Southern Legitimacy Statement: I live in Southern Illinois, emphasis on Southern. North of us is “downstate,” and sometimes they like to say they are Southern Illinois but they ain’t. Southern Illinois – especially the “Southern Seven,” meaning the southernmost seven counties, where I live – is distinct from the rest of Illinois, geographically and culturally. But Southern Legitimacy isn’t just a place on a map. It’s cypress knees and sweet tea, it’s swapping homemade wine for honeysuckle jelly. It’s being called “Sweetie” or “Honey” by a waitress and not feeling weird about it. It’s magnolia blossoms, and spring peepers that start piping in February. It’s where I’ve come to call home.
The Amazing Chicken Man
It started with a jaunty feather in my hat, the hat I wore hoping it might become a trademark. I’d be the guy talking about free-range chickens and omega-3 in eggs and I’d wear a hat with a chicken feather.
Then I started bringing feathers with me, ones my hens had shed naturally. I gave them to children and asked them to please advise their parents to buy eggs from only free-range chickens.
My sister got me a tie with chickens on it, but ties aren’t my thing. My cousin rented me a chicken suit, you know, to be a real “voice for the chickens.” It was lame, I guess. But it got me on the news. I also got a job offer – holding a sign in front of Chippy’s Wings. I said no, of course.
I must admit, the chicken suit suited me, so to speak. I wanted one better than what my cousin rented for me. I wanted something more authentic. Something made from real chicken feathers, maybe. With spurs and a comb and tail feathers – something beautiful.
I found a willing seamstress. Some people said she was a gypsy, and some said witch, but I don’t hold with discrimination like that. I don’t mind that she’s itinerant. Who am I to judge her? She made this suit for me, that’s how I know she forgave me for breaking the horsehair pottery jar she was making — even though she said I’d set loose some sort of curse. That’s just her way of talking.
Anyway, the suit fits great. People really paid attention when I talked about free-range chickens and their eggs at the Lions Club. I mean, I got respect.
Thing is, I can’t seem to take it off. I fell asleep in it after the big success at the Lions, and in the morning, it wouldn’t come off. It’s like the feathers grafted onto my skin. That was one weird thing about my seamstress, I couldn’t wear anything under the suit, she said. Custom work, don’t disrespect the creator, right?
But I didn’t want it to be permanent. I’m a chicken advocate, not a chicken.
I thought the guy was a cop when he locked me in this cage. Turns out he’s part of a carnival. The guy with the crab hands told me it’s a freak show. I’m not a freak, I don’t like to be insulted like that. When the guy I thought was a cop comes back, I’ll get it straightened out, I’m sure. There’s some misunderstanding. That’s all it is.