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The Mitchell Road Chicken
by Ken Fairless

On a cool crisp morning in October about three years ago, my wife bumped me in her sleep and said, “Shut up that chicken.” This woke me quickly. We live in the older section of Conway, Arkansas, in a residential home with no fence and certainly no livestock, but when I looked in our backyard I saw three game cocks alternating between fighting and searching for bugs.

Two were identical twins with beautiful dark green and red feathers, and the other was a flamboyant yellow and black. To this day no one knows the what, where or why of their appearance, but they loved the leftover cornbread I crumbled up for them.

The chickens seemed to like it here and took up roost in a redbud tree at the edge of my lot. Most of the neighborhood was taken with them and the magic nature of their arrival; note, I said most.

So now, they had to be named - Yellowboy, Homer and Jethro (the twins). First, Yellowboy left one day and was never seen again; then Homer was not in his roost. Later it was discovered that a lady on the block forced her husband to hire a farmer to catch the twins and take them to his farm. Jethro was too smart, but Homer is a farm boy now . . . and the lady is not invited to neighborhood parties.

So we are left with Jethro. He patrols a two block square area and is loved by all. The animal control gave up trying to catch him. He knows them by sight and all their cars and trucks and is a lot smarter than they are. A sister to one of the block families is an attorney, and she has volunteered to be Jethro’s personal council. Loads of people have changed the way they jog or walk to school, just to see the chicken. It is a normal sight to see people slowing down in their cars to see Jethro. He supervises all workman in the area and watches all mail/package delivery.

Unfortunately, Jethro was attacked by a stray dog last month. There was an outpouring of questions about his whereabouts. Many wanted to leave a donation to help with his vet bill, even the mailman. He came through the experience no worse for the damage, but he spends his nights now in a cage on a screened back porch. He still patrols the block, checking on workmen, strangers, or anything new with a friendly crow to all.

At sundown every day, he shows up at one of our houses to request a snack. He also wants to be picked up, scratched, and put in his cage. His cage contains a nest, food and water, and a sock puppet (you don’t want to know what he does to the puppet), and he’s able to watch television, which he loves.

Jethro is a special, highly intelligent bird that has brought people in the neighborhood together. He’s also brought a little silly joy into a lot of peoples’ lives.


Ken Fairless has been a marketing consultant and manufactures’ representative for the last 30 years in Conway, Arkansas, and currently travels all over the southeast and southwest. Raised in his younger years in Memphis and North Mississippi, he is married with one child and is looking forward to teaching his grandson the secrets of the outdoors.

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