Column: Long ago, chickens were a part of city lifeWORTHINGTON — Who would have guessed? If you own property or a house at Sioux Falls, you can keep chickens. Maybe you can’t have a penned chicken yard. This point is being discussed. But no question, you may have chickens. You always could.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Who would have guessed?
If you own property or a house at Sioux Falls, you can keep chickens. Maybe you can’t have a penned chicken yard. This point is being discussed. But no question, you may have chickens. You always could.
I was surprised but maybe this isn’t really surprising. You can keep chickens at Jackson? Luverne? Spirit Lake?
You could keep chickens at Worthington, but that was a great long time ago. Grampa had chickens on Sixth Avenue when he retired from the farm. That was 90 years ago.
Worthington’s legendary Hardy Rickbeil told me about his experience raising chickens when his family moved to Worthington in 1920. Hardy was 12.
The Rickbeil family lived in a house on Seventh Avenue, only a half-block from St. Mary’s church. The house had a barn at the back where Hardy tended his chicken flock. “Yes. Plymouth Rock chickens. I thought it was big that I was allowed to do that.”
Hardy remembered chickens were not remarkable in Worthington at that time. On some Sundays he visited at the home of Judge M.W. Thornton’s family on Burlington Avenue. The Thorntons had chickens, “and the Thorntons had a cow.”
Worthington officials decided local residents could have dogs, cats, gold fish — canaries — but no chickens, oh, probably 60 years ago. It is legal to feed birds, but illegal to feed chickens.
All this time, chickens have been a part of life in Sioux Falls. A Sioux Falls board is studying a Sioux Falls ordinance for the first time since 1936. The question is whether there should be a limit. You think 12 chickens is too many?
A Sioux Falls reporter talked with Chastity Healy, who keeps three hens. The hens provide Chastity with beautiful, brown-shelled eggs. She says raising chickens at her south Sioux Falls home “is very rewarding,” and, she says, the hens “have been very well received by all my neighbors. They ask about them frequently and are asking for eggs all the time.”
(Everything I found about city chickens has to do with hens. I suppose most neighbors might complain if they were sleeping with windows open on summer mornings and old chanticleer began to cock-a-doodle-doo by the dawn’s early light.)
Nobles County admires chickens. I learned this from visits to the county fair through the years. Little kids and kids of 80 years stop by the chicken cages and study the beautiful birds. Last August there was one all-black rooster. He got admiration, and he knew it. He held his comb high and strutted like a movie star.
I heard a joke beside those chicken cages:
“Why wouldn’t Beethoven keep chickens?” “Because they said Bach, Bach, Bach.”
My mother, a country girl, won six chicks at a store sales promotion. This was ahead of World War II — about the last time Sioux Falls looked at its chicken ordinance. We raised those chickens in the backyard, in an improvised chicken wire pen that we moved daily. Leghorns. They love oatmeal.
In the fall, my dad did them in. He put a hand around a chicken head and gave the body a spin. I know. But we can’t kid ourselves. Every bite of chicken we take was a good bird done in by someone, or some machine.
The last time I remember real excitement for chickens at Worthington was perhaps 50 years ago. A young war veteran — Don Gesler — opened a small building on Oxford Street, near the intersection with Oslo. Don Gesler sold pieces of chicken with golden crusts. Worthington had neither seen nor tasted anything like it. This was before the local area had heard of Colonel Sanders. People knew of Kentucky, but not Kentucky fried chicken.
Don Gesler’s fried chicken was a sensation. People loved the taste. That was the first thing, the most important thing. But there was something else.
Never before had it been possible to go someplace to buy half-a-dozen pieces of fried chicken, or a bucket of fried chicken. You might go out for a roast chicken dinner in the Hotel Thompson dining room on a Sunday noon, but if you wanted chicken for a picnic — well, Ma faced a hot chore in the family kitchen.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His columns appear on Saturdays.
Tags: opinionMore from around the web