06 . 08 . 05
Ruler of the roost on Little Neck Road I DIDN’T WANT TO GET ATTACHED. So I never gave him a name, other than Mr. Man. He’s loud and aggressive and gets up too early in the morning. I know from a friend -and from looking at his legs -- a swift kick could hurt. And this is before he got his spurs. Still, he was interesting. Different than the rest, who were female. All puffed out, a little stuck-up. He was clearly the boss and not in a good way. A boss who swaggered, strutted, showed off. A boss who pontificated. I knew I couldn’t keep him, not if I wanted my neighbors to talk to me, and unlike many people I’ve talked to I knew I didn’t need a rooster to get eggs. But I held out as long as I could. I loved sitting and watching the way he ordered the others around. I loved bringing people to the chicken coop and asking, “OK, guess which one is the male.” It wasn’t hard to tell. But when chickens are babies, or biddies, it is hard to tell. They’re all cute. They all fit into your hand. They all look alike. When I got them from a feed and
seed store, the owner told me there was a 93 percent chance they were all female. Never discount that 7 percent. And never fear: In the giant circle of humanity, there’s always someone out there who will take something or someone off your hands. It’s just a matter of putting out the word. Enter Chica and Carl Arndt. With oodles of acres off Little Neck Road they can accommodate a little crowing. Twenty minutes after making phone contact - the same day I spotted a golf ball in the coop and thought it was my first egg - the couple arrived at my house with a cage, a hooked aluminum stick and purpose. Too late now, I thought. Adios, Mr. Man. Before I could admit I really had named the guy, Carl had poked, prodded and caged him. With Mr. Man in the back of Carl’s truck, we headed south on Ogeechee Road toward Little Neck Road, passing the old and the new of Chatham County: the newly relocated Secret Garden nursery; a shaded El Castillo restaurant, where Mama’s and the big black-andwhite cow used to sit; plenty of chances to buy a car port.
On Little Neck Road, there were clusters of mobile homes, a pasture of cows (including what Chica calls a “bullpen” of bulls), the Henderson Golf Club, the Southside Church of God, the Superior Landfill, a cemetery hidden by trees and, from Metro Developers, the future “Lawrel Hill Village,” a 98,000 square-foot retail space. Turning into the Arndt’s property, Carl’s eight goats move front and center. They are eating goats. He’s got three nannies, one fixed male and one bearded, horned and very-virile looking Boar. When the baby goats reach eight months Carl sells then for $50 apiece to an auction house in Dublin. “There’s a big Latin American market of workers around here who like to eat goat,” he said. To feed the goats, Carl, a former military man of some acclaim and a logical man, planted corn in an adjoining field. To shuck the corn, he spent $50 on a used corn shucker, a simple piece of machinery with a wooden handle, very few parts and a high probability of working. No 50-minute conversations with a technical support team in the Philippines for him. “I’ve traveled all my life,” Carl said. “For the military, for my job. But all I ever
wanted was a farm. But chickens are a new thing. I really don’t know much about them.” While he talked, he placed the cage inside the fenced-in chicken coop and released Mr. Man. In seconds, two other roosters approached and challenged his presence. One retreated immediately. The other circled around. Then the two scuffled. Dirt was flying. Chest to chest, they leapt off the ground for leverage, like two NBA basketball players fighting under the boards. Then the second rooster slunk away, leaving Mr. Man king of the coop. “They’ll be fine,” Carl said, unconcerned. “The other day I saw one of the chickens sitting in between two goats.” After walking through the Arndt’s fine 1840 farmhouse, where Chica -author with Susan Albu of Here’s Savannah: A Journey Through Historic Savannah and Environs -- showed me a wrapped treasure of teeth she found in the walls when stripping the wallboard down to the original brick, I walked by the chickens one more time. Mr. Man was fine. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. ◗
E-mail Jane at email@example.com