Note to council: don’t chicken out


January 25, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Jacob Riebel and Levi Meiwes, a couple of Iola kids, want legal status for chickens in Iola.
Iola Needs Chickens is the name of their campaign, which they will outline in detail for city council members Monday night. The Register will send ace reporter Steven Schwartz and we’ll have a full report afterward.
The idea got my attention.
You see, I once was a chicken rancher in Iola, whether it was legal or not, and also have a broad background of fooling with fowl — only in good ways. When I was young we had quite a flock in our east Humboldt backyard.
Soon after wife Beverly and I took up residence in Iola, we moved to a little bungalow on East Madison Avenue. That was in the 1960s, when Tyson Poultry was processing so many chickens on the east side of town the city had to build a bigger sewer line to carry off effluent, a highfalutin name for waste.
It was a big business, big enough that many local folks sweated away their workdays dispatching, plucking, cutting and packaging chickens. I even remember one guy who listed his occupation as “craw puller” on a police report.
Every once in a while a chicken would fall off one of the big flatbeds that carried tens of thousands through Iola, coming crammed in wooden cages from feed yards in Arkansas. Well, you guessed it. I chased down a couple and put up a pen.
At first I was a little concerned. The chickens, rescued from a sizzling date with a deep-fat fryer, wouldn’t eat. Ungrateful critters, I thought. Reality was they didn’t know how. The chickens had been raised in confinement and someone, who I thought probably knew, said they were fed a liquid diet, didn’t have a clue with cracked corn.
But, like a doctor told my daughter Brenda about her firstborn, Hudson, when he wouldn’t eat, “Don’t worry. He will when he gets hungry enough.”
The chickens did, too.
Then one of them, a rooster, tossed a monkey wrench in my plans. He started crowing without fail at daybreak and the neighbors raised such as a fuss I had to get rid of him and his mate. Don’t ask me how. Let’s just say the cock didn’t crow the next morning — and there’s a couple of depressions in our old backyard.

I’M GETTING so pumped up with this chicken thing that if I’d fit into it, I’d borrow Steve Orcutt’s chicken suit and show up at the council meeting Monday night to support the kids.

—Bob Johnson

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