The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Culpeper residents cry fowl over rooster’s capture
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
A police car cruises slowly past the railroad tracks early Friday afternoon and starts down Spencer Street in Culpeper.
The officer at the wheel cautiously scans both sides of the avenue as he drives.
Freddie crouches down under an English boxwood and waits for the cruiser to pass. He doesn’t move a muscle until the vehicle is out of sight.
Finally, when he senses the danger is past, Freddie creeps out from his hiding place and looks around. For now the coast is clear, so he makes his way across the street to the cover offered by the buildings and storage bins at County Farm Service.
It’s a tough life when you’re a wanted rooster on the run.
Still, as with Butch Cassidy or Pancho Villa, most of those in the neighborhood look out for Freddie and would not dare betray him to the police.
As this police cruiser drives by, a man standing in the yard behind the boxwood is very much aware of where Freddie was hiding. He turns his back until the cop car had passed.
The day before when an all-points bulletin regarding “a rooster on the loose” went across the police scanner, workers at a nearby machine shop made a quick call to County Farm Service advising the folks there to hide Freddie if possible.
The manager at the Bingham and Taylor Foundry across the railroad tracks has warned all his employees to drive slowly to make sure the renegade rooster stays safe.
Yes, everyone in this Culpeper neighborhood—from Fairfax Avenue to East Street—is intent on aiding and abetting the fugitive fowl.
All except one.
“Somebody apparently called animal control and complained about him,” says County Farm Service’s James Utz. “The dog warden came over here looking for him and the cops have been on his trail ever since.”
Donnie Kilby, who manages County Farm, thinks the town police need to get off his feathered friend’s case. When an investigator showed up at 7 a.m. Wednesday looking for Freddie, Kilby says he gave the officer a piece of his mind.
“I told him it was ridiculous,” the farm store manager says. “We’re taking care of Freddie.”
But police Chief Chris Jenkins said that some person—he won’t say who—is sick and tired of Freddie crowing at 4:30 in the morning.
Utz and Kilby can’t believe that anyone in this urban setting would object to the rustic sound of a rooster beckoning the dawn. They just shake their heads.
Nobody knows where Freddie came from. He just showed up one day about six months ago and decided to hang around.
Kilby thinks the rooster may have arrived on a southbound train, coming to Culpeper looking for his roots.
“He could be descended from a Yankee chicken that served here during the Civil War,” Kilby says. “He looks like a Rhode Island Red so I assumed he was from up north.”
On the other hand, Freddie bears a strong resemblance to the famous “white folks” rooster from Atlanta in the movie “Gone With the Wind.”
Kilby feels that a DNA sample should be taken to see if Freddie is kin to any historic roosters that pecked their way through Culpeper.
“After all, he did find his way directly into the historical district of town,” says Kilby.
Utz says Freddie, who sleeps on a stack of alfalfa bales, is waiting at the loading dock every morning when workers arrive at 6.
“We feed him some scratch feed and after he eats he walks across the street to the town parking lot and crows a polite ‘thank you,’” Utz says.
Then Freddie makes his daily rounds, at least he did until last week when the cops got hot on his trail. Since Wednesday he has been forced to duck for cover every time a police car drives into the neighborhood.
Chief Jenkins insists his department has only the welfare of the rooster at heart.
“We’re just assisting animal control,” he says. “We’re trying to save and relocate the rooster.”
But are they?
Even while officers cruise the Spencer Street area Friday looking for Freddie, there is a sign on the wall inside the police department advertising an upcoming benefit chicken dinner at Brandy Station.
Utz thinks there’s a fowl smell in the air.
“Chicken dinner? I think there is some kind of conspiracy going on here,” he says.
By late Friday afternoon the case of Freddie the Free-Ranging Rooster had suddenly become a political hot potato in Culpeper.
“This controversy is way above my pay grade,” Mayor Chip Coleman, who refused to get involved, says in an email.
Meanwhile, Town Manager Kim Alexander allows that Freddie is welcome at her house. But is she interested in the rooster’s welfare or a chicken dinner?
Things do not look good for the outlaw rooster as police cars cruise through the area all Friday afternoon. Along Commerce Street the cruisers pass a wanted poster featuring Freddie’s picture. Time is getting short for the outlaw chicken.
Freddie goes to roost as usual on Friday night but late Saturday morning a police spokesman sends out a press notice saying that the rooster has been busted.
Officials have not released details of his arrest or said what charges have been filed against him.
Utz worries that a free spirit like Freddie will not fare well in jail.
“I just hope he gets a fair trial,” he says. “I’ll be glad to testify on his behalf.”
Will Freddie spend the rest of his days in the slammer or will he wind up as the main course at a Brandy Station dinner?
Stay tuned for the next chapter of Freddie, the Free-Ranging Rooster.