento. Those days are gone, but there’s still something inviting about the town. It’s slower than the boulevards and mini-malls that surround it, but not yet gentrified. That may have something to do with the chickens, but I will get to that.
So my friend were I are sitting at a table outside, having coffee and waxing eloquent on matters of great import, when I spotted a mutant chicken pecking at the pretzel I’d dropped on the sidewalk. If you really pay attention, even normal chickens are sort of scary; you can understand the theory that they descend from dinosaurs. Watch them run around, and you think of mini-velociraptors. Yet chickens are the official Fair Oaks bird. Herds of them run loose in town, and they are even featured on the town sign.
Once, when our dog, Holly, was younger, she jerked her leash out of my hand and took off after a chicken. By the time I caught her, thinking I was about to burst a lung, an irate citizen informed me that chickens are protected. I believe I said something along the lines of, “Come on, Holly, we’ll hunt for dinner elsewhere.”
Fair Oaks is famous for chickens, and I have it on good authority that people throughout the region come here to dump their excess fowl. What you have is a group of birds that interbreed, and every now and then you see a really demented one, who could play in a monster movie. Such was the one who pecked at my feet the other day. It had some kind of growth, like the extra head on the alien in Men In Black II. I was so busy thinking of tetanus shots and keeping my feet out of its way, that I forgot the camera phone in my pocket and didn’t document the monster. Today I went back with a real camera, and naturally all the chickens looked normal – or as normal as chickens can look.
Here’s the Fair Oaks chicken ideal:
And here’s the reality – chickens invading the public men’s room:
The ideal – an idyllic shot in the town square
The real – high noon in roosterville.
And finally, here is the biggest Ideal Chicken of all – at the 2010, Fair Oaks Chicken Festival:
Has everyone had a chance to go, “Awwww?” If you can make it, this year’s Chicken Festival will be held on September 17. Feel free to bring the munchkins, but be ready to change the subject if they ask, “What’s for lunch?” Last year, the featured item was barbecued chicken. (I’m serious).
Have fun if you go. I would never dream of saying anything on my blog about eating Big Bird, but I will be home that day eating tofu. Probably with the shades drawn too, in case the mutant chicken knows where I live.
Having a chicken as a kind of town mascot is kind of odd, but hey I guess every place needs a niche. However, with all of those roosters I bet that must be a hard town to sleep in late at 😉
The Foster Farms commercials come right to mind, but the quirkiness of it is kind of fun. We may not be getting such a large influx of chickens since the Sacramento City Council recently approved raising them in people’s back yards.
And yes, when you go “downtown,” the roosters are a constant background noise.
This is great, Morgan. I haven’t been to Fair Oaks in a while, but you really nailed it here. And, yes, chickens are kind of scary. I remember visiting my uncle’s farm and being sent to collect eggs. They scared the hell out of me! That said, my daughter is ecstatic about the chicken ruling in Sacramento and can’t wait to get some. She has a large, usually gentle dog, who, in truth, would probably go after any protected or unprotected bird around. My daughter’s idea is to get chicks and have them grow up around the dog, who will then, she is convinced, become their protector. I don’t think this will end well.
The dog may be the least of her problems. A friend in Chico who raised chickens had serious raccoon problems, and I understand that population is growing.
Morgan: In this post, did you actually use these phrases?
“I took a break from literary activities”
“Once upon a time”
“but not yet gentrified”
“waxing eloquent on matters of great import”
“I have it on good authority”
Here’s a cliché you missed:
“It was a dark and stormy night…”
And one more: “tongue in cheek.”
If the chickens in the town are protected (from your dog at least) I think it’s really kind of tasteless to serve barbequed chicken, or if not tasteless it’s at least a very strange choice.
It is very strange! “What are the organizers thinking?” is question number one. And then when you are down there, you can’t help but also wonder where they are getting their chickens…