My good buddy Chip Bragg shared a recent story out of Utah where it seems the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have asked the city of Caldwell there to change the name of Chicken Dinner Road because they feel it is offensive.
“Just like dogs, cats, and human beings, chickens feel pain and fear and value their own lives,” wrote PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman in a letter asking the Caldwell mayor to change the name of the road to “one that celebrates chickens as individuals.’”
Reiman also said in the letter she’s not trying to “ruffle any feathers.”
No, I’m not kidding. You can’t make this kind of stuff up.
So I started thinking — how many roads around here would be under fire if we tried to dig up dirt — or asphalt — about them? I mean, if you keep looking for something bad you’re almost guaranteed to find it, right?
For example, I’ve lived on Egg & Butter Road most of my life. While I’ve always found the name Egg & Butter Road to be charming and rooted in the simplicity of country living, deeper digging will almost surely lead to trouble.
After all, eggs are unfertilized chicken embryos (clearly offensive), and even though when scrambled with cheese and served with grits are extremely tasty, eggs are bad for you (unless you listen to the American Egg Council, who begs to differ about the incredible edible egg). Combined with the butter you almost have to put on grits, eggs become a certain health hazard that we just can’t have.
Eggs mixed with cheese grits is a decadent palate pleasure, and if people actually enjoy eating that will lead to seconds and the almost certain naps that follow, which ultimately leads to expanding waistlines and eventual certain death — which, by the way, is also caused by being born and breathing air over an extended period of time.
Regardless, we can’t have that, can we?
So I guess it’s just a matter of time before Egg & Butter Road will be on that dreaded “we can’t have that” list, too. Let’s call it High Cholesterol Road instead — you know, as a public service reminder.
Nearby is Patterson Still Road. You don’t need a lot of firing neurons to figure out what it is named for. We all know what comes from a still is dangerous. In fact, I remember old-timers who lived around these parts saying the elixir produced from said stills would (their words, not mine) “go down like mother’s milk then blow the seat out of your britches.”
The ensuing mental image scarred me for life.
Any way you cut (or drink) it, even though they are part of the history of our community, any kind of “still” reference is dangerous and therefore offensive, and will eventually be eliminated.
Why? Because “we can’t have that” either.
Tell you what — from here on if anybody asks, let’s just tell them Patterson Still Road is named for a man named Patterson who invented freeze modeling (just think about it).
Pinetree Boulevard? Pine trees create pollen, and pollen is a health hazard.
We can’t have that.
Broad Street? A broad is slang for a loose woman, and of course, broad also means wide. A road named for a big-boned hussy, and unpaved at that? How unpleasant!
We can’t have that.
Sure, I know these roads and many other things around here were innocently named for parts of our local story, each rooted in its own unique lore and history. But again, you keep digging and you can turn up dirt to twist the most innocent situations into something nefarious before you know it.
Back to Chicken Dinner Road. According to locals there, “the” chicken dinner refers to one Laura Lamb, who made a living in the 1930s by frying fowl at her home on the road. The most popular account has Lamb preparing her famous fried chicken for then-Gov. C. Ben Ross, a family friend, then asking him his opinion of the rough road he traveled to reach her home. Ross told Lamb that if she could get the county to grade the road, he’d get it oiled. She did, then he did.
According to some versions, the street name first appeared on cardboard “chicken dinner” signs placed along the route to direct the governor to his supper. Then after the road was oiled, vandals supposedly wrote “Lamb’s Chicken Dinner Road” on its freshly oiled surface in bright yellow letters. The name was catchy, so it stuck.
So, like our Egg & Butter Road, supposedly named from being so rough that it broke all the eggs of folks returning from town and subsequently churned butter from their milk, “Chicken Dinner Road” is also named to honor a part of local history and lore.
And there’s something wrong with that?
But, history is complicated and not always pretty or nice, therefore it just has to be eventually offensive, right? And we can’t have that — can we? Let’s throw every baby out with its bath water, and where are our torches and pitchforks?
Jefferson Street? MLK Drive? MacIntyre Park? Washington Street? Keep on digging and every road, monument, park, and anything else named in honor of someone who clearly did something of historical significance contribution will be gone, removed by the “We Can’t Have That” crowd.
Which, by the way, changes absolutely nothing regarding any actual history involved — other than remove a chance to actually learn it.