Letter: Council should let veteran keep her chickens

To the editor:

I have a message for the Shirley Town Council: Let Christylee Vickers keep her birds. I mean, if it’s OK with the next door neighbors.

I have my own concern about the situation. First, I want to acknowledge the council’s concern. The members said Vickers is in violation of an ordinance banning backyard chickens. Vickers is an Iraq War veteran who has developed a relationship with her chickens as a coping mechanism for her post-traumatic stress disorder. Her special-needs son finds purpose in the chickens, too.

I know what the council members are thinking. They’re afraid that making an exception for Vickers will invite thousands of other residents to raise goats, llamas and donkeys in their backyards too. Shirley’s population is around 850. So you can see the chaos an exception would cause if thousands of people moved in and started raising farm animals inside the city limits and overloaded the infrastructure.

Everybody needs to calm down. The whole ordeal can be simplified by one little rule: It’s against the law to raise a farm animal inside the city unless you can show proof that (1) your farm animal was already in your yard and (2) it already had a name prior to Shirley’s 125th birthday (May 27, 2015). That’s about the same time Ms. Vickers bought her chickens.

And, anyway, the point is that everybody knows you can’t get rid of an animal once you name it. That’s why farmers don’t let their kids name the hogs they’re going to eat. My Aunt Mildred had a dairy cow named Bessie. Bessie provided milk for years, and the only the reason Uncle Harold never shot her is that she had a name. You can shoot a cow. You cannot shoot a Bessie.

But they’re the same daggone thing as chickens. They should be unnamed and kept outside on the farm — unless they had a name before the deadline. You can’t turn back the hands of time once a farm animal knows its given name.

Ancient people have this figured out. I ascended the high Andes two years ago to meet the Quechua, descendants of the Inca civilization. I hired a native who could speak both Spanish and Quechua so I could conduct my interviews. We were invited into primitive huts, where the families introduced me to a delicacy reserved for special occasions — Guinea pigs, called cuis.

The dogs had names and were kept outside. The cuis ran free and safe inside. 

I asked, “Do you name them?” The Quechua family and the interpreter stared at me. Finally my interpreter said, “Why would we name them?”

These Andinos don’t name their food sources or build relationships with them. They fatten them up for banquets.

Why can’t the Shirley Town Council work up the exception I’m recommending, and maybe allow cats under the same provision?

The exception is short and sweet, all the more so because it is based on the approximate day when veteran Vickers bought her chickens for a good reason.

Max T. Russell

New Palestine