Keeping this fine feathered lady could cost $15,000 a month in Central Pennsylvania. And that doesn’t even include the chickenfeed.
A great nation does not self destruct by big events alone. Most of our attention these days is focused on the killer virus, the mess in Washington and its offspring, the battle flag of the historic traitors in Richmond, Virginia.
This is a story about a kid, her pet chickens, her small-minded small town and a bunch of bullies. The child is Maeve Elliott, age ten. She lives in College Township, one of the small places surrounding State College, PA. She has pet chickens. They are cooped and penned. They comfort her and her 12 year old brother in these terrible and isolating times.
There’s a problem. The zoning law on their block says you have to have ten acres to keep agricultural animals. The township zoning officer, one Mark Grabvosek, came to visit. “ Hmmm,” he must have thought. “Chickens? They’re farm animals. How big is this yard? It’s certainly not ten acres.”
So the Elliott family is given a short time to get rid of the fearsome four or face daily fines of $500. $500! A day! A short time in this case means June 30th. That’s five days from today. The Elliotts are not part of the money crowd, such as it is in this dinky area. Hiring a lawyer and appealing the ruling would be a financial burden. And during it, the fines would keep piling up.
As of now, no lawyer we know of has stepped up to offer his or her services pro bono. So far, the township is stonewalling, not returning calls from the local newspaper which barely has the resources to keep up with the local news of the day and get a sheaf of fish wrap into the hands of its few remaining readers.
The township says it can’t overrule the zoned-out bully of the zoning law. It speaks in municipal tongues in a letter telling that to the Elliotts.
Of course it can. The guy’s a political appointee. Even if he were elected, they could make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
What happens to seemingly normal men and women suddenly elevated to power? Often they become bullies -- or let their inner bully take over the brain, such as there may be of one.
What happens to elected officials who fear for defeat at the polls? They become stonewallers, hiding behind municipal claptrap and buckpassers with that governmental “who, me?” look.
This is how it starts. This is how we got to today. Bullying little kids and their astonished parents. Maeve is a little kid. Your children were once, too. Can you imagine if this happened to them?
She considers the chickens “family.” And so they are. By the time the birds die of natural causes, Maeve will be in her late teens or 20s. A well-cared-for chicken can live for ten years or so.
Then what? Well, as she cradles them, they will teach her more about life and death than any book, any school, any friend or any parent.
Keep the chickens, kid. But don’t unlock the chickengate.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2020