Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Counting one’s Chickens at the Vermont Legislature: A Tribute to Public Service

About three weeks ago a chicken established itself next to the Vermont State House, taking up residence in a pine-tree adjacent to the west entrance.  Within a few short days, she became an unofficial State House mascot, received lots of tasty handouts from passers-by consisting mostly, I suspect, of the staff of the Abbey Group who manage the State House cafeteria, and in general providing a welcome break from the far weightier issues being hammered out inside the building.  Bob, the parking lot security attendant, showed me her roost and pointed out the can of rainwater and the handful of straw nearby in case she felt like nesting.

A few days ago word came down from the State House…the chicken was to be removed by the close of business; captured and sent to live out the remainder of its days on a local farm.

I have two reactions to this.

First, why remove the chicken?  She’s clearly doing no harm to anyone at the State House.  She has provided a disproportionate amount more levity and good will than almost any other living thing within, say, a couple hundred yards. And if the people caring for her remain vigilant, they may, from time to time, be rewarded for their kindness with a really tasty, organic, free-range egg.

Should she, in due course, suffer a Darwinian event, well—at least it won’t have been because she skied out of bounds at Killington or waded into the swollen Winooski and couldn’t be located despite a massive search-and-rescue effort by local authorities.  This is a bird that, unlike Pete the Moose, was born domesticated and later, through no fault of her own, became wild.

Like Pete, the chicken has captured the fancy of many in the State House.  In fact, she now even has a name:  Henrietta Josephine—Josephine for short (confirmed by my esteemed colleague David Schutz, the State House Curator).

Going from the philosophical to the practical is my second reaction: good luck with that!  As I stood with Bob the parking lot attendant hearing about Josephine, a security officer passed by and muttered under his breath, “give me five seconds and the chicken problem is solved,” as he meaningfully patted his holstered weapon.

Laughing I asked if he could use a taser instead to which he replied, “What, you want it roasted, too?!” 

Nothing like a Vermont sense of humor…

Guns, tasers, rocket-launched nets, and trappers aside, it’s going to be darn near impossible to get near that chicken.  Unless you get them accustomed to a coop, and unless it’s after dark when they have gone to roost, chickens are almost impossible to catch once they have “gone rogue.”  

I truly hope Josephine enjoys her freedom now that she has won it, living off a few hand-outs from the folks in the State House and the occasional private citizen.  And since this is a column about the arts, I normally draw an appropriate arts analogy to fit the circumstances.  But I’ll let you have the fun of doing that.

I’m content with knowing that this particular chicken crossed the road to enjoy the hospitality of the Vermont State House.  That, at least, is something all Vermonters, avian or otherwise, can generally count on. 

1 comment:

Berit BJensen said...

Mr Alex Aldrich

In support of your free chicken at the Vermont State House, and your spirited defense of public services, in earlier postings too, Vermont seems to me a hopeful beacon of practical, common sense, with universal single-payer health care also on the agenda.

Look to Vermont, I'll say, to friends here, disappointed by promises broken, and little if any real change from the president who held so much hope to the world that he was awarded a most premature Nobel Peace Prize.

Look to Vermont!

Yours sincerely,
Berit BJ, Fevik, Norway