Caldwell’s population has doubled since 2000. And it’ll just keep growing.
There aren’t many things that rile Caldwell residents in the middle of a lazy summer like a recommendation that Chicken Dinner Road on the outskirts of the city undergo a name change. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Mayor Garrett Nancolas asking him to change the name “to one that celebrates chickens as individuals, not as beings to kill, chop up, and label as ‘dinner.’” I guess that leaves out Fried Chicken Road or Chicken Casserole Road.
When Millie first heard about the flap over whether there should be a Chicken Dinner Road in Caldwell, her first thought was that it could have been worse, like Chicken Delicious Road. She also noted that it’s not really clear what the name Chicken Dinner Road means. Is it dinners of chicken or is it dinners for chickens?
This is an important distinction for Millie because she’s a chicken. If it’s dinners of chicken, she wants no part of it and would just as soon skip dinner, but if it’s dinner for the chicken, then she’ll be the first in line to get her cracked corn that Jana Bateman feeds her. You see, Millie has been Jana’s house guest for four years now, and when Jana is not running Jana’s Hair Cuttin’ Store on Broadway, she can be found in the backyard with Millie, attending to her garden and keeping an eye on her chicken.
Millie has a routine. She walks around Jana’s backyard all day, checking out the neighbor’s dog, to whom she has taken a liking. Not all of the neighborhood dogs have been kind to Millie. One chased her and took out a few tail feathers until she found refuge in some bushes too thick for dogs.
She also follows the ducks near the creek at the back of the yard, at least until they head for the water. Every night about 7:30, she pecks on the back door so Jana can let her in. She watches TV for a bit and then retires to the laundry room, where her “cedar playhouse” is all set up for a night of chicken dreams. Millie prefers to call home her “cedar playhouse” instead of “chicken coup,” because that would remind her of the overcrowded conditions too many of her fellow chickens endure. Millie is quite proud of the fact that if Whole Foods ever got ahold of her, she’d be called “Free Range” – the highest honor you can bestow on a chicken, besides being Jana’s house guest.
First thing in the morning, it’s “pluck, pluck, pluck,” which is chicken for “I better get outside now, Jana, or you’ll have some cleaning up to do.”
Millie doesn’t know what to think of Mayor Garrett Nancolas and Fox News. The mayor was invited on “Fox and Friends,” where he was asked for his stand on Chicken Dinner Road. Without giving any thought to whether it meant a dinner of chicken or a dinner for a chicken, he went down in Caldwell history as one of its most courageous mayors.
A true profile in courage that might get him a new chapter in President Kennedy’s book of the same name, he risked offending no more than 1% of Caldwell residents who were clucking their own disapproval of the name change. He told “Fox and Friends” and his constituents of Caldwell exactly what they wanted to hear. No one messes with Chicken Dinner Road!
So what was PETA thinking? Millie lays eggs, but none as large as the one PETA plopped down in Canyon County. Apparently it failed to measure the emotions behind ruffling Caldwell’s feathers over a sacrosanct road sign. And what about other animals that find themselves on our dinner plates? Had no one at PETA thought about the consequences of taking on the cows at the fast-food restaurant, Chick-fil-A. They’ve campaigned for years with those banners, “EAT MOR CHIKIN.” Don’t think for a minute those cows haven’t milked that marketing campaign for all its worth. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last year that the U.S. diet has been shifting away from beef to chicken!
Apparently, PETA was counting on the vegetarians and the vegans to rise up and strut around Caldwell City Hall in protest of such a meaty reminder on a street sign. And here’s where PETA, as usual, needs a lesson on choosing your battles carefully. Vegans and vegetarians were run out of Caldwell years ago, when the rodeo came to town with all those steers and broncos. When’s the last time you ever found a vegetarian plate at the rodeo?
Here’s some advice for PETA the next time it wants to clean up a street or road sign. Head for one of those states in the East, like Massachusetts, to see whether it has a Chicken Dinner Road. That strikes me as the kind of state that just might suit up for the battle to take down a Chicken Dinner Road sign.
But in Caldwell, Idaho, hey, it’ll be a cold day you know where before anyone lets PETA into town to mess with Chicken Dinner Road.
And as far Millie is concerned, she hopes PETA sticks to its chicken agenda more carefully next time and continues to address the intensive confinement of chickens, which breeds filth and disease that no animal should endure. From reports Millie hears from distant relatives, chickens breathe ammonia and particulate matter from feces and feathers all day long, causing serious health problems, including chronic respiratory illnesses and bacterial infections. Time for PETA to get back on mission.
By the way, PETA, not one chicken was harmed in the placement of the Chicken Dinner Road sign. So there!
Bob Kustra served as president of Boise State University from 2003 to 2018. He is host of Readers Corner on Boise State Public Radio and is a member of the Statesman Editorial BoaRoad