October 9, 2006


On the way to my son’s school, there are yard chickens.

Not regular red or white hens, either. These are more the kind of chickens you see at the county fair. FANCY chickens. There are TWO roosters (I thought you could only have one????) Both are strutty, and their backs and necks are glossy and golden. They have speckled sides and their green tail feathers puff up in an extravagant bouffant, crowned by foot long swooping feathers that shimmer like iridescent taffeta.

Most of the hens are those meticulously speckled black and whites that look too uniform to be Jackson Pollack. More like, 70’s WALLPAPER chickens, high contrast and so closely and evenly patterned they can give a girl flashbacks. There is also at least one blindingly white pinheaded chicken who is very skinny-necked and sleek. She has a huge tail that comes out the back all higgledy piggedly like a feathery Butt-splosion.

It doesn’t seem like the sort of house that would have yard chickens. It’s one of those mini-McMansions---you know the kind. One side brick, bay window, deck in the back. It says, “Hello, you are now officially in the suburbs.” And yet, and yet….yard chickens. It gives me hope as I look at the small Georgia town we moved to a decade ago. A little hope. Because I also see two Super-Walmarts and 15 housing development signs on every street corner. Atlanta is eating us.

We lost out Mexican-Thai restaurant this last year, the only place in America where you could go in and order Tom Ka Gai and a taco. It couldn’t compete with Chili’s and the Noodle Bar. Granted, there’s a Taco Bell in our miniscule downtown, and you can get a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza there, and if THAT doesn’t make you go HMMM ….but that is somehow not the same.

But as long as there are yard chickens I may hang on here for a little. See what happens. There aren’t a lot left. My friend Julie used to go biking down what is now a main thoroughfair, back when it was newly paved, and there was PACK of red hens and little Weiner dogs all mixed in together that lived in the front yard. They'd chase her bike from one end of the yard to the other, some barking and some releasing outraged, piercing clucks. Attack Chickens, Julie called them. They are gone, and they have taken all their weiner dogs with them.

The man who sat out on his front porch, shirtless, wearing overalls, and asked Sam to touch his piglet (and he was, thank God, holding a piglet when he said it) packed up and moved farther out into the wilds of Paulding county. The Sam-touched piglet has long been sausage, and now no new piglet will come to our neighborhood.

I’m sad about that.

We have good friends here and a good church, but as I watch more and more mini malls take over the fields between us and Hiram, more and more trees are bulldozered so 350K same-same-allsame houses can stick up like thumbs on the barren landscape with two bulimic option-package saplings flanking the uniform brick porches….I keep thinking, “No one is going to like it if I put goats in my backyard.”

And what’s the POINT, I ask you, of living outside the city then? The city is where the good theatre is and the only place to get decent Tapas and go to literary events and in the city I can find the kind of bar that knows how to make a chocolate covered cherry martini without resorting to squirting Hershey’s syrup and some Maraschino juice into tepid Vodka, and REALLY, I am SERIOUSLY asking you, what is the POINT of being AWAY from all that, if you can’t put GOATS in your BACK YARD?

I love the city. I love the rural South. I’m just not sure I love whatever it is we are living in now.

Posted by joshilyn at October 9, 2006 6:54 AM

Oh, Joss dear, ain't it the truth. I grew up a city boy, but I've lived out in the country now for twenty years. It's the quiet I like most. In the mornings, when I trot out to get in the car and come to work in the city, that's the only time you can hear the tire noise out on the highway. TWO MILES away. Dude, that's quiet! And a mile or two up the road from me is a house with, you guessed it, fancy dancy yard chickens. I hope it lasts another twenty, but I can't say I'm holding my breath; I can see the citification creeping this way. More's the pity.

P.S. I just love your descriptions, Butt-splosions and all.

Posted by: David at October 9, 2006 7:55 AM

You've just described exactly why J and I put up with the many inconveniences of living in the middle of nowhere. If we ever decide we can't put up with the inconveniences of living in the middle of nowhere, we would choose to put up with the inconveniences of living smack in the middle of a small-ish city. (We've done that before too.)

For us, both the way-out country and the down-n-dirty city have advantages that sufficiently offset their disadvantages, but the suburbs just seem like the worst of both worlds.

My personal vision of Hell is row upon row of identical houses interrupted by the occasional strip mall with a WalMart, a Payless, a Fantastic Sam's, and a McDonald's.

Posted by: DebR at October 9, 2006 8:51 AM

I think I know exactly where you need to move. I'm looking forward to visiting you and your goats. ;)

Posted by: Mir at October 9, 2006 8:53 AM

PS...To be fair though, we don't have kids. That's the one thing that might compel me to live in Hell for a few years would be if we had kids and Hell included a relatively safe back yard and other families with kids.

Posted by: DebR at October 9, 2006 8:53 AM

I'm a born and raised middle-of-nowhere country girl who got married and moved to the (small) city. My husband is a city boy who is terminally bored by the country, so we will remain city-dwellers, but so help me God, I REFUSE to move into a housing development. Currently we're in a condo, and in a few years we'll buy a real house, but I put my foot down in looking at houses that look like every other house on the block. I want a home that's an individual, something with some character - and I won't compromise on that, no matter how long it takes us to find the perfect house!

Posted by: JenA at October 9, 2006 9:18 AM

Can you tell me something about a yard chickens? Why don't they wander off? Why aren't they enchanted by yonder woods and drawn to have a good cluck under the trees? What is it that keeps them there?

Posted by: jason evans at October 9, 2006 9:19 AM

What I love is when they add another stoplight between, oh, say, Barrett Pkwy and Villa Rica Way, which are exactly 56 yards apart. A FEW too many folks moving out here to the sticks.

It also doesn't seem right to drive by a foggy field of cattle grazing in the morning, and then turn immediately into a shiny new Krystal on your left, for b'fast in a styrofoam cup. Gah.

Posted by: el-e-e at October 9, 2006 9:33 AM

This is all why I left the Atlanta-area. Well, that, and the fact that I couldn't afford a trailer within a 100-mile radius of the big ci-tee.

Come to Ashvegas, girl. Our neighbors have yard chickens--in the city! And at our old house, even closer to downtown, our neighbor had a baby goat that my girl visited every day. And we have wild turkeys whom I watch go to roost in the big oak tree next door every night. And we have excellent restaurants and lots of culture and Charles Frazier.

But, like a lot of places, we're suffering growing pains. Luckily, the mountains and national parks make the Atlanta-area butt-plosion impossible here.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at October 9, 2006 11:38 AM

I've long bemoaned the citification of rural America. But who can afford to live in the city? And who gets paid well enough in rural America to afford a family?

My small burg (in my standards) isn't small anymore. It was 4100 (plus the outlying area) when I moved here, now counting the outlying area it's over 25K, the second largest population base on the Oregon Coast. Old retirees, from parts beyond, have long ago passed an ordiance ridding us of yard chickens, rabbit hutches, and pigmy goats. So sad.

And we still have few family wage paying jobs (my husband commutes 80 miles oneway to work.)

Posted by: Cele at October 9, 2006 11:40 AM

We moved from VaBeach to green acres, so we didn't have to live in the city. I loved the city, my husband grew up in rural Ohio, so he thought our kids should grow up out-of-town as well. Six years and two moves later, we live on a little slice of 10-acre heaven, with a few horses and a few dogs. We do not, to my great dissatisfaction, own a goat. yet. That is a battle I have waged for almost a year, but still have not won.
We lived in a different place last year. We moved in when we were the only house on the street. When we moved, there were 20 others. Yes, i said twenty. That's why we moved. It was just too sad to see how much it was growing and changing. Now we're surrounded by farms, but still only 20 minutes from town. The best of both worlds, really. And when we want culture, or a real restaurant, we head either 50 miles north to DC, or 50 miles south to Richmond. It's paradise, it really is...

Posted by: dee at October 9, 2006 3:09 PM

You need to move into a poor neighborhood LOL. NO one cares what we do, even though it is heavily urbanized. Two neighbors have noisy roosters and one had a pig in a yard that was visible to the street (chain-link fence, doncha know). He lived in a doghouse and wallowed in the side yard.

Saturday nights we have major dances on the street behind me. Kind of the modern equivalent of a barn dance, with a DJ and lights in the trees and tons of people.

It is a zany, weird place to live, but I love it. If I got goats, I don't think anyone but my landlord would care. And for an extra $50 a month, I don't even think HE would care.

Posted by: Suebob at October 9, 2006 4:39 PM

Thought I'd caught you in an act of southern-fried hubris, with that Thai-and-taco reference. I was sure you did not have the only such place in America. For here in the frozen north of New York State, lovingly known as B-lo, we may have a dying economy, dysfunctional government, departing young people (no doubt the ones buying all the houses in those subdivisions after fleeing here) and possibly the worst football team on any NFL field yesterday, but we've got Yings.


I daresay America's only Chinese- Greek- Italian- pizza'n'wings-sub shop- prime rib place that also serves tacos.

And they deliver. Including beer.

But no Thai:( So you still win.

Posted by: ray at October 9, 2006 6:19 PM

I live in Houston. . .and over the past 15 years I've been here, I have watched the urban sprawl become more of an urban land-eating bacteria bent on demolishing every tree and meadow near ANY thoroughfare large enough to support 4 lanes.

I am not happy.

We have plans to move to the middle of nowhere in two years. . .got the land. . .got the plan. . .and our governor has a plan too. It involves gobbling up most of the county in which our land resides for a toll road that will make urban sprawl possible from Houston to Dallas through some of the prettiest hill country you've ever seen. (deep, deep sigh and head shake)

"STOP THE MADNESS!!!!!" I say. And we are rebels you'd like, 'cause we live smack dab in the middle of the 'burbs and go against every zoning law known to man by having two chickens in our backyard. . .they have a red chicken house with white trim and a rusty metal roof and a CHICKEN WIRE fence to hem them in at night--all built by my oh-so-handy-husband--so they don't get eaten by cats.

You go on with your bad self and get those goats. . .and don't let anyone get YOUR goat while you're at it.

Posted by: Roxanne at October 9, 2006 6:19 PM

heehee, did you know I have a goat? With a fenced in back yard the size of ours(approximately a half acre of ENORMOUS), we have to have one to keep the fence line down. I have CONSIDERED the fancy chickens, but my next door neighbor keeps hunting dogs...

Posted by: Elena at October 10, 2006 7:48 AM

Also, how DO you make a chocolate covered cherry martini? Because I confess that your description is all that ocurrs to me. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that A.)I am not a bartender, and B.) It's not yet 7AM and my liquory imaginings are quite possibly limited at this time.

Posted by: Elena at October 10, 2006 7:56 AM

Dear Joshilyn,
Come and live here. You can keep goats. I sware.
Love, Buttsplosion

Posted by: Lydia at October 10, 2006 3:39 PM

I live in a city of 1 million people and even I have gone down a street and seen chickens. No butt-explosion chickens though. I'd much rather live in the country.

Posted by: Heather Cook at October 10, 2006 3:40 PM

I'm thrilled to have found your blog. I just picked up gods in Alabama last night and am already half way through. I found your blog through your web site. I was looking for a picture of your book to put on my blog to show the book I was currently reading.

I'm a new fan. can't wait to read your next book. Right now Arlene and her boyfriend, who I know just has to be hot, are entering Alabama. I just can't put it down! But then if I keep reading it will be over.

Posted by: Vicki at October 10, 2006 4:29 PM

As usual, my pretty friend, you put my thoughts into perfect words!
When my husband got out of the military and we moved to very near where you are.....we thought NO ONE will move out this far! hahahahaha, now we live in the mist of what seems like hundrends of housing developments that seems to stretch all the way down I20 to the Alabama line...literally. My poor husband already drives 2 hours from one side of Atlanta to the other.
I'm all for moving to my beloved mountains in Tn (where God lives) but alas, no jobs, no good Japanese food. What's a southern girl to do?

Posted by: desi at October 10, 2006 8:22 PM

Ah, misery loves company! We moved out to farm country from the big city when the baby came. Now he's in 2nd grade and we're surrounded by house farms. I can walk to two Starbucks, but the downtown coffee shop gives my boys free cookies, I can buy Halloween lawn art and a couple of new toe rings with my blueberry coffee.

I could still get a goat if I want, but my neighbors in the subdvision can't. Hmmm ... and that would probably really bug them, too ...

Posted by: Patti at October 11, 2006 8:50 AM

Ooooo! I want fancy yard chickens! Alas, all I have is bunnies who eat my bushes [bad bunnies, bad!], one very nice white cat named Cloud who visits from next store and 500 squirrels.

I live in Chicagoland where urban sprawl is rampant and McMansions are popping up everywhere on little tiny lots. My sister's town has an "anti-monotony" law which just means the cookie cutter houses are 6 different shades of beige. Bleh.

Posted by: Jenny G at October 11, 2006 12:59 PM

I love the idea of living in the rural South... in THEORY... I think in actual practice though, I could never pull it off happily. But then again, I also love the city and the bright lights, theater, great bookstores, and wonderful shopping, but I'd never want to live there. So, all this to say, I guess I'm exactly the demographic they're shooting for in those "betweeny" kinds of cities!

Posted by: Angela at October 11, 2006 1:02 PM