Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sex With Chickens, and the Leander Police

I was reminded of the Sex With Chickens story while eating at Cowboy Chicken the other day. That’s a new franchise in Longview of which the Beautiful Mystery Companion — aka my bride — and I have become quite fond. Cowboy Chicken sounds like an unhealthy food choice, but actually the bird is roasted and the side dishes are fresh vegetables. What a concept: Fresh, healthy food in East Texas, no less.

Anyway, seeing all those naked chickens spinning their way on a spit through the ring of fire to land on plates of hungry people reminded me of a fight I had with the Leander Police Department early this year over releasing police reports, at my last newspaper gig. After several weeks toiling in suburbia, I finally noticed that we were not publishing police reports from Leander, but we regularly ran the Cedar Park department’s list of miscreants. I asked our able editor, who said the department wouldn’t turn them over, that he had banged his head against the wall trying to get them to see wisdom, to no avail.

To an ink-stained, Freedom of Information stalwart like yours truly, those were fighting words. This is public information, by gosh, and no small-town department is going to keep us from what anyone has the right to obtain — the so-called first page of incident reports. Besides, police reports make for some really excellent reading. People do the dumbest things to end up in the blotter.

Just the other day a woman was arrested in Cedar Park for stabbing her husband because he was snoring. I must say I am entirely opposed to such behavior, out of a sense of self-preservation. We don’t want this type of response to spread. At least I don’t, having pleaded guilty to sawing logs on more than one occasion.

Anyway, I started out slowly in my quest to force the Leander police department to obey the law — a novel concept, admittedly, them being peace officers and all. I had a pleasant conversation with the city manager — a really nice guy who sadly has since passed away. As always, he was affable but made it clear I would have to work it out with the chief.

“It’s that chicken story,” he said. This was not the first time I had heard that rationale for why the Leander police department didn’t want to release police reports. The newspaper, long before I arrived, had supposedly run a police item describing in graphic detail a complaint about a man having sex with chickens. The words used were considerably more graphic. It was told as gospel truth that the newspaper had actually dropped the F-bomb in describing what had occurred.

I found this a bit hard to believe. Community newspapers — even mediocre or badly run ones — shy away from using profanity in their pages. The F-bomb generally tops the list of Words You Won’t See in a Family Newspaper. Of course, what can get into a small newspaper by accident is Katy-bar-the-door. I once single-handedly saved the Lufkin Daily News from running a photo caption that said, during the first Gulf War, “A soldier returns to base after sitting in a bunker for 12 hours.” That’s what the writer intended. An extra “h” in “sitting” gave a whole new meaning to the caption. There is little doubt this typo would have ended up in print — and probably on “The Letterman Show” — if I hadn’t just been walking by. Pure serendipity.

I went sleuthing, with help from the newspaper’s staff, and we found the offending Sex With Chickens story, written in 2005. It reads, in whole:

“June 6
At approximately 6 p.m., a 50-year-old woman came to the police department and told an officer that she wished to file a complaint regarding a man in the 300 block of North Brushy who she saw having sex with chickens.

According to the complainant, who lives next to the subject, two men live in the home, an older man who owns chickens, and a younger man who is stealing them and having sex with them, causing them to die. The woman refused to give further information and is not willing to work with the police department. It is undetermined whether the information is accurate, as there is no evidence supporting this charge. The case has been forwarded to investigators.”

First off, there is no way any self-respecting newspaper humanoid is going to keep this out of the paper. This is pure gold, folks. Every one of you, I predict, went “Oh, my gosh” upon reading that squib. It is what we used to call a water-cooler story, folks standing around talking about the piece. Today’s edition might have broken a major scandal at City Hall, or published a prize-winning thumb-sucker about sewer collection issues. No matter. The story that folks would be talking about is some crazy dude having Sex With Chickens.

We filed a complaint with the attorney general over the Leander PD’s refusal to release reports. I wrote the usual impassioned editorial, pointing out that if crime reports are secret, then residents don’t know if they’re living next to someone just arrested for child molestation, or if there has been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. (“Rash” is one of those newspaper terms we pundits love. “Mull” is another one.)

Readers largely yawned, though a few attaboys came our way. The Leander PD, after a few more weeks of obfuscation, saw the light and began releasing reports. Another small victory for sunshine in government, I suppose. I am simply thankful we did our small part to make neighborhood chickens safe from sexual assault.


  1. Hilarious! Also disgusting. But mostly hilarious.

  2. Very funny column, Gary. Just thought I'd mention the headline of your column could be construed to be a story about someone having sex with both chickens and the Leander police. - A truly revolting thought...

  3. Good point. I'm adding a comma to the headline, in the "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" tradition. gb

  4. Are they still publishing reports? Can't find them anywhere and their scanner is encrypted with the rest of Williamson county.