No Howl for Taking the Fowl Seriously.

The best way to start this post is by simply summarizing the story I’m writing about.

Lauren Steltzer, of Lower Merion, recently had two pet chickens go missing. She sent friends Facebook messages and put up “Lost Chickens” posters around the neighborhood. One neighborhood cop (unidentified) didn’t see the posters, and – responding to a call about “a large, orange chicken running at large” – called up a fireman buddy to dispose of the chicken, having deemed it a “threat to other domestic animals.” The fireman buddy promptly shot the chicken with a bow and arrow.

It’s ok – have a laugh. I did. It’s an absurd story. I mean no disrespect to Steltzer, and I understand that the death of a pet is often very painful. But the fact that the cop had the chicken shot with a bow and arrow by a fireman acquaintance is just so utterly ridiculous.

And, as Stephanie Farr’s article points out, legal. “[Lower Merion Lt. Christopher] Polo said that there was nothing illegal about the act and that a chicken is not protected under the state game-commission laws.” That’s the other hilarious part of this story –  Farr covers all of the bases in reporting the incident. The police are contacted, Steltzer’s back-story with chickens is told, causes of and solutions to the situation are presented. All because a chicken was killed.

But that’s why I can’t fowl – er, howl – this story. It follows the template of good reporting. With the exception of some phrasing, (“a neighbor with knowledge of the incident saw Steltzer’s Facebook posting and told her of the foul fate of her dear fowl,”) Farr takes the story seriously.

If journalism’s goal in society is to act as a mirror, or window, or whatever metaphor you like, occasionally that mirror is going to show the absurdity of everyday life. There is sublimity in the notion that sometimes life presents moments that make a person scratch their head and genuinely ask, “What the hell just happened here?” We expect the politician scandals, the legislative fights, the cop-and-robber battles, the football trades.

But a police officer ordering a bow and arrow hit on a chicken? That might be the purest type of news there is – the inexplicable, the odd, the strange, the fascinating. Something uniquely human occurs when a situation forces us to ask, “Did a human just behave that way?”

Maybe I’m looking too deeply into this. Maybe this particular story is too inconsequential to support my point. But in my opinion, Stephanie Farr deserves a Hoot for offering the absurdity of life its due diligence.

– Timothy Rapp

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