Caldwell’s population has doubled since 2000. And it’ll just keep growing.
Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas isn’t sure why he got mixed up in an animal rights group’s mission to change the name of Chicken Dinner Road to something it thinks is more poultry-friendly, but he decided to share his opinion about it on Facebook late Wednesday night.
“When I first received the letter, I thought it was a joke, I literally laughed! When I realized the letter was for real, it made me extremely irritated that they would waste our time with such a ridiculous request!,” he wrote in a message posted at 10:45 p.m.
PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sent the mayor and local media a letter on Wednesday. It asked the mayor to change the road name to “one that celebrates chickens as individuals, not as beings to kill, chop up, and label as ‘dinner.’”
Chicken Dinner Road is not in Caldwell’s jurisdiction; it’s a rural road in Canyon County.
“Even if it was (in Caldwell’s jurisdiction), NO WAY, NO CHANCE I would ever consider this truly unbelievable request! We have many issues to consider, but this IS NOT one of them!” Nancolas wrote.
On social media, PETA said the name was “speciesist,” and the organization hoped the road would be renamed, more simply, Chicken Road.
This led to swift responses from Idahoans and others on Twitter, most of whom thought this was a bizarre idea. Here’s some of what they wrote:
“Dear PETA, don’t cluck with our road. — Idaho.”
“Right now it just seems like there’s bigger fish to fry, um, I mean more important things to focus on.”
“Of all the things to worry about, this is soooooo stupid.”
“Oh my word @peta focus on real animal issues and not the name of a road in rural Idaho. Chicken Dinner Rd is a great name, leave it alone.”
One of Idaho’s most famous native sons also responded on Twitter:
Shea McClellin, who grew up on a farm in Marsing and played linebacker in the NFL, tweeted that he had called Nancolas’ office and talked to his secretary.
“She said he won’t change the name,” McClellin wrote. “I got your back Idaho. Choke on that @peta.”
Why is Chicken Dinner Road named that?
How the name of the road came to be — it used to be called Lane 12 — is a story in and of itself.
The tale has many versions, each with devotees, according to previous Idaho Statesman reporting.
Those competing accounts initially caused Caldwell librarian Elaine Leppert in 2010 to respond to a Chicken Dinner query by saying, “I wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. I wouldn’t touch it with a chicken leg.”
But she relented. The story’s too rich to stay quiet, and its central facts are accepted by most: The titular chicken dinner was prepared in the 1930s by Laura Lamb, who lived along the then-rutted road. Other facts are less certain.
The most popular account has Lamb preparing her famous fried chicken for then-Gov. C. Ben Ross, a family friend, and asking him his opinion of the rough road he’d had to travel to reach her home. Ross told Lamb that if she could get the county to grade the road, he’d get it oiled. She did, then he did.
“I’ve heard it was a commissioner; I’ve heard it was the governor,” Leppert said. “My father said it was a commissioner.”
That last version carries some credibility, since county commissioners are more likely than a governor to hear a plea for improving a county road. Then again, Leppert acknowledged, a governor does have clout.
According to some versions, the street name first appeared on cardboard “chicken dinner” signs placed along the route to direct the governor — or commissioner — to his supper. After the road was oiled, vandals supposedly wrote “Lamb’s Chicken Dinner Avenue” on its freshly oiled surface in bright yellow letters. The name was catchy, so it stuck.
If the name of the road was ever changed, other aspects of Idaho life may be affected.
Huston Vineyards, which is located at 16473 Chicken Dinner Road, celebrates the name through its Chicken Dinner wine series.
“The naming of our Chicken Dinner wines celebrates and plays off a classic Southern Idaho tale — the story behind one of the most curious road names around,” Huston states on its website.
For those who want to support Chicken Dinner Road, the Huston is selling T-shirts and bumper stickers.