OPINION — Sometimes this column basically writes itself. Not literally, of course, since I still have to do all the typing, which is kind of a pain. It would be great if I opened up Microsoft Word and found an actual column already typed out, but it doesn’t work that way. For some reason.
But sometimes readers send me news articles that are so good I hardly have to do anything except tell the story, which people then accuse me of making up, because it’s not believable. Like the one about the Maryland couple and their rooster, Wilbur, who has irritated a neighbor so much they’re being fined almost $5,000. Wilbur is evidently a vocal bird. The neighbor is evidently a Gloomy Gus who doesn’t own a .22 rifle.
Drew and Jackie Tanenbaum live on five acres in a rural part of Baltimore County, Maryland with their two-year-old rooster, Wilbur. In case you’re unfamiliar with roosters, they tend to crow a lot, and not just at sunrise, which would be bad enough. My wife and I had a neighbor once who had some chickens, and their rooster crowed pretty much whenever he felt like it, which might be noon, or midnight, or even during the playoffs. It was a pain.
Anyway, the Tanenbaums’ neighbor asked them to get rid of Wilbur, which they didn’t care to do, and then complained to the county authorities. So the county started fining the Tanenbaums for Wilbur’s crowing. First came a fine of $150, and then another for, seriously, $4,650. And yes, that escalated quickly.
Come to find out, the county decided to fine the Tanenbaums $150 for each time Wilbur crowed, which the neighbor was able to document. This neighbor is evidently sitting there with a tape recorder, or something, and documenting Wilburs enthusiastic expressions. And then playing them for the county folks. Who are listening. And counting. Entertainment must be pretty hard to come by in Baltimore County, Maryland.
In case you’re wondering, this neighbor recently moved from a city, and is unfamiliar with the way things work in the country. And I can’t blame someone for being irritated about a rooster crowing. It’s annoying. But if you don’t want to listen to a rooster, maybe country life is not for you. Maybe friends are not for you, either.
What I can’t understand is the fact that, when the neighbor went to the county to complain, he wasn’t laughed out the door. You’d think the folks at the county office would’ve been familiar with the fact roosters crow, and told the whiney crybaby to take a hike. Not so much.
On top of that is the astronomical fines the county is trying to bury the Tanenbaums under. It sounds like the county is being unnecessarily harsh, but maybe they’re in a bind, and need to buy a new maintainer, and they figure they can squeeze the Tanenbaums dry to pay for it. I don’t know.
The worst part is the case was due to go to a hearing on January 24, and I haven’t been able to find out what happened. Plenty of outlets reported the initial disagreement, focusing on the huge fines, but it seems no one followed up. I’m dying to know who won the most interesting rooster case of the year. Maybe the reporters all figured the story would just write itself.
Wilbur’s crowing may be quite annoying to the neighbor, but at least he hasn’t attacked anyone, as far as you know. I can’t say the same for Richard. Richard is a Polish Top Hat rooster that lives on the Cooper place, near Winston, Montana. And Richard is a jerk.
Not that roosters are ever particularly nice creatures, anyway. They’re kind of hard wired to protect the hens in their harem, which is a good thing, but they also have a brain the size of a peanut, which causes threat recognition issues. For example, roosters often get to thinking the human who comes to the yard every day is out to kill them, even if all this human ever does is feed them. Maybe the feeding thing is just a thinly veiled plot to lull the rooster into a false sense of security.
But most roosters are not quite as nefarious as Richard. An alert reader sent me a story written by David Murray for the Great Falls Tribune about Richard, and it includes a video of Cassie Cooper going out to feed the chickens. Richard can be seen standing among the hens, acting all innocent, until Cassie walks by. And then he immediately runs up behind her and attacks, spurring her in the calf. Cassie starts screaming and flailing, trying to get away from Richard, and I recommend you look up the video and watch it yourself. It’s quite entertaining.
Both Wilbur and Richard are getting quasi-famous, but I’m thinking next level. Maybe the Tanenbaums and the Coopers should switch roosters for a week or two. Send Wilbur to Montana and Richard to Maryland. Then Cassie could enjoy a nice, friendly rooster that just crows whenever he wants, and the Tanenbaums’ neighbor could enjoy some fairly painful, non-life threatening rooster attacks. Everyone involved might end up appreciating their situation a little more.
Or maybe they should all just have a chicken dinner and be done with it . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and minister who likes corn on the cob with his chicken. Write to him at [email protected]